University students studying abroad in France this semester may have gotten more than they originally bargained for. In addition to traveling across Europe and learning more about foreign cultures, students have been caught in the crossfire of a months-long battle between the country’s university professors and the French government.
Since February, protest has swelled in France surrounding President Nicolas Sarkozy’s education reforms. Professors across France have been cancelling classes, causing panic and frustration for students concerned about completing their classes and obtaining credits they counted on in order to stay on track for graduation.
According to The Guardian, a British newspaper, these reforms greatly effect the research done by French academics. University professors in France are required to have a certain balance of research and academic teaching. And up until now, professors’ peers determined whether or not that balance was met.
But Sarkozy’s education reforms place that power into the hands of the university presidents, enraging French professors worried they are losing control over their research.
University of Michigan students studying in Aix-En-Provence, a region in the South of France, report they have felt the effects of the strikes as much as any French university student.
“The strikes have unfortunately forced my academic program to hire private tutors to replace the classes at the French university,” Ethan David, an LSA junior and student in the Aix-En-Provence program, wrote in an e-mail interview.
Because of the situation and uncertainty about regular class meetings, many students are concerned about fulfilling necessary credits at the University of Michigan.
“My concern was that I wasn’t going to receive credit for my courses,” LSA junior Sonita Moss, who is also in the Aix-En-Provence program, wrote in an e-mail interview. “What’s good is that they’re ensuring everyone their credits and tailoring the courses to what we were taking at the (Universite de Provence Fac de Lettres).”
The University’s Office of International Programs is trying to keep students aware of current developments. The OIP has set up a page on its website for students studying abroad to get information and has been in contact with on-location program directors.
In an e-mail interview, Nicole LeBlanc, assistant director at the University of Michigan’s OIP, wrote that fulfilling credits in the wake of the strikes is no longer a concern.
“(Fulfilling credits) should not be an issue, based on the current academic plan in place which will give students a full semester of credits,” LeBlanc wrote. “Some students did not have courses affected by the strike, depending on their faculty/institute.”
“If an OIP student should find themselves in an academic situation which needs special attention, however, we will work directly with that student on an individual basis,” LeBlanc said.
While the situation caused panic, Moss wrote she has chosen to remain optimistic.
“Maybe I’m not getting the ideal education here in France, but I am meeting extraordinary people and giving myself to the entire experience,” she said. “I go to Michigan for the education; I came to France for something else.”