Archive for French universities

instituts interdisciplinaires d’intelligence artificielle

Posted in pictures, University life with tags , , , , , , , on April 26, 2019 by xi'an

Four French institutes have just been selected by [the jury mandated by] the French Government to become interdisciplinary institutes for artificial intelligence (3IA):

•    ANITI (Toulouse), centred at l’Université Fédérale Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées
•    MIAI @ Grenoble Alpes (Grenoble), centred at l’Université Grenoble Alpes
•    PRAIRIE (Paris), centred à Inria
•    3IA Côte d’Azur (Nice), centred at l’Université Côte d’Azur

with Paris Dauphine, PSL Research University, a component of the third institute. (Where Prairie stands for PaRis Artificial Intelligence Research InstitutE.) This follows the “plan Villani“, launched by Cédric Villani to boost research in artificial intelligence in France and [possibly] slow down the brain drain of French IA researchers. With individual chairs attribued to each project, soon to be announced.

Springer no more!

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , on April 4, 2018 by xi'an

Just learned that, starting from tomorrow night, I will not have access to any of the Springer journals, as the negotiations between the consortium of French universities, research institutes, higher educations schools, and museums, failed. The commercial published refusing to stem the ever increasing fees, while happily taking in the fast increasing open access fees it pressures from authors, a unique example of triple taxation (researchers’ salaries, open access duties, and enormous non-negotiable subscription rates for the whole package of journals)… Following their German counterparts. Well, this is an opportunity for the boards of all these journals to withdraw and create the phantom version of their formal journal, evaluating and reviewing papers already available on arXiv! And I should definitely get my acts together, rise from my winter-is-coming lethargy, and launch PCI Comput Stat now!!!

the French MIT? not so fast…

Posted in Kids, pictures, University life with tags , , , , , , , on February 20, 2017 by xi'an

Gare de Sceaux, May 25, 2012A news report last weekend on Nature webpage about the new science super-campus south of Paris connected with my impressions of the whole endeavour: the annual report from the Court of Auditors estimated that the 5 billion euros invested in this construct were not exactly a clever use of public [French taxpayer] money! This notion to bring a large number of [State] engineer and scientific schools from downtown Paris to the plateau of Saclay, about 25km south-west of Paris, around École Polytechnique, had some appeal, since these were and are prestigious institutions, most with highly selective entry exams, and with similar training programs, now that they have almost completely lost the specialisation that justified their parallel existences! And since a genuine university, Paris 11 Orsay, stood nearby at the bottom of the plateau. Plus, a host of startups and research branches of companies. Hence the concept of a French MIT.

However, as so often the case in Jacobin France, the move has been decided and supported by the State “top-down” rather than by the original institutions themselves. Including a big push by Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010. While the campus can be reached by public transportation like RER, the appeal of living and working on the campus is obviously less appealing to both students and staff than in a listed building in the centre of Paris. Especially when lodging and living infrastructures are yet to be completed. But the main issue is that the fragmentation of those schools, labs and institutes, in terms of leadership, recruiting, research, and leadership, has not been solved by the move, each entity remaining strongly attached to its identity, degree, networks, &tc., and definitely unwilling to merge into a super-university with a more efficient organisation of teaching and research. Which means the overall structure as such is close to invisible at the international level. This is the point raised by the State auditors. And perceived by the State which threatens to cut funding at this late stage!

This is not the only example within French higher educations institutions since most have been forced to merged into incomprehensible super-units under the same financial threat. Like Paris-Dauphine being now part of the PSL (Paris Sciences et Lettres) heterogeneous conglomerate. (I suspect one of the primary reasons for this push by central authorities was to create larger entities towards moving up in the international university rankings, which is absurd for many reasons, from the limited worth of such rankings, to the lag between the creation of a new entity and the appearance on an international university ranking, to the difficulty in ranking researchers from such institutions: in Paris-Dauphine, the address to put on papers is more than a line long, with half a dozen acronyms!)

in support of Turkish mathematicians

Posted in Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , on December 11, 2016 by xi'an

[Here is a call from the three French maths and stats societies about the Human Right violations in Turkey and in particular the dire conditions of academics in Turkish universities.]

The Scientific Council is outraged by and condemns the arrests, persecutions and dismissals of more than a thousand of scientists in Turkey for more than a year : teachers, academics, doctors and PhD students. There can be no great country without free and independent research. We therefore ask that our colleagues be released and reinstalled in their positions, regain their freedom of speech and may travel abroad. We also condemn the latest decree that removes the autonomy of universities. It cancels the elections of the presidents (rectors) of the universities, private and public, and allows the President of the Republic to appoint who he wants in their place, as happened at the Bosphorus University. We also encourage all initiatives, at the CNRS and in the French Universities, to welcome our scientific colleagues from Turkey who are refugees in France.

The three French mathematical societies (SFdS, SMAI and SMF) also express their solidarity with all their colleagues who are discriminated against in Turkey without being able to leave the country. They support notably Mustafa Kalafat, mathematician dismissed from his functions at the University of Tunceli and arrested on the Georgian border. He is currently imprisoned and accused to be linked to the Gülenists and the coup attempt of July 2016. They also remain attentive to the fate of Kivanç Ersoy, a mathematician at the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University in Istanbul, accused of supporting terrorism for signing a petition for peace calling for dialogue and the cessation of armed conflict in Kurdistan. He is awaiting his appeal on December the 22nd, 2016.

positions in French universities [deadline]

Posted in Kids, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , on October 21, 2016 by xi'an

Université Paris-DauphineFor ‘Og’s readers interested in lecturer or professor positions in French universities next academic year, including a lecturer position at Paris-Dauphine in applied and computational statistics!, you need to apply for a qualification label by a national committee which strict deadline is next Tuesday, October 25, at 4pm (Paris/CET time).  (The whole procedure is exclusively in French!)

(mis)selection at French universities

Posted in Kids, University life with tags , , , , on June 21, 2016 by xi'an

There was an most relevant article in the weekend edition of Le Monde about the absurd posture of French laws, governments and universities about prohibiting any selection at the entrance to university. Under the current regulation, anyone with the baccalauréat degree can apply to any first year program and expect to be accepted. Since this is impossible, universities have to discriminate based on the current address and, if there still are too many applicants, resort to random sampling. To avoid selecting based on high school records or even the final grades at the State level baccalauréat. Or the same universities have to invent some local degrees that are not recognised as national (State) degrees. This is more than absurd, obviously, as it drives most of the best students away from the university system into private schools or abroad. (Paris-Dauphine chose a few years ago to opt out from being a national university, in order to select its students and is thus private in this respect if public in its funding.)

One extreme [and personal] example of this Kafkaian (dis)organisation is provided by medical studies. Anyone with a baccalauréat with any major (science, humanities, carpentry, …) can on principle enter a medical school! Obviously, there must be some selection before too many patients die or too many doctors graduate and the way it operates is as follows: a huge number of students enter the first year of medical studies where they follow mass teaching, with courses mostly on video and tutoring from second year students. They take two one-day exams in December and May with only multiple answer questions. And about 10% of those students are accepted in second year… Among the 90% who fail, about 40% are allowed to try again. Once. [Our daughter thus spent two years of intense bachotage to enter the second year. Congrats to her for her dedication and success!] In the end, French doctors are certainly not worse than others, but this remains a waste of time, energy and money for a huge number of people, with no other argument than an ideological call to égalité. Which translates in practice into a huge inequality between students who can afford private tuition and massive family logistic support [as we found out!] and those who cannot. Furthermore, some universities are bursting at the seams with the number of first year medical students, in constant augmentation despite the 10% success rate. And are thus considering introducing random sampling as well! Using the (costly) baccalauréat to restrict the number of accepted first years students would seem reasonable and rational, as would a more directive orientation of high school students as advocated by Le Monde. An unlikely move, given the potential political impact of the measure.

English courses again

Posted in Books, Kids, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , on June 9, 2013 by xi'an

In the science leaflet of Le Monde, Marco Zito—a particle physics researcher at CEA—dedicated his weekly tribune to the issue of teaching some courses in English in French universities, “cours en “globish”? Non, merci” being the title of this very poor contribution to the on-going debate… A wee tad late, as the change in the law had already been voted by the French parliament. Francophile readers can judge of the relevance of his arguments against teaching in English by themselves, but I do find them rather poor: first, French students are poorly trained in English; this is the fault of the secondary school system and addressing this handicap is outside the purposes and goals of universities. Wow! Replace English with maths and repeat the sentence. Sounds stupid, right?! If students have deficiencies when they enter the university, those should be addressed, full stop. Furthermore, learning English through a topic of their choice should provide a better motivation for the students than reading dull newspaper extracts as they do in secondary school (where language teaching is indeed appalling). Second, having courses in English would favour higher class kids and reinforce our “société à deux vitesses”. Re-wow! We are in  May…2013, right?! I had not read this kind of crypto-Marxist drivel for ages and, apart from reminding me of goode olde days, it sounds so lame. On the one hand, the kids of the most favoured parts of French society avoid universities as much as possible: they go to grandes écoles or abroad, in places where teaching in English is already implemented. Refusing to train the scions of less favoured parts of French society towards a better English proficiency is increasing the “big divide”. (And this is certainly the least of the barriers facing those entering the French university without the rule book.) The second part of the tribune is even weirder, if completely unrelated to the current debate: Zito starts arguing about the lack of neutrality of a given language, even in hard sciences, and then suddenly switches to the social awakening brought by Renaissance intellectuals writing in the vernacular (rather than Latin). Concluding that moving to courses taught in English (or “globish”) would bring us several centuries back. Just plain ridiculous.