Monday, November 22, 2010

Vidange des cerveaux

The Institut Montaigne claims that French academics are abandoning a sinking ship:
The report, by the Institut Montaigne, a leading independent research group in Paris, found that academics constitute a much larger percentage of French émigrés to the United States today than 30 years ago. According to the report, between 1971 and 1980, academics represented just 8 percent of the departing population; between 1996 and 2006, they represented 27 percent of the departing population. 

But some parts of the ship seem to sinking faster than others:

“Biology and economics are poorly recognized in France,” said Thomas Philippon, a French economist who began teaching finance at New York University Stern School of Business in 2003. “But the problem also comes from the fact that the French labor market doesn’t value Ph.D. theses.”


Anonymous said...

Considering how revered intellectuals are supposed to be, I don't quite get the way France treats its young "doctorants" and would-be-professors or researchers.

I've met quite a few young academics:
1° they all say there are no job openings
(since the State decides how many positions can open on a given year, and the State is cutting costs, the number of positions has been cut in two). This would be close to the situation in the US even though the "culprit" is not the same.
2° whenever a job opens, the odds are high that whoever is the current positon's holder will pick his (always his) favorite.
3° the process is not transparent and is usually fraught with prejudice. A young researcher in genetics told me something like "I'm not proud of it but at least I know I have a shot since I'm male - the chair thinks this level of intellectual prowess and commitment isn't for women." What % of women in academe are in a tenure track job v. adjunct? What % of the tenured women move to the next level? I don't recall the exact numbers but I do remember being shocked because they're pretty damning.
The Result of 1+2+3 = the odds are not 1:1 that a gifted researcher in the field would get the job over a "favorite" candidate. The odds are 1:50. (There's an actual study on this.)

Add to this
4° salaries for a tenure-track job start at around $26,000 a year. Okay, someone here told me that you've got to add "free health care" etc, but even so, academics in the US have good insurance plans and in terms of disposable income, you simply can't compare.
(I remember a young math professor who couldn't believe he'd be paid $38,000 by the small American college that had offered him a tenure-track job.)
5° Quality of life: of life, certainly - but of professional life, so-so. Classes are crowded, buildings are decrepit, facilities are inadequate (and I'm being nice - Ecole de Chimie in Paris jokes that all researchers could pass for mcGyver for their ability to transform a common item into something else; in 2008 most universities were waiting on the budget promised in 2006 and most of the Pécresse plan to improve construction dealt with contracts signed between 2003 and 2008.) If you're into photography, next time you're in France, ask for the nearest university and take pictures. It's eerie and sad and all of a sudden there's that one brand-new building.

It's also my understanding that things have deteriorated terribly in the past 20 years.

Of course, those who are hired and immediately tenured because they are someone's favorite can enjoy a fairly light teaching load (I think it's 9 hours/week) and very few strings attached, plus quality of life and all kinds of good things.


Anonymous said...

ps: To be on the positive side:,13868.html


Anonymous said...

Sinking Ship: Le Monde's chat

Anonymous said...

an example of Brain Drain by Rue89: "I don't want to have to kneel to get a roll of scotch tape".
And it may sound hyperbolic to whoever's used to European or American universities, but unfortunately it's pretty accurate for a French lab.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to a French university:

Exhibit A: a 3-hour comprehensive exam for the master's degree in Information Technology... scheduled in a room without tables.

The students find tables.. in the university corridors. They're forbidden from using these, they must write on their laps, bent over.
And then they're switched to another room that does have tables... just not enough for the number of students taking the exam.

DavidinParis said...

Make a list of those running the universities and those at that same university with high academic achievements--there is little overlap. French academics is deeply corrupt and only mildly better than its cousins to the South.