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France: important higher education and research developments

Over the past few months, following the investiture of the new president – François Hollande – and of the new government in Paris, France has been going through a thorough consultation process meant to generate innovative ideas on how to best reform the French higher education and research systems. In total, more than 500 meetings and debates were organised throughout the country (at local and regional level) and were attended by more than 20 000 stakeholders. This consultation process generated 1 300 written contributions, which were then summarised in 121 concrete proposals. The process culminated with a national level gathering on 26 and 27 November in Paris – the Assises Nationales de l'Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche – carried out under three overreaching goals:

  • Acting to ensure the success of all students;
  • Giving a new push to research; and
  • Contributing to define a new higher education and research landscape.

The 700 participants that attended the Assises Nationales were split in three working groups and discussed in great detail the 121 proposals, with a view to their relevance towards the three priority objectives. The results of this high-level meeting and of the broader consultation process were summarised in a Report released on 17 December. This document is to serve as a basis for the proposal of a new framework law by the Higher Education and Research Minister, Geneviève Fioraso. The new law is to address four main priorities, namely: better ensuring the employability of higher education graduates; simplifying the organisation and the evaluation of research; facilitating the de-compartmentalisation between universities, grandes écoles and research bodies; and reconciling efficiency and collegiality within the higher education institutions. The new law proposal is expected to be presented for consultations at the end of January and to be presented in the Council of ministers in March 2013.

The discussions related to research were held with a view to the earlier announced research transfer reform, presented on 7 November this year. This joint initiative of Madame Fioraso together with the Minister for Economic Renewal, Arnaud Montebourg, and the Minister of State for SMEs, Innovation and Digital Economy, Fleur Pellerin, is meant to increase the economic impact of research, by bridging the gap between the public research and enterprises, through 15 proposed measures. This initiative is expected to contribute to the wider National Pact for growth, competitiveness and employment.

Ministry of education and research – research transfer (in French)

Les assises de l'enseignement supérieur et de la recherche (in French)

French Government - National Pact for growth, competitiveness and employment (in French)