French Universities

by on May 13, 2006 at 12:29 pm in Economics, Education | Permalink

The United State’s has one of the most admired university systems in the world and one of the most deplored k-12 systems.  Could the difference have something to do with the fact that universities operate in a competitive market with lots of private suppliers while k-12 is dominated by monopolistic, government provided schools?

What would our university system look like if it operated like the k-12 system?

Look to France for the answer.  The riots of 1968 forced the government to offer a virtually free university education to any student who passes an
exam but as a result the universities are woefully underfunded especially for the masses.  Amazingly, with just a few exceptions
for the elites, students are required to attend the universities closest to their
high schools.  Sound familiar?

The NYTimes sums up with a look at a typical university:

Only 30 of the library’s 100 computers have Internet access.

The
campus cafeterias close after lunch. Professors often do not have
office hours; many have no office. Some classrooms are so overcrowded
that at exam time many students have to find seats elsewhere. By late
afternoon every day the campus is largely empty.

Sandwiched
between a prison and an unemployment office just outside Paris, the
university here is neither the best nor the worst place to study in
this fairly wealthy country. Rather, it reflects the crisis of France’s
archaic state-owned university system: overcrowded, underfinanced,
disorganized and resistant to the changes demanded by the outside
world.

Thanks to Daniel Akst for the pointer.

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