Higher education and research: proposals from Terra Nova

Posted on 25/08/2011


While the presidential campaign starts, the left-wing think tank Terra Nova published on August 23rd a paper entitled “Make our students succeed, make France progress: Proposals for a wake-up call toward a knowledge society” . Yves Lichtenberger, former president of the University of Marne-la-Vallee is one of the rapporteurs.
Anything consensual in this text in 42 points, which recommends to increase the fees at the university, to reduce the number of students in preparatory classes, but also to pay an allowance to all students. Synthesis:

Improve the governance of universities and student orientation

No revision of the current law on universities, but an improvement in governance: that’s what Terra Nova is suggesting, through the creation of an academic senate at each university to allow “a clear separation of powers.”
In addition to organizing a major debate on the direction to set priorities and the necessary budget, the report sets the “ambitious but realistic” goal of 50% of an age group with a bachelor degree in 2022.
Customize the undergraduate degree courses

” Level Interview” during the registration and the formation of level groups in the first and second year of the bachelor (L1 and L2), enhanced supervision and mentoring, development of fully multidisciplinary courses: these measures must allow for a customization of the curriculum and promote gateways to improve the orientation process, in partnership with other stakeholders (employment centers, local authorities, Chambers of Commerce …).
Introduce the selection in the first year of Master (M1) and promote gateways from the university to the “Grandes Ecoles” (Engineering and Business Schools)

The rapporteurs do not go around the bush, they advocate for the “introduction of a selection process at the first year of the Master( M1)”, while it takes place today at the entrance to the second year of the Master (M2).
Another proposal that should stimulate debate, “decrease of 33% in 5 years of the number of seats in preparatory classes (the current entry point to the “Grandes Ecoles”) ” in parallel “to a reduction by 50% in 5 years of the intakes in the “Grandes Ecoles”.In order to “increase the number of students entering the “Grandes Ecoles” from the university and not through the current preparation path,” and that, as from September 2012. The preparatory classes could also be administratively attached to universities.

Cocnerning the private graduate schools and universities, Terra Nova offers to “launch an audit of the quality of private higher education.”
Greater recognition of young researchers

Recognize the thesis professionally and financially, increase the number of doctoral students positions and the come-back of post-doctoral students and researchers from abroad, facilitate the recruitment of doctors in public services: these are the proposals for young researchers .
In addition, the think tank suggests a “significant” raise of the salaries for academics and researchers (from public universities).
It is also necessary to rebalance the funding of research, between “a minimum of 50% of contractual funding and up to 50% of funding by project finance.”
Promote social diversity in higher education

For a real diversity of higher education, Terra Nova intends to generalize some of the initiatives already implemented by some institutions such as the reduction of the coefficients of socially discriminatory courses and units or building bridges to enter the Grandes Ecoles after a university degree.

Increase fees and pay a study allowance

Taking a long-standing demand of student organizations, Terra Nova proposes to pay to all students a graduate allowance of € 500 per month, which can be supplemented by zero-interest loans guaranteed by the State of an amount of € 150/month at the Bachelor level, and € 300/month at the  Master level.
More controversial, the increase in fees is also included in the report which calls, a threefold increase in 5 years for the bachelor degrees and a fourfold increase for master’s and doctorate. All students with a scholarship would remain exempted from paying these fees which would reach in 2017 € 500/year for a bachelor, € 1 000/year for a Master and € 1 500/year for a PhD.
Another priority figures: student housing, with 50 000 renovations and 40 000 buildings.




This post is an edited and translated version of an article written by Sophie Blitman and published in French by Educpros on August, 24th.

The original article in French is available at: http://www.educpros.fr/detail-article/h/22a34c4c7a/a/enseignement-superieur-et-recherche-les-propositions-de-terra-nova.html

 This translation was done for the non-French speaking readers interested in higher education in France. The ideas presented remain with their original authors.