24 November 2023

Students from the higher school of art and design demonstrate against the closure of the establishment during the tenth day of mobilization against the pension reform, in Valenciennes (North), March 28, 2023.

A budget of 2 million euros and an evaluation mission. After months of various alerts coming from students as well as teachers and directors of regional art colleges, the Minister of Culture admitted, on Tuesday March 28, during questions to the government, that the establishments were facing “significant financial difficulties”.

Rima Abdul Malak announced an emergency plan and the appointment of Pierre Oudart, director of the National Higher Institute of Artistic Education Marseille-Méditerranée, to write, ” before summer “recommendations on “structural challenges” schools. The inter-organization, coordination bringing together teacher and student unions, was received in stride, as was a delegation of school principals. The ministry points out that “the emergency credits released represent a substantial financial effort”.

For several weeks now, almost all of these schools have been chaining demonstrations and occupations of their premises. In a letter addressed to the Ministry in September 2022, the directors of the establishments sounded the alarm at the explosion of additional costs linked to inflation and soaring energy prices. “Between the increase in the index point of civil servants, the increase in the costs of the materials used in our training, the explosion in the prices of fluids, we are a little bloodless”assures Marie-Haude Caraës, director general of the Superior School of Art and Design (ÉSAD) Tours-Angers-Le Mans and vice-president of the National Association of Art Schools (Andéa). “We need the State to reinforce the place of the network of public schools which innervates the territories”recalls his colleague Estelle Pagès, director of the National School of Fine Arts in Lyon.

Planned closure

These regional schools, 33 in number (for some 8,400 students), have had a special status since 2011: formerly under municipal management, they have become public establishments for cultural cooperation, funded overwhelmingly by local authorities (city and metropolis ) − the Ministry of Culture only subsidizes them up to 11% of their budget on average. They are therefore at the mercy of local political vagaries and the goodwill of mayors.

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The fate reserved for months at the ÉSAD de Valenciennes (Nord), specializing in design, illustrates this situation as much as it worries the whole community. After several successive cuts in city subsidies, the establishment’s budget plunged into the red. Exceptional aid was allocated by the city and the State in 2022, but without solving a structural deficit: for 2023, 284,000 euros would be missing. The departure of the school management, which occurred in 2021, at the request of the city, without a renewal of position being recorded, completed the crisis. The sanction was immediate: the Board of Directors decreed the suspension of student recruitment for 2023-2024, and accreditation to issue diplomas was withdrawn by the High Council for the Evaluation of Research and ‘Higher Education.

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