Bousquet on Academic Strikes in France [The Chronicle of Higher Education]

France’s Professors Vow to Continue Fight Against Reform Efforts [The Chronicle of Higher Education]

July 27, 2009

By Aisha Labi


Some observers say the seeds of today’s faculty discontent were sown decades ago.

Gilles Bousquet is dean of international studies and director of the International Institute at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. A native of France who has spent much of his academic career in the United States, he says that since 1968, universities have cast themselves in the role of the “educational conscience of France,” even though “this is largely a construct that doesn’t work in reality.”

Rather than being at the heart of the nation’s higher-education life, he says, France’s universities are in many ways at the periphery, with crumbling buildings and a high dropout rate.

The Grandes Ecoles, technical colleges, and pockets of specialization within the universities, such as medical and law schools, all function much more effectively, Mr. Bousquet says. They have also remained largely untouched by the recent unrest.

The most militant opposition to the reforms can be found in universities that focus on social sciences and humanities, he says, which by their nature tend to include faculty members predisposed to be “highly politicized and highly critical.” [Click here to read the full story. Subscription only.]