Private staff get a big bienvenue

August 23, 2002

French universities are to open their doors wider to private-sector professionals and academics from foreign universities.

Education minister Luc Ferry has modified the rules governing recruitment of private-sector employees, known as associate lecturers or professors, and of invited associates - academics (some French) with jobs in universities abroad who come to work in France for a limited time.

Associates' contracts will be extended from a maximum of three years to six, giving them greater opportunity to take exams leading to full tenure should they decide to switch to an academic career. Associates from abroad will be allowed to stay for a year, instead of a maximum six months.

At present, associate lecturers or professors hired by universities full or part time represent 6 per cent of teaching staff - just over 3,000 of a national teaching and research body of nearly 51,000. Many universities would like to employ more outsiders specialising in fields such as law, humanities and sciences as well as those with experience in industry.

Professionals working in research will also be allowed to create or work in private firms, so long as these develop their public research initiatives. This is a perk previously reserved for tenured academics under a law introduced in 1999 to encourage collaboration between public research and private industry.

But stricter conditions will be attached to recruitment of associates, who will be required to have worked professionally for seven of the past nine years if they are taking a lecturer's post, or nine of the past 11 years for a professor's post.

In a gesture towards decentralisation, Mr Ferry has transferred the power to "invite" academics from abroad to universities instead of local administrations of the national education ministry.

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