31 May 2022

In the lead up to the third UNESCO  World Higher Education Conference, the Right to Education Initiative hosted the event ‘Taking stock: the right to higher education in France’.

Following a successful roundtable discussion with civil society organisations and researchers in spring 2021, this year’s event gathered state representatives, students and researchers to further advance the discussion on inequalities in higher education in France. 

Building on a four-year research project in collaboration with the Sciences Po Law School Clinic and researchers from the Francophone Research Network on the privatisation of Education (ReFPE), the University of Geneva, the University of Paris-Saclay and the University of Orléans, the roundtable engaged partners and participants in a lively discussion around challenges to the realisation of the right to higher education in France. 

Audrey Bergassoli, Margaret Harris et Hicham Touili-Idrissi, students from the Sciences Po Law School Clinic who were awarded the Anthony Mainguené prize for their joint study with RTE on inequalities in higher education presented the main conclusions of their research. They highlighted that geographical polarisation of higher education institutions within France, the social value attributed to certain programs and higher education institutions, as well as the direct and indirect costs of higher education, intersect with existing socio-economic and territorial inequalities and represent a threat to the full realisation of the right to higher education for all in the context of increasing privatisation. Claire Calvel and Victor Chareyon, master’s students at ENS Paris-Saclay who have collaborated with RTE over the past year on issues relating to the financing of higher education, also presented the results of their study demonstrating the effects of budget allocation and distribution on the right to equal and non-discriminatory access to quality education for all.

MP Karine Lebon, member of the Cultural affairs and Education Committee at French Parliament and author of the report on a new education bill regarding higher education admission procedures and Ms. Anne Sophie Barthez, General Director of Higher Education and Employment at the Minister of Higher Education, engaged in a lively and transparent discussion with the audience recognising the complexity of the challenges that still need to be overcome to ensure the full realisation of the right to higher education in France.

Before the end of the session, Mickaël Musto, President of the students’ union at University Paris-Nanterre, shared testimony of his experience working with the Sans-Fac student movement that has been occupying part of a university building in protest against the selectivity of the admission procedures.

Watch the video of the event here (in French)