(eng)Students strike in ``poor'' French universities

The Anarchives (tao@presence.lglobal.com)
Thu, 16 Nov 1995 23:03:25 +0000 (GMT)

^Students strike in ``poor'' French universities@
By Francois Raitberger
PARIS, Nov 14 (Reuter) - Student unrest, the nightmare of
any French government, widened on Tuesday as strikes hit several
``poor'' universities demanding more state funds at a time when
the government is seeking to curb public spending.
Students in seven of the country's more than 80 universities
were on strike and the left-wing student union UNEF-ID, close to
the opposition Socialist party, called for a national protest
day next Tuesday.
Most classes were cancelled as students staged sit-ins and
meetings to discuss plans.
Protesters at the universities of Toulouse, Metz, Orleans,
Toulon, Caen, Aix-en-Provence and Marne-la-Vallee followed the
lead of fellow students in Rouen who won extra state funds and
teaching posts earlier this month after a three-week strike.
The unrest mostly hit overcrowded provincial universities
that mushroomed in the 1970s to face exploding numbers of
post-war ``baby boomers,'' who turned to higher education rather
than join a labour market plagued by unemployment.
Paris' older and richer universities were not affected.
France had just 300,000 students at the time of the May 1968
student-worker uprising. It has 2.2 million today.
High school graduates who pass the baccalaureat
(metriculation) exam -- more than 70 percent of each year -- are
automatically entitled to a place at a state unversity.
``One of the novelties exposed by the current student unrest
is the inequality to which the Republic...subjects universities,
and thus students,'' the daily Liberation said.
The protests come at a delicate moment for centre-right
Prime Minister Alain Juppe who has pledged an all-out offensive
to cut the public sector deficit to fulfil by 1997 the strict
criteria to join a European single currency.
Juppe already faces strong opposition from labour unions,
including a call for a general strike on November 28 against
plans to cut the growing deficit of the generous welfare system
through tax increases and spending cuts.
So far the student protests have been low-key, remaining
mostly confined to campuses.
But students occupying the university in Toulouse blocked a
motorway on Monday and were joined by professors on Tuesday.
They were planning to march through the southwestern city
later in the day, joining trade unionists protesting against the
planned welfare cuts.
Since the 1968 riots, which nearly brought down the
government, French leaders have closely monitored student
unrest, which can quickly flare into violence.
Demonstrators have forced the shelving of several reforms of
the education system. Students took to the streets in 1994 and
forced then prime minister Edouard Balladur to cancel plans to
introduce a cut-rate minimum wage for young job trainees.
Centrist Education Minister Francois Bayrou defused the
strike in Rouen earlier this month by promising extra funds
immediately and a four-year plan to redistribute resources and
correct inequalities between universities.
But his prompt action spurred other universities to demand
more money without waiting for the four-year plan.
Bayrou told Liberation that senior ministry officials were
talking with the heads of universities, and he would not grant
preferential treatment to places that went on strike.
``The talks aim at reviewing the real situation in each
university and correcting inequalities,'' he said.
He said 25 to 30 universities would be included in the plan
to share funds more equally.
Reut06:36 11-14-95

Reuter N:Copyright 1995, Reuters News Service