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Thousands of university lecturers took the streets in France at the beginning of this month in an “unlimited” strike movement, despite the announced EUR 371 million economic boost to higher education and research. Up to 45 percent of the classes are affected across the country, with the lecturers at the Paris, Marseille and Bordeaux universities acting as frontrunners in the demonstrations.
In this manner, French lecturers express their discontent towards the 200 job cuts planned for 2009 and against a decree meant to reform their professional status and make their careers more flexible. The contentious decree is part of the broader Loi relative aux libertés et responsabilités des universités and transfers in essence greater power to university presidents in terms of career advancement, the latter getting to decide unilaterally on their staff promotions. Previously, career advancement was decided by university presidents together with a national higher education council. Protesters accused the new measures of going against the principle of collegiality, fearing the abuse of power by university presidents.
French Higher Education Minister, Valerie Pécresse, tried to wipe out these concerns by promising to draw up a charter of correct application, in consultation with all interested parties. The outcome of the official efforts remains still uncertain, as the minister set a meeting with the unions on 27 February, in an attempt to negotiate possible reorientations of the decree.