Poll halts reform of student support

May 2, 1997

THE REFORM of the student support system in France has been shelved following the snap call of parliamentary elections. President Jacques Chirac's decision to seek a new mandate came as pressure mounted on the education ministry to come up with funding measures to match recently adopted university course reforms.

Implementation of Mr Chirac's 1995 election promise of a new student allowance was repeatedly delayed as the requirements of the single European currency enforced stringent budget cuts.

Just as education minister Francois Bayrou was turning to the allowance issue, the dissolution of parliament has let him off the hook.

The student allowance "required legislative measures which could not be taken in the coming weeks", Mr Bayrou told CNESER, the national council for higher education and research.

Student leaders reacted angrily to the decision. "Students are always ending up hostage to the political calendar," said Blaise Lechevalier of the UNEF-ID student union executive. "The student allowance would have marked an important step forward."

When asked by the CNESER for a commitment to the implementation of the planned reforms, Mr Bayrou responded by stating that "he remained education minister until the elections".

The minister is leader of the centrist grouping within the governing right-wing coalition and is known to have political ambitions which go beyond his ministry.

UNEF-ID said it hoped to put higher education on the campaign agenda. Socialist party leader and former education minister Lionel Jospin has already emphasised that education is one of the areas where the left can offer a real alternative to right-wing policies but Europe is, nevertheless, expected to dominate the campaigns of both the left and the right.

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