Thursday, April 23, 2009

French University Strikes Now Threaten Year

Strikes by university students and faculty in France are continuing, U.K. newspaper Guardian newspaper reports, and the possibility that students could complete the year’s studies is now in doubt.

French education ministers are warning that if lectures aren’t started before May, French and international students will miss their examinations and therefore forfeit an entire academic year.

“The government will never accept exams being sacrificed,” Prime Minister François Fillon said Wedensday. “That would be a catastrophe for France's image in the world.”

American students studying in France have reported that they haven’t been getting much classroom instruction since the strikes began in February — but they have been getting a firsthand look at the sometimes-volatile relationships among French faculty, administrators and students.

According to the Guardian, the strikes are the single largest stoppage of work the modern history of French universities. About a quarter of the nation’s 83 universities have suspended at least some classwork, and more may join the strikes after next week’s May 1 celebrations of worker rights.

While most agree that French universities are in need of reform, faculties are incensed over proposals from President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government that universities be run on the models of successful commercial enterprises.

“You can’t measure universities like a factory in terms of economic success,” says Valérie Robert, a lecturer in German history at a Paris university. “We feel our freedom as academic researchers is being totally curbed.”

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