Macron vows to push ahead with admissions reform despite protests

French president claims that ‘professional agitators’ are behind campus occupations

April 18, 2018
Sorbonne
Source: Alamy

French president Emmanuel Macron has claimed that “professional agitators” are behind a wave of campus occupations spreading across the country.

Mr Macron insisted that his government’s reforms to university admissions, which will allow public universities to set entry criteria and rank applicants, would go ahead despite the protests.

The president said that many of the occupied universities had been taken over not by students “but professional agitators, professionals of disorder”, according to English-language news website The Local.

Mr Macron was speaking after Sorbonne University in Paris was shut for two days for “security reasons”, following the ousting by riot police of 200 occupying students.

The protesters at the Sorbonne – which was the centre of mass student and worker protests that rocked France for several weeks in 1968 – entered and occupied spaces inside the university on the afternoon of 12 April.

University authorities said that they negotiated with the protesters for about three hours, but when the talks failed they asked the police to clear the campus at about 10pm.

“The evacuation…was calm and without incident,” the Paris police said in a statement.

The Sorbonne – which has about 60,000 students following the merger of UPMC, France’s largest medical and science university, and Paris-Sorbonne University – said that the institution would be closed on 13 and 14 April for “security reasons”.

Currently, students who pass their school-leaving baccalaureate exam can enrol on any university course, regardless of how well they scored in that exam.

The government says that this results in overcrowding at universities and is a major reason why 60 per cent of students fail to complete their degree within four years.

Under the reforms, public universities will be given access to a prospective student’s school records to help them select those whose “motivation” and “aptitudes” best match the course on offer.

Mr Macron said that protests by train workers, hospital staff, pensioners, lawyers and magistrates would not prevent him from overhauling the nation’s economy.

jack.grove@timeshighereducation.com

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