Low education budgets, universities ‘in ruins’ see thousands protest in France

Low education budgets, universities ‘in ruins’ see thousands protest in France
Thousands of French university staffers and students have marched to protest low education budgets and universities’ facilities that are “literally in ruins.”

The crowds took to the streets of French cities on Thursday to rally against low education budgets and “dead universities.”

Demonstrators held banners “Sciences en Marche” (Sciences on the march). Protesting researchers, academics, students and trade unions all stressed that higher education is in a “profound crisis” in France.

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“We need to cast a light on the catastrophic state of Higher Education and Research (ESR) in France” while “the government remains deaf to the demands <…> the rhetoric can’t hide the harsh reality of lack of means, whose precise consequences on the daily lives of staff and students worsen speedily,” the organizers said in their official statement.

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” the group said, creating a photo gallery of dilapidated and rotting facilities at French universities.

A man holds a placard reading "Universities in danger" as protesters march on December 11, 2014 in Toulouse, southern France, during a demonstration called by unions and the collective "Sciences en Marche", to denounce budget cuts in higher education and research. (AFP Photo/Pascal Pavani)

The anger of the university professionals was triggered by the education budget amendments for 2015, approved by the National Assembly in November. Education funds are to be reduced by €136 million, including €70 million of higher education budget.

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University staffers also decried the decrepit facilities at higher education institutions, saying further €20 billion are necessary over the next decade to mend the rotting facilities. Those include: leaky and graffiti-covered lecture halls, collapsing WCs, as well as overcrowded classrooms.

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Finally, university employees are seeking tax breaks when universities hire researchers. Currently, the principle applies only to companies employing science graduates.

The long-standing protest led to President François Hollande to declare he would cancel the €70 million cuts, Le Monde reported. The move is set to be announced on Friday night during a dinner with the university heads at the Elysees Palace.

But it’s not just a question of funding Ben Mcpartland, editor for The Local in France, told RT.

“I think the problem runs deep, if you look at the global rankings French universities are falling down these rankings and they have been for a few years. There are a lot of reforms needed; it’s not just money, its modernization. France has 2 levels of universities, it has very well-funded private universities, which do very well and then state universities which are free. May be one way to increase funding is to start charging for universities but that will not go down well in France,” he said.

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