He's Notre Dame clever, not in Seine

April 14, 2006

In a scenario that would not look out of place in The Da Vinci Code , a French professor has used secret codes to arrange meetings with students amid the protests in Paris, making him a potential inspiration to academics in the UK who wish to circumvent the forthcoming pay disputes.

Like Jacques Sauni re, the fictional curator in Dan Brown's bestselling book, Jean-Yves Ruaux, a professor of publishing studies at the University of Rennes, has communicated through encoded messages.

One message on his website read: "When the postprandial hour strikes, the assembly will welcome the conquering king of Macedonia and son of Philip to the chair."

Dr Ruaux was not inviting his students to a gathering in honour of Alexander the Great but rather to a class with his assistant Alexander Chaise.

Though Dr Ruaux supports the student protests that have led to new youth employment laws being scrapped, he does not believe they should paralyse French universities. When he was informed in February that his publishing course would be blocked, he decided to organise clandestine classes for his masters students.

Every week, Dr Ruaux challenged his students with references to Masonic rituals, Catholic prayers and French medieval literature. The names of Catholic saints, historical figures and local landmarks replaced the dates and places of his MA classes.

Dr Ruaux said: "I was inspired by The Da Vinci Code . My students had great fun deciphering the messages."

The riddles were set so that only his students could solve them, which "guaranteed perfect confidentiality".

Dr Ruaux said his tactics surprised his French colleagues. "They don't like anything too fanciful," he said. "I guess the British appreciate eccentricity and nonsense a lot more."

Already registered?

Sign in now if you are already registered or a current subscriber. Or subscribe for unrestricted access to our digital editions and iPad and iPhone app.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Elderly woman looking up at sky

A recent paper claims that the quality of researchers declines with age. Five senior scientists consider the data and how they’ve contributed through the years

Otto illustration (5 May 2016)

Craig Brandist on the proletarianisation of a profession and how it leads to behaviours that could hobble higher education

Woman tearing up I can't sign

Schools and universities are increasingly looking at how improving personalities can boost social mobility. But in doing so, they may be forced to choose between teaching what is helpful, and what is true, says David Matthews

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration 19 May 2016

Tim Blackman’s vision of higher education for the 21st century is one in which students of varying abilities learn successfully together

Door peephole painted as bomb ready to explode

It’s time to use technology to detect potential threats and worry less about outdated ideas of privacy, says Ron Iphofen