Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Prolétarisation du premier cycle"

Are professors abandoning the teaching of undergraduates to grad students? Yes, according to Christian Baudelot:

Présent, le sociologue Christian Baudelot (sur la photo) a dénoncé une "tendance gravissime" actuelle: "de plus en plus, le premier cycle est déserté par les enseignants titulaires et les vacataires font le boulot. On assiste ainsi à une prolétarisation du premier cycle, avec en haut des chaires d'excellence réservés aux meilleurs à qui on dit: "on va vous payer pour ne pas enseigner". Comme si cela devenait un sale  boulot". 

Meanwhile, in the same post, a doctoral student describes the difficulties of her daily life in a letter to Valérie Pécresse.


Anonymous said...

It's certainly the case for my research group at a university in Paris, but for a reason different from those mentioned by Baudelot.

Most of our undergraduate courses are taught by adjuncts. This is because the full-time faculty are almost fully employed teaching Masters courses. We simply don't have sufficient personnel to cover both, and it's much harder to farm out specialized Masters classes to adjuncts.

As opposed to what Baudelot says, we actually do have our most prestigious faculty member teaching the introductory freshman class. Though we cannot invest as much as we'd like in the undergraduate courses, we did feel it important to make our presence as significant as possible.

James Conran said...

With regard to the graduate student's letter to the minister, I have to say I don't get it. I can well imagine it must be a grinding vocation to take on a PhD without an "allocation de recherche". But how on earth could anyone not realise this before they embarked on such a path, and why would they do so in that knowledge?

Is it really true that most French grad students are unfunded (as implied by her claim that she was part of the "majorité silencieuse")?

Anonymous said...

I wish I could provide a rightfully referenced link, but I do believe that it is true that upwards of 2/3 of PhD students are without scholarships. Note that something like 1/3 of doctoral students are foreigners, and they’re pretty much de facto excluded from allocs de recherche.

A good portion (how much?) of PhDs in the humanities are ATERs - paid TAs.

Contrary to Christian Baudelot, I don't think the government deems the humanities as its "number one enemy". Rather, they reckon that there is a need to down-size the number of staff, both teaching & administration, in the universities. the government, apparently, aims to put an end to the massification of higher education - for better or worse (and I dont think they can even foresee the negative consequences of their current policies).

However, many PhDs, non-permanent staff & permanent staff feel entitled to a position worthy of their learned status & the hard work they put into obtaining their titles & diplomas. Its cultural - such intellectual effort merits rewards & recognition, imo.


James Conran said...

Thanks for the info CP. Note though that foreign grad students may be eligible for funding from alternative sources (such as awards in their country of origin) even if they aren't eligible for French public support. No idea how common this is.

In any case I think there's a difference between a) bemoaning the general neglect of higher ed by the authorities and b) complaining that "I embarked on a PhD with no funding and here I am living in poverty!"

Anonymous said...

that's true about the foreign students. a statistic which would be good to know - and which I couldn't find - would be that which distinguishes foreigners arriving at doctoral schools through the "ranks", ie after having completed a Master's compared to the number of those who are recruited or applied to get in from abroad. Ie, they did their Masters elswhere in another country. Were I to guess, I would think that in the natural sciences, it is more prevalent for foreign PhD candidates to have had their Master's in their country of origin whereas for the Humanities, foreign students would have obtained a Master's in a French university. Just my (more or less) educated opinion - but I wish there were a stats warehouse on these things.

And for sure, there are those doctoral students who didn't expect to undergo such material misery to obtain their diploma. I would say that the vast majority end up, willingly or reluctantly, accepting the state of things since they feel that, despite it all, they're doing what they're good at and what they enjoy. Like when somebody asked Samuel Beckett why he wrote, he replied "Je ne suis bon qu'à ça." There is something both foolhardy and indomptable about people who do things like that.

Chris P.