For immediate release
Montréal/Paris, June 28, 2012 — The Fédération québécoise des professeures et professeurs d’université (FQPPU) and Syndicat national de l’enseignement supérieur en France (SNESUP) are joining forces to defend public universities.
Over the years, the fundamental mission of universities in France and Québec, which is to provide public education and research, has undergone major changes. These universities are increasingly subject to outside influences that go against public interest and weaken academic freedom, both of which are key components of the mission of universities.
A gradual and notable disengagement by government is compromising the social and humanistic mission of universities as well as their ability to meet collective needs. It also results in a heavy burden on students and gives the private sector a greater influence on universities. This, in turn, leads to an increase in tuition or registration fees, a targeted and authoritarian guidance of research as well as a system of governance based on commercial principles.
In Québec as well as in France, universities are the target of unprecedented neoliberal attacks. The imposition of economic, industrial or commercial aims on requests for proposals, benchmarks of excellence and funding programs emphasizes a utilitarian approach at the expense of theoretical subject areas and fundamental research. This control over research leads to restrictions on scientific and academic freedom, and also plays a role in the creeping privatization of universities. It is a disturbing trend supported by the stand of the OECD and neo-liberal governments that see universities as a business and use them for economic purposes.
Maintaining the public nature of universities has become a major and pressing challenge. For a long time, the SNESUP, FQPPU and their partners have called for a wide-ranging national democratic public debate in the form of a Conference or Estates General on universities. Given the high stakes and the need for broad social involvement, this project requires extensive preparation, thorough and documented analysis as well as a representative organization to ensure its legitimacy.
The debate that the SNESUP would like to see take place in France will need to be considered, instead of being shifted to avoid what happened in 2004 after the Estates General on research. The SNESUP deems that holding a conference at the start of the next academic year echoes a longstanding request for a major debate, but it requires striking an organizing committee that is representative, independent of government and open to civil society.
There is reason to worry about the systematic refusal of the Québec government to convene a genuine Estates General on universities that would provide the opportunity for all stakeholders to address the entire range of substantive issues. While it is continuing to request an Estates General, the FQPPU is announcing that it will hold a forum on public universities in the fall of 2012.
The FQPPU and SNESUP support common positions to promote democratic and outward-looking universities that are available for all students, dedicated to social needs and free of political, economic and religious forces. The two organizations will work together to conduct reviews as well as public actions and rallies.
Established in 1991, the FQPPU represents the vast majority of faculty unions in Québec. The SNESUP is the leading organization representing university professors in France.
Syndicat national de l’enseignement supérieur (SNESUP)
78 rue du faubourg Saint Denis – 75010 Paris
Tél. : 01 44 79 96 10