Union slams 'illegal' extras fee

August 5, 2005

Almost two thirds of French universities make students pay "illegal" supplementary fees for services that should be included in statutory fees fixed by the Government, says student union Unef.

It has compiled a list of offending institutions after protests by students and staff at the University of Grenoble-2, Pierre-Mendes-France, against extra charges ranging from €219 (£151) to €1,219 a year. Other high offenders are Aix-Marseille-3, Paul-Cezanne - which Unef says charges students €30-€3,500; and University of Saint-Etienne, Jean-Monnet - which charges up to €531.

From September, students will be asked to sign "university passports" that will entitle them to extra services - if they pay more than the annual state fees of €156 for a licence (bachelors equivalent), €199 for a masters and €305 for a doctorate. "Extras" include access to wi-fi, audiovisual equipment, libraries, and organising overseas studies and associated language courses.

After the protests, Gilles de Robien, the Education Minister, and Francois Goulard, Junior Minister for Higher Education and Research, issued a reminder that extra fees "must be optional and must correspond to an actual service supplied in addition to publicly provided higher education".

In a report published last week, Unef says 46 out of 76 universities surveyed asked students to pay "illegal fees during enrolment", 61 per cent of all 81 state universities. The union said it would advise students to claim back any fees paid and to take to court universities refusing reimbursement.

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