I came to France thanks to the French government.
Of course I had to help out, but it was them who made this adventure reality. I got a scholarship, yes, it’s an excellence scholarship, but it pays my studies which is great.
I came without knowing what to expect, knowing it would be an adventure.
Lots of people in Peru think that if you leave the country to study it’s awesome and when you come back you will have a secured job. This is dew to the fact that universities abroad are over rated.
It’s true that many universities at the top of the world rankings are from abroad, but we should not generalize. I will tell you a bit about the situation in France.
First of all, anyone can get into university. As long as you have finished school you can get into university with no limit to the access. If someone wants more « prestige » then they go to « preparatory » schools, grand schools or private schools, not universities… This does not mean universities are bad, it’s just that they are free (the registration is all you pay) so many people opt for that and then often drop out. This makes it hard to follow students individually.
University in France is in a Crisis. The truth is that where I am now (Université Lumière Lyon 2) – the University of Light – the situation is becoming more and more precarious.
I am going to tell you about the department of Anthropology, Sociology and Political Sciences (FASSP for it’s initials in French) in particular.
The money they could use was of 200 000 euros per year or even up to 210 000. Now the government has cut the budget taking away 64 000 €. Basically ¼ of what they had is no longer available.
The French government has reduced the funding towards higher education. They made a law called: the autonomy law for universities which allowed self management. The problem lies in that teachers have to be payed taking into account the number of years they have worked in the university, with this cut, it is no longer possible.
Also, with the austerity system, more cuts are expected. The higher education budgets are usually announced in december but the announcement was postponed to january and a few days ago was pushed further into the year and will not be announced until February.
On top of the worry to know if there will be more cuts in the short term, the secretary of state announced on the 4th of June 2014 that between 2015 and 2017 the government was going to reduce the budget of superior studies of 6 thousand dollars.
This money will be transferred to the research credit, this means private companies will have to research with that money. Sadly this money has not been well managed in the past. This decision of changing the purpose of this money is entirely politic.
A “precarious” teacher shared with us that he calculated that with 3% of those 6 thousand € a great number of teachers (necessary to assure classes were taught) could be payed but there is no sign that this will be done.
Lots of numbers … but What are the consequences for students? For the teachers? And what is really happening?
The university is “forced” to employ “stand in” teachers (in French: “vacataires”). These are students in Master that are to take care of classes of 40 students (“small” classes).
The reality is that after 1 whole semester of teaching, they have not been payed. Yes, 60% of classes given in Lyon 2 are taken care of by these “vacataires”. There are 15 teachers for 650 students and “no more money for more professional teachers so these Master 2 students are hired to help out. But the truth is that they are not even hired because they do not even have an employment contract. They are like ghost staff: with no contract and pay it’s as if they did not exist administratively.
And what reasons are given for this lack of payment? Some people are given specific recons. For example they are told that they have not payed the tuition for the Masters course. The inscription and insurance are about 500€ to pay, with no income how are they expected to pay? But even if they could it is impossible administratively to pay before classes start. Undergraduate studies start in september but the masters tuition can only be payed from october onwards. If that were the only problem we could probably live with it but so many other unfunded reasons are given. Papers aren’t in order, the problem comes from higher up… These people are just being mocked of: 63 contracts waiting to be signed! And we are only talking of Politics and social studies!
The situation complexifies its self even more because it is not only the teachers that are in a precarious situation but also the administrative employes. For you to get the just of what I am referring to, imagine having 1 secretary for 900 people! This is what is happening in the FASSP for 1st and 2nd year.
And this secretary is hired with a short time contract: 10 months. This means the university does not have to pay for the holidays and can re-hire the same person or another the following yet.
Often, students find the secretariat closed. This is not because the secretary is taking a rest but it’s because there are so many people coming and going that she has to be isolated to finish all that the university expects of her.
The work conditions aren’t the best either. With 40 students in a room there are times when there aren’t even enough chairs! There is no money to make copies of the obligatory reading material! and not even enough to hand out the syllabus.
In the magistral courses of 200-400 students the mikes don’t always work which is a problem to.
A small parenthesis: this is even worse for people studying “performing arts” that are confronted with more technical issues. On the 15th of september 2014 the whole of their budget was removed. In Lyon 2 this department does not even have a rehearsal room, it’s the only university in France with this problem, that does not mean it is the only university with problems.
This same area did not have computers either. To (not) solve the problem, the university just gave them another departments computers and that was that.
The people in charge of this department have been asked to reduce the number of courses they offer. From the 100 they offer now they have to come down to 15 in the lapse of 2 years. But the decision on which ones to get rid of has to be taken in less than a month (they were notified on the 13th of december and have to give the answer in less than a week from now).
The directors of this department complained and the answer they got was that “it would be dramatic if they took part in the down fall of the university”. There was even talk of putting the university under some sort of custody because of these complaints.
But as one of the “vacataires” said in Thursday’s meeting: by raising their voice in this situation they “showed they existed and would not easily be beaten.”
Like many other departments (11 are taking part in this group) they have been told they need to look for private financing. For example there is the “Learning tax”: private companies have to pay a tax to help education out. This tax can be payed to a common pot (that no one know the destination of) or can be sent to a specific university or area. It has been done for “performing arts” but is harder in areas like politics.
Let’s re focus on the stand-in teachers and see a few of the problems they are facing in Lyon 2:
– Some authorities (like the university general secretary: Jean Luc Maillot) call them leftists, uncooperative and rebellious.
they are not being payed. But if they were the money they would receive would only be that of the classes given. In previous years all the “stand-in teachers” have received is the money for the hours taught without taking into consideration the preparation time, meetings, answering emails…
If this does not seem problematic just look at the wage they actually receive. They are supposed to be payed 30 € per hour (gross pay) When you think of all the extra time they spend in preparation the amount is of about 4€ the hour which is not even the SMIC (French minimum salary that is of 9,61€ the hour)!
The University campus is on the outskirts of Lyon itself and can only be reached by tram or bus (unless you have a car or bike). The price of transport is not being covered but that is not the worst thing. If they have 4 scheduled classes in the week they are more often then not on separate days, making transport even more expensive and long.
Class schedules are announced with delay and sometimes because of “lack of budget” courses are merged. One teacher was notified days before a course was meant to take place that it had been eliminated: ¼ of what she thought she would earn is no longer available for her.
The university has not even signed the employment contract so cannot pay but this also means that the “vacataires” cannot have social security. The university often asks these master 2 students to have another job on top of their studies and teaching so that they do not have to cover that cost.
One last thing: they are sometimes required to give classes to 200-400 people (called lectures). The law stipulates that only doctorates can give these classes, “vacataires” aren’t allowed to because they have not finished their studies. So in the contract (that they still don’t have) the university will indicate that the class that is being taught is one of 40 when in fact it’s 10 times bigger!
This situation is getting out of control. Although there have been complaints, movements and all, the university says that the problem comes from above and they cannot do anything about it. It is partly true but also they are not doing enough to solve the problems.
It was decided, before the exams started, that the marks would be retained. So even if classes were still taught the university would have no marks.
But this has not made the situation better.
On Thursday a meeting was held in class time (so that all the students could understand the situation) and we were told that they would use the last weapon: strike.
From monday on, these teachers (remember it is not all the teachers in Uni) will no longer teach.
I, Peruvian that came to study in France, thank them. I know that for one whole semester they came and taught even though they had no contract and money, and that is more than they could have done.
A teacher from my first semester told me that if he did go on strike he would make sure us, the students, were not at a disadvantage. He sad we would find a space outside of the university grounds to keep learning.
This semester another of my “step-in” teachers said that if it was necessary he would make his classes via Skype so that we were not penalized.
I support these people, there human beings that want to share their knowledge and that sadly have to do drastic things to be heard.
If you do want to know more (I have tried to resume the situation and look at how much I wrote!) you can go to the following sites:
Rebellyon.info or mobprecvaclyon2.wordpress.com …