Rouen locks out students as protest

April 14, 1995

As France's presidential election draws near, the biggest public research institution, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique has won the promise of an 11th-hour hand-out, while, for the first time ever, a university board of governors held a 24-hour "lock-out" of students to back demands for funds.

Rouen University campus was deserted on Wednesday last week. Its president Jean-Marie Carpentier said the action was "an appeal to the ministry so that serious problems could be avoided next October".

Mr Carpentier claims the university has been given only two-thirds of what the ministry itself calculated it should receive for l995. Its student population has risen from 18,000 five years ago to 29,000, while the teacher-student ratio has gone from one to to one to 31.

Most students supported the closure. The main UNEF-ID student union, which has a seat on the university board, voted in favour. The communist UNEF abstained because it thought the action was merely symbolic.

The university is hoping the "alert" will make the ministry change its position before the April 18 board meeting which is due to vote on the 1995 budget. Without extra funding, Mr Carpentier said, it "will not be able to meet all its commitments in the autumn".

The Rouen law faculty has a shortfall of Fr1.2 million (Pounds 155,000) in its current budget, while the science faculty is now Fr 4 million in the red.

In a communique, the ministry for higher education called the protest action "excessive". It detailed how much money Rouen university has received, blaming its problems on lack of funding by the previous socialist government.

The minister, Francois Fillon that some Fr 300 million would be found for the CNRS within 48 hours.

The CNRS has been caught in a financial crisis for several months with a Fr 500 million deficit.

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