JOB creation in universities and public research institutes is one of the main features of the French budget unveiled last week.
The 1998 budget for higher education creates 3,000 academic posts in universities and some 600 research positions, mainly in the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and the Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale.
In universities, 1,800 lectureships and 600 professorships will be made available, along with another 1,200 teaching posts for staff with the Agregation qualification but without a PhD.
The "Agrees", as these staff are called, used to form the elite of lycee teachers but are being transferred increasingly to universities where their teaching load is twice that of full research and teaching academics.
The job creation will be funded in part by a cut in universities' overtime budget. Total spending on higher education will be up 3.05 per cent - over twice the average rate of a zero-growth budget intended to meet the Maastricht criteria.
Funds earmarked for university buildings are up 18.7 per cent. However, most of this money will go to emergency renovation and safety work, including the removal of asbestos from the Jussieu campus in Paris.
"There is an increase, but it is not enough. The staff-student ratio is so bad, even more jobs are needed. The real problem is that yearly budgets only react to immediate problems. What we need is a five-year plan," said Carine Seiler, vice-president of the student union UNEF-ID.
The main research institutes have welcomed the news of extra research posts. The previous government cut the number of researchers by 5 last year.
However, the budget for research activities is up by only 1.4 per cent. The government argues that if outstanding payments made to research this year are deducted, the increase is 6.2 per cent.
One of the key concerns of the new minister for education and research, Claude Allegre, is to tackle the crisis in employment for PhD holders. Along with the new posts created in the budget, the number of PhD allowances for students completing their theses is up from 3,400 to 3,800.