French protest over Bologna

April 29, 2005

Students are protesting against French higher education reforms required by the Bologna process.

The University of Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis, set up after 1968 to accept applicants without previous qualifications, has been closed after student action in response to the threat to axe its anthropology department.

A movement is also growing among students of architecture against proposals to change conditions under which they will be awarded their diplomas.

All French universities are scheduled to put in place Bologna's system of three, five and eight-year studies by 2005-06. Other establishments are in the course of introducing the harmonised European process known in France as LMD ( Licence , equivalent to a bachelors degree, masters and doctorate).

Student union UNEF supports action against LMD and is lobbying for "substantial amendments" to overcome "numerous problems", including "incoherent course programmes, low student mobility, inequality between establishments and students, and lack of resources".

Last week, Pierre Lunel, president of Paris 8, shut the university, saying the situation no longer allowed it to operate calmly. Anthropology students, teachers and outside supporters occupied a lecture hall from late March until their evacuation by police on April 14. They demanded continuation of the anthropology department, which they claimed was threatened with closure under LMD, with anthropology reduced to a sub-discipline of sociology.

In response, Mr Lunel said: "If the governing council, on advice of the scientific committee, has not requested the renewal of the existing (anthropological) research team it is because of the confirmed weakness of this team's scientific record."

A Bologna-style masters in anthropology could not be introduced as long as there was no research team recognised by the culture ministry, but the university had applied to continue its existing diplomas for the time being, he said.

Protests that started among architecture students in Rouen, against the proposed reform of their studies, have spread to 22 architecture schools.

Under the old system, studies generally lasted six years; under LMD they will be reorganised into a total of five years, culminating in a masters degree.

Students are opposed to plans to separate from the diploma the attainment of mâtre d'oeuvre d'architecture status - in future they would have to spend an extra year on a work placement to acquire it. Students said this would mean working as low-paid skivvies, with their qualification to practise removed from the education system and controlled by the professionals.

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