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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

L'Etat, c'est project manager.

On July 4, the Washington Post ran a short article on the non-independence of the French university system, which the country's new leader wants to change. All new leaders of France try to change it. And fail.

Sarkozy's reform will allow universities to pick their own teachers, decide their salaries and manage their own buildings, helping them retain good staff and ensure their facilities work.

It will also make it easier to seek money from companies and regional governments.

French universities are already allowed to link up with the private sector but the university has no control over how the money is used.

An example is offered:

The ugly concrete campus of Paris 6 university is dominated by a tower that has been a building site for eleven years as asbestos is removed. Nobody seems to be able to pinpoint when the work will finish.

The government tried to brighten the dreary site with a modernistic red and yellow science building but forgot to put in air conditioning, a mistake because the laboratory machines heat up to temperatures that damage the research.

For Paris 6 President Jean-Charles Pomerol these problems sum up the main weakness of France's crumbling universities, the focus of a reform bill discussed in cabinet on Wednesday.

"The state is the project manager," he said. "The state treats us like children and doesn't ask us what we need."