November 23rd 2007: Dear Friends,
As some of you may have heard, there are currently a number of strikes and protests in France. In the next few days, UNEF will release an international Newsletter which will serve to inform all Higher Education actors, and especially student unions, of what is going on.
Meanwhile, here is some information:
Although University governance is part of the reforms by the right wing liberal government, the biggest problem here is that this New Public Managment is institutionnalized with a background of under-funding the public higher education institutions.
Social precariousness and failure in university bachelor cycles are the main issues our universities face. However, the government chose to respond to these problems with a reform on university governance which limits student representation in the boards and allows public universities to introduce private funds into their budget. This budget will no longer be directly controlled by state rules and regulations (meaning government policies in education) but controlled by university boards in which students or public servants have very little say.
Therefore, the State is basically removing its’ participation from the financial effort which still needs to be made in higher education, and stepping down from all political action leaving this to the professors, CEOs, and university leaders.
The government is now responsible for putting thousands of students in general assemblies all over France. These assemblies, angered by the State Budget for 2008 and their own social situation, are crying out against the new inequalities which will be created between universities and between students, worsening an already difficult situation for us.
Strikes and university shut downs in the last couple of days are creating huge tension, in a context in which all public servants went on strike on the 20th of November, protesting for better wages and better working conditions. Students protested alongside all Trade Unions. This time of year is getting to be very difficult for the government, even for Nicolas Sarkozy, whose popularity is decreasing rapidly.
I will send you more information on the protests over the coming days,