French wrestle with vast bureaucracy

March 1, 2002

THES reporters examine appointment systems worldwide:

France's higher education appointments process is shared between the state, the academic community at large and individual universities.

The education ministry administers the appointments structure and determines which posts in which disciplines will be made available each year. A national council of academics judges which applicants are worthy of a tenured post, and each university has an elected committee that decides appointments.

When a university post becomes vacant, authorisation is needed to fill it. For new posts, each university compiles a list of required new posts, which forms the basis for negotiations with the minister who must approve the demands. Once a year, the ministry publishes all the academic vacancies in the Bulletin Officiel .

The lowest level at which university teachers can gain tenure is the maître de conferences (lecturer). New PhDs send CVs to the Conseil National des Universites, a body organised in discipline-based committees. These committees judge whether candidates have made the grade to be lecturers. Those accepted sift through the Bulletin and send CVs to their desired universities.

Shortlisted candidates visit universities at their own expense for an interview with the university's specialist academic committees. Committees present recommendations to the university board, which makes the final decision.

The system for appointing professors is similar bar one difference for sciences and arts. Applicants must have a habilitation à dirigé de recherche , a kind of super thesis that is submitted to a CNU committee formed only of professors. For other disciplines, candidates must take the agrégation du supérieur , a competitive exam held every year or so before a national jury of professors.

Once appointed, academics enjoy tenure often from a younger age than those in the United States or other European countries, said Christine Musselin, director of research at the Centre de Sociologie des Organisations.

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