1 December 2023

This column appears in “The World of Education”. If you subscribe to Le Monde, you can subscribe to this weekly letter by following this link.

On March 7, the European University Association (EUA) published its periodic barometer on the autonomy of universities in 35 European countries. The verdict is final. France has been regressing since the last barometer of 2017 in the 4 compartments of the game: institutional autonomy (rank 24, – 4), financial autonomy (rank 27, – 3), autonomy in the management of human resources (rank 31, – 4) and academic autonomy (rank 32, – 5).

Whether organizing and governing themselves, procuring resources and managing them, recruiting their academic, administrative and technical staff, paying them and managing careers, creating as they wish training and diplomas and to recruit their students within the limits that they set, our universities remain – when we compare them – corseted in a set of constraints which hinder their capacities for action much more widely than their counterparts in the most comparable European countries.

Even if this type of ranking can always be contested in its methodologies and criteria (in this case, 35 countries were ranked against 29 in 2017), the fact remains that the results are mediocre and call for a decision to be taken. consciousness and a start.

It would be wrong to say that nothing has been done since 2017. The ORE law, the so unfairly decried Parcoursup and the reform of license courses now make it possible to better recruit graduates, to take their profiles into account, to offer them courses adapted and increase their chances of success.

State control no longer works

The establishment of experimental public establishments since 2018 has led to the emergence of new universities bringing together old universities and grandes écoles, and offering completely unprecedented organizational freedom. Capacity for financing development and innovation has been expanded with the Investments for the Future Program (PIA) and France 2030, as well as borrowing capacity or direct asset management. The Research Act 2020 introduced the international academic staff recruitment model (“tenure track”) with junior professorships.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Universities: “We need a funding model that guarantees autonomy and supports ambitions”

That’s a lot, but obviously the movement is too slow, the others go faster and further.

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