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New French minister for higher education, research and innovation

On 17 May, Frédérique Vidal, president of the University Nice-Sophie-Antipolis since 2012, was named Minister for higher education, research and innovation, in the government of Edouard Philippe, French Prime-Minister under the newly-elected President Emmanuel Macron. It is a premiere in France for a university president to be appointed in this role. Ms Vidal also heads a fully-fledged ministry, no longer subordinate to the Ministry of national education, as was the case during the mandate of her predecessor.

Originally from Monaco, Ms Vidal is seen in France as an accomplished researcher, a representative of the civil society and as a pro-European. She holds a Master’s-equivalent degree in biochemistry, a doctorate in life sciences and a specialisation degree (DEA) in virology from the Institut Pasteur. She started her university career in 1995, in Nice, where she became professor. She served, amongst others, as expert for the French ARES (the Evaluation agency for higher education and research) and for the European Union (EU), in the framework of the Euro-Mediterranean University (EMUNI). She’s been actively involved in TEMPUS projects in the Balkans and supported the university community of Côte d’Azur in gaining research funding.

The appointment of Ms Vidal was saluted by the Conference of French University Presidents (CPU) as “an excellent signal given to the university community”

Ms Vidal starts her ministerial work at a difficult time, with French universities increasingly overwhelmed by the growing number of applicants and limited number of study places. An increase by 40 000 students is expected for the academic year 2017/18, while many specialisations (such as law, medicine, technical sciences and sports) are already saturated. The practice of some French universities dating for several years – a lottery draw in study fields with too many applicants – was recently formalised as a last resort measure by a ministerial act passed between the two rounds of the French presidential elections this spring. The representative student organisations are fiercely contesting the legality of this measure, while the new minister is expected by the university community to react firmly.

French Ministry of higher education, research and innovation – Press release (only in French)

Ministerial act MENS1710767C (on the lottery draw)(only in French)