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French election: students already resistent to Sarkozy education agenda

Nicholas Sarkozy’s recent election in France met divided and ripe emotions amongst students in France’s capital. Though Sarkozy, fresh in power, has yet to act on any of his words regarding university liberalisation, the student general assembly from Paris-I Panthéon-Sorbonne at the site Tolbiac in the 13th arrondissement already caused a stir by voting a strike on 9th of May. This vote, though supported by less than half of the student body, was essentially a gut reaction to the progressive liberal reforms put forth in Sarkozy’s programme at the UMP convention in February. Such reform include affording greater autonomy to institutions in choosing which students and professors to accept, paying professors according to merit, increasing fees, and encouraging private business to invest more in tertiary education. Though many students, finding such reforms threatening to their student rights, expressed fear that Mr. Sarkozy would plow through such changes by July, as promised in his aggressive approach, other students were divided. Though most are sceptical of Sarkozy’s liberal agenda, several seemed to express exasperation in both the timing and method of such a protest. Closing down the university at exam time, as well as protesting when nothing has yet been officially proposed from the newly elected president, is seen as hasty and inappropriate. The strike quickly ended on the 10 May and Tolbiac students returned to lecture halls. It is clear, however, that Mr. Sarkozy may not have a smooth path when and if he embarks upon his planned university reforms.