Students and workers united

June 9, 2000

France will bring together university studies and the world of work with the introduction next October of a degree that will train students specifically for employment.

Universities have submitted some 550 projects for the new licence professionnelle. The proposals are being whittled down for final approval later this month by CNESER, the national higher education and research consultative council. Programmes being considered fall under the headings of law, economics and management, pure science and social and human sciences.

The licence, equivalent to a bachelor's degree, is aimed at a wide intake, principally undergraduates who have already gained a two-year post-baccalaureat diploma.

It will also be open to employees who want to study for a degree through continuing education. It will be pitched between the level of a qualified technician and that of an engineer or senior executive.

Another innovation for France will be the close cooperation the universities will have with business and industry. All students will spend 12 to 16 weeks in workplace training and a quarter of the content of each course will be presented by professionals.

The licence was a pet initiative of Claude All gre, former education and research minister. It was part of his scheme to harmonise French higher education qualifications with an eventual European model.

CNESER agreed the principle of the new degree last November, and in March Mr All gre appointed a national assessment commission for the new licence, its members composed of ten representatives each from the academic world and from professional life, including managers and unions.

The inaugural meeting of the commission was one of Mr All gre's final ministerial acts before he was shuffled out of the government. Since then, Jack Lang, the new education minister, and Jean-Luc Melenchon, secretary of state for vocational education, have assumed joint responsibility for the licence.

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