France offers glimpse of higher ed under Obama

French university students have been on strike for 14 weeks over reforms that President Sarkozy wants to initiate that would revive the higher education system.

The reforms are incredibly modest. In short, Sarkozy wants to give university president more control over faculty and inject a little competition into the system.

Why? French universities are overcrowded, underfunded, and beholden to unions. And if Obama gets his way, our university system - by far the best in the world - will suffer the same fate.

The BBC' s Emma Jane Kirby gives an overview of the problems:

The row was originally sparked by plans to change the status of academic researchers and to give university presidents more say over how staff spend their time.

But it has since escalated into a much more general dispute over President Nicolas Sarkozy's promise to completely overhaul the higher education system.

The French leader wants to give individual universities more autonomy to run their faculties along the lines of successful commercial businesses and to make them more competitive.

Students and lecturers, however, have interpreted his proposal as an ultra-capitalist attempt to privatise the education system which will simply force up fees.

"Competition is just a right-wing ideology - in the case of humanities, competitiveness doesn't even make any sense," says Sorbonne English Professor Barbara le Lan.

"French universities are the least demanding universities as far as results go."

Everyone in France who passes the Baccalaureat or "Bac" has the right to take up a state university place.

The result is that the France's public universities are overcrowded, under-funded, have high drop-out rates and fail to make any international league tables. So would a little competition really hurt?

Good question, Emma. Obama appears to be working toward making college education the next great entitlement for the Middle Class. And when government gets that involved in funding higher education, they will no doubt get a much increased say in how the schools are run. More federal control, less state oversight, and no doubt a union for university professors will make our schools emulate the French system in no time at all.

Glad I've got my degree already. In ten years, if Obama gets his way, a college education will mean squat.





French university students have been on strike for 14 weeks over reforms that President Sarkozy wants to initiate that would revive the higher education system.

The reforms are incredibly modest. In short, Sarkozy wants to give university president more control over faculty and inject a little competition into the system.

Why? French universities are overcrowded, underfunded, and beholden to unions. And if Obama gets his way, our university system - by far the best in the world - will suffer the same fate.

The BBC' s Emma Jane Kirby gives an overview of the problems:

The row was originally sparked by plans to change the status of academic researchers and to give university presidents more say over how staff spend their time.

But it has since escalated into a much more general dispute over President Nicolas Sarkozy's promise to completely overhaul the higher education system.

The French leader wants to give individual universities more autonomy to run their faculties along the lines of successful commercial businesses and to make them more competitive.

Students and lecturers, however, have interpreted his proposal as an ultra-capitalist attempt to privatise the education system which will simply force up fees.

"Competition is just a right-wing ideology - in the case of humanities, competitiveness doesn't even make any sense," says Sorbonne English Professor Barbara le Lan.

"French universities are the least demanding universities as far as results go."

Everyone in France who passes the Baccalaureat or "Bac" has the right to take up a state university place.

The result is that the France's public universities are overcrowded, under-funded, have high drop-out rates and fail to make any international league tables. So would a little competition really hurt?

Good question, Emma. Obama appears to be working toward making college education the next great entitlement for the Middle Class. And when government gets that involved in funding higher education, they will no doubt get a much increased say in how the schools are run. More federal control, less state oversight, and no doubt a union for university professors will make our schools emulate the French system in no time at all.

Glad I've got my degree already. In ten years, if Obama gets his way, a college education will mean squat.