27 French Universities Denounced for Illegal Selection of Students

l'Université du Havre, Amphitheater Photo: www.flickr.com/photos/camillestromboni

l’Université du Havre, Amphitheater
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/camillestromboni

The National Union of Students in France (L’Union nationale des étudiants de France) (UNEF) has issued a report condemning the illegal admission of students to 27 public French universities. These schools, run by public funds, have a legal obligation to admit a mix of students of varying abilities to achieve both social and intellectual variation in matriculation numbers. However, in a report, UNEF found that 27 universities have been using the results of “le bac” the nationalized high school graduation test to select more successful students.  “This new tendency,” reads the report, “is in total contradiction of the law, which stipulates that selection to bachelors programs at undergraduate universities is prohibited.”

The illegal process is hidden behind dwindling class size and new “pre-requisites” of knowledge in specialized fields, such as the requirement of a musical background.  “It is absurd for a student of no background in music to enroll in engineer training,” voiced Giles Roussel, the chairman of the commission for formation of the Commission of University Presidents (CPU). Other universities are limiting the number of available degrees, citing a “lack of means” and dwindling funds. They prefer to limit the number of students, rather than find the means to hire teachers and support the current rates of enrollment.

A contributing factor to this trend lies in the limits of the budget allocated to each university: according to UNEF, 16 schools are on track to be running a deficit by the end of this year. The budget problem has led to further violations of educational laws, with 24 universities being accused of charging illegal additions to registration fees.  Foremost among these is the National Polytechnic Institute of Toulouse (INTP), where an enrollment to pursue an engineering degree costs up to €9,000, rather than the regulated €606. The university claims that this fee was only applied to “fifty international masters students” who were taking courses “mostly taught in English.”

Three other universities are under close scrutiny, as they were charging excessive registration fees for particular degrees, notably the University of Grenoble 2 (€800 for “optional” multimedia services), Agrocampus West and Rennes 1 (€750 for a master’s program), and the University of Tours (€150 for a license in Franco-German law). The other 20 universities in violation of the law have fees amounting to less than a hundred euros, often cited as necessary for classroom material or sports equipment.

The Minister of Higher Education, Geneviève Fioraso, notes that the number of violating schools has dropped from 30 institutions last year and from 50 in 2005. The lower number of illegal fees cases in 2013, she claims, “demonstrates the commitment of institutions to its end.” While some programs do need extra funds, such as media training that would require camera equipment or travel expenses, the Minister threatened that, “if necessary, the state will take responsibility to bring it to an end.” She continued to clarify the law, stating the supplementary fees “must be optional upon registration, that correspond to clearly identified benefits that do not replace those at the heart of the public service mission of the universities.”

These trends in selection and registration fees have corresponded with a rise in French students enrolling in private sector education. According to UNEF, only 32.2% of bachelor students are enrolled in public universities today, verses 39.1% in 2005. Meanwhile, the number of students in private universities has increased by 32% in the same time period. “The consequence,” says UNEF, “is to push students into the arms of the private.”

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  1. […] in France (L’Union nationale des étudiants de France) (UNEF) has issued a report condemning the illegal admission of students to 27 public French universities. These schools, run with public funds, have a legal obligation to admit a mix of students of […]

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