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France: Student life, revitalised

Speaking at the UNEF congress on 9 April (the UNEF, or Union Nationale des Étudiants de France, is the main national student union in France), Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the French Minister for Education, Higher Education and Research, presented a new plan for the improvement of student life. President Hollande’s promise to prioritise youth during his government was “not a simple campaign slogan,” she assured the audience.  The so-called “national plan for student life,” which is intended to spur a national dialogue, brings up a number of initiatives concerning the rights and well-being of higher education students in France. In her address, the Minister called for stakeholders from across society to take part in this dialogue, in hopes that certain measures can begin to be implemented as early as 2016. 
The tentative “national plan for student life” proposes:
  • Improving access to student rights: Students should receive adequate support and information (regarding, for instance, access to lodging or scholarships) throughout their studies.
  • Improving student life conditions, especially for those who must work alongside their studies. The attribution of student housing, in particular, must be made more transparent and fair.
  • Improving access to health, tailoring it to students. The Minister proposes the creation of 30 centres of student health by 2017.
  • Improving student autonomy, making sure that students, and their concerns, are the centre of their higher education institutions