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A big year for elections in France

2012 brings two important rounds of voting in France: presidential elections at the national level and the (re-)election of a large number of university presidents across the country. This significant political activity is expected to bring important new developments for French universities.

The institutional ballot, which started already at the end of 2011, culminated this month when 20 candidates were either elected for a first term or re-elected as university leaders. Most of the candidates were up for re-election. This round of voting was organised according to the 2007 Law on the liberties and responsibilities of universities, which brought important changes to university governance within the country. Through this law, the mandate of university presidents was reduced to four years from five and can be renewed only once. The law also imposed a new age limit for candidates—64 years (i.e. 68 years at the end of the term), in contrast to 60 years (i.e. 65 years at the end), as was the case prior to 2007. Quite importantly, this piece of legislation also significantly reduced the size of the elective body. Currently, a university president must be elected through absolute majority by the elected members of the university council—the “conseil d’administration” (which has between 20 and 30 members). Previously, voting for the president was conducted by three different councils (which collectively could include up to 140 members).

At the beginning of March, the main opponent of Nicolas Sarkozy for the national presidency (see ACA Newsletter—Education Europe, February 2012), the Socialist François Hollande, announced his four-point plan in the field of higher education, to be implemented if elected. This would include:

  • A “national mobilisation for the first university cycle”, which would help the “licence” graduates more smoothly enter the labour market. This action would encompass the creation of orientation centres to guide students in their passage from secondary to higher education, as well as the creation of routes for students to more easily move across different specialisations and subject fields.
  • A national plan for the “student life” that would put the emphasis on the student, by creating more student housing facilities and fairer opportunities for socially-disadvantaged students.
  • A major revision of the 2007 Law on the liberties and responsibilities of universities that would facilitate the “real financial autonomy” of universities and would create more cooperation (rather than competition) in the allocation of public funds to universities.
  • A revalorisation of the doctoral level and of the status of (young) researchers.

The French presidential elections will take place on 22 April and 6 May.

French university presidents’ elections François Hollande’s campaign