French win call for fair share

January 5, 1996


Former French interior minister Charles Pasqua has agreed to share some of the resources of his regional council's private "university" with the public sector.

However, state university students, many academics and opposition members of the Hauts-de-Seine Council say nothing less than its total requisition is acceptable.

During the wave of student demonstrations in France in November, the issue became a rallying point and requisition featured as a key student demand.

The Fac Pasqua, a derogatory nickname for the Pole Universitaire Leonard de Vinci, cost France's wealthiest regional council nearly Pounds 2 billion to build and equip.

Mr Pasqua, president of the council, was the driving force behind the project, which he claimed could provide greatly superior professional training and job opportunities compared with state universities.

Located near the Paris business district of La Defense, its futuristic building packed with advanced technology serves just 300 fee-paying students.

Mr Pasqua revealed before Christmas that he was negotiating with education minister Francois Bayrou on pooling the institute's resources with the overcrowded neighbouring Nanterre University.

That followed critical comments from prime minister Alain Juppe who said he "understood student anger" about the private institute.

"There is no point in being right if other people do not understand you," Mr Pasqua conceded, while insisting that requisition remained "impossible".

One plan which could go ahead this term is to allow postgraduate foreign language students from several Paris universities access to its under-used and state-of-the-art language laboratories.

Michel Barat, institute director, said: "We have been talking about sharing a language centre for a long time. If the (Nanterre) university needs to use our Internet facilities, for example, we're ready to do things together."

However, neither Nanterre nor any other Paris university is likely to take up the suggestion of joint courses. Leonard de Vinci is unable to offer university degrees unless a university accredits its courses and all have refused to do so. While details of the plans for sharing facilities were still being awaited, the Hauts-de-Seine Council voted a Fr60 million budget (Pounds 8 million) for the Fac Pasqua for 1996.

That sum is more than any French university got from the education ministry in settlement of the student strike.

At the council's budget session, opposition councillors were scathing about Mr Pasqua's compromise. Socialist Pascal Buchet again demanded the requisition of the "pseudo-university structure which really masks the relocation of a few private schools".

Communist Catherine Margat said that Mr Pasqua's concessions "were aimed at masking the resounding failure of an elitist and ruinous project".

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