Friday, March 21, 2008

Autonomy, or Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny?

Today's Libé has been turned over to students in France's universities in honor of the March 22 Movement, named for the day on which the University of Nanterre was occupied, inaugurating the "events" collectively referred to as "May '68" (it was a long month, which began in March and ended sometime in the mid-1970s). Several students conduct an interview with higher-ed secretary Valérie Pécresse. She is asked about the proposal by the board of the University of Paris-Dauphine to charge a "registration fee" of 800 euros--something one would have thought the board entitled to do as an autonomous entity under the new university reform law (LRU, also known as the Loi Pécresse). Apparently, "autonomy" doesn't mean actual autonomy, however. Listen to Pécresse:

Dauphine is not subject to the LRU. It is a major institution of higher education subsidized by the state. It must award a majority of national diplomas, or else it will not receive its state subsidy. At the time the law was voted on, I pledged that registration fees would continue to be set by the state within the framework of autonomy.

But that's not how the president of Dauphine understands "autonomy." Read his editorial on the subject. As befits a university dedicated to, among other things, instruction in business management, he acknowledges the virtues of "diversity" and assumes that universities will compete to attract students on the basis of their course offerings and the rewards to be expected from investment in a particular area of study. If Dauphine's business majors expect their future earnings to be enhanced, they will find it worth their while to pay the registration fee, the proceeds of which Dauphine can then use as it sees fit, but presumably to make its program even more attractive to students. If students prefer not to pay the registration fee, Dauphine's enrollment will decline, and its board will have to revise its decision. One may approve or disapprove of the fee, but it would seem well within the prerogative of a truly "autonomous" university.

But apparently I misunderstand the LRU, or, as Pécresse puts it, the LRU does not apply to Dauphine. But why? I'm sure someone can enlighten me on this point. Because if autonomous universities are actually tightly controlled by the ministry of education, I don't understand what the LRU is supposed to have changed, and if the concept of "national diploma" remains as a weapon with which to beat university boards into submission, then the true power to run the universities remains with the ministry, despite the façade of "autonomy." So where is la rupture?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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