Universities, real world to move closer: Villepin
PARIS, April 25, 2006 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin on Tuesday called for universities to become more vocationally oriented after widespread student protests torpedoed a new youth jobs law he championed.
The change would be “a new deal between the university and the French,” Villepin declared at the Sorbonne University in Paris.
The institution had been the focus of the conflict between students and police during the worst of the protests in March and early April.
Late Monday, hours after the university was re-opened to classes following a five-week closure, clashes flared again when 200 students tried to renew their occupation of the premises.
Riot police eventually evacuated the building, and some of the protesting students ran through central Paris, damaging shop front windows.
Villepin, whose popularity has nosedived over his handling of the controversial jobs law and the subsequent demonstrations, said French universities had to change their direction and curricula to improve the employability of students.
“The state will make the financial efforts necessary to ensure universities are places of excellence and social success,” Villepin said, adding that the reform would “commit each and every one of us”.
Companies would also be encouraged “to reinforce their ties” to universities as part of the initiative.
Villepin has made reducing France’s chronically high youth unemployment rate on of his priorities.
His youth jobs law, which would have made it easier for companies to hire and fire people under 26, was effectively scuttled when student and union groups brought hundreds of thousands of people into the street in opposition.
As a consequence, Villepin’s chances of succeeding Jacques Chirac in presidential elections next year have been severely damaged and his authority undermined.
Subject: French news