La vie est belle as freshers land on French doorsteps

October 11, 2002

Universities revitalise local economies, providing jobs and bringing students and their cash to town. The THES reports on their impact worldwide

The rapid expansion of higher education in the 1990s has altered the face of France's local economies.

Following the University 2000 plan, introduced in 1989 to cater for between 100,000 and 150,000 extra students each year, no part of the country is further than 150km from a university. Universities and technology institutes have been created or enlarged.

Aix-en-Provence has about 126,000 inhabitants, plus some 36,000 students who have revitalised the town centre.

University of the Third Millennium, a six-year plan that succeeded University 2000, relies on a hefty contribution from the regions and is devoted to developing research, new technologies and university-business links.

The 1990s also heralded the creation of new universities. They were granted concessions, later extended to other universities, that included giving outsiders such as local government and business a substantial voice on their governing councils.

An innovation law gave researchers rights to exploit their work commercially, and universities set up incubators to nurture start-up companies.

The new career-oriented licence professionnelle is blurring the line between academic studies and the world of work, and providing more opportunities for cooperation between universities and business.

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