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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: "Nous les lycéens, sommes les étudiants de demain"

by Marie-Noëlle Bertrand and Vincent Defait

Published in l'Humanité on 23 November 2007

“We, the High School Students of Today are Tomorrow’s University Students”

Translated Monday 17 December 2007, by Rudolf Jossifov

Education. On 22 November, thousands of university and high school students marched against the Pécresse law. Their fear: the potential privatization of the universities.

Standing on principle and for the future, Claire, Morgane, Mélodie and Iris, all of them second year art students at Lamartine high school in Paris were in front of the Sorbonne, ready to protest against the Pécresse law. They believe that this law, in principle, endangers everyone’s equal right to education. They worry that: “Only people who have money will be able to have access to quality education." They fear for their future, that their education will slip through the cracks in the system as reckoned by the minister of Higher Education. “The Pécresse law is favoring only fields of study seen as profitable. This is a direct threat to our studies.” On strike since Tuesday, their high school has renewed their motion to strike in a general assembly vote passed by 270 out of 300 votes. Like them, many other high school students marched in Paris. However these were not just students. (1) They all spoke with one voice in opposition to the Law on the Autonomy of the Universities.

The law was adopted at the end of July, while the institutions were in recess, which confirms that faculty deans will need to resort to private financing. Outside participants - elected officials or heads of enterprises - will benefit from an increased representation within the administrative boards while the students’ representation will diminish radically.

For Clément from Voltaire high school “it’s almost the complete privatization of the universities." As one who is going for the BAC in arts and literature and is planning to study photography, his fears for his future education are the same as those of the girls. “The businesses will only finance the programs they are interested in …” Say goodbye to philosophy, the arts or even sociology, he worries. The universities will no longer belong to the students but to the businesses." Virgile, Adrien and Léonore, high school students in Vanves, arrived at the center of the capital in spite of the disruptions in the transport system. They’re worried moreover about a society built on the "all for profit” principle. "It’s the US model the law endorses, a trend within society which chooses to overlook equality. It is time to act NOW!"

"Unfounded concerns" if you go by what Education minister Xavier Darcos says, taking over for his Higher Education colleague. From a distance, the president of the National Secondary School Students’ Union, Floréale Mangin, responded: "We are the university students of tomorrow. We should at least have the right to speak out about the concerns we have about the first cycle... selection for admission to the university appeared in the first version of the law. We can see what the government’s intentions are," the high school student believes.

On his part, the president of the UNEF Bruno Julliard declared that the students could return to class if negotiations opened "without further delay" with "satisfactory answers." In other words, a law to ensure multiyear budgeting for university programs “would make the financing by private interests useless", said a UNEF member. According to his quote, the national coordination continues to call for the abolition of this law. “There is nothing to hide," said William, from the University of Censier. It’s a difference in strategy, not in determination to understand each other.

(1) Total 7,000 persons, according to the organizers, 2,600 according to the police.

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