Intense Strikes Across French Universities

Thousands of university lecturers and students from over 20 cities in France have marched in protest against President Sarkozy’s proposed education reforms. Strikers have been protesting against planned budget cuts which will threaten over a thousand jobs, changes to the way lecturers are trained, and a move to grant university presidents greater power over their staff’s careers. The proposed moves would also allow presidents to allocate more teaching hours to research.

The university protests followed a general strike on January 29th, which saw the mobilisation of 1.5 million people across France. The university protest in Paris gathered approximately 17,000 supporters and police in Strasbourg used tear gas on the crowd, some of whom were throwing projectiles.

Stéphane Tassel, of the National Union of Higher Education, said: “We are profoundly angry with what’s going on. It’s like coping with a disease. We went through denial and despair, now we’re angry”.

The protests over university reforms are part of wider dissatisfaction with President Sarkozy’s €26 billion economic stimulus plan, which appears to favour management over employees. “The movement which is shaking up French universities could provide the spark that ignites the explosion,” predicted an editorial in Liberation newspaper.

Trade unions have announced their intention to stage another ‘day of action’ on March 19th if they are not satisfied with negotiations scheduled to start at the Élysée Palace on February 18th.

Susannah Sconce


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