Archive for French universities

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.

teaching in English

Posted in Kids, Travel, University life with tags , , , , on May 20, 2013 by xi'an

ENSAE, Nov. 17, 2010A strange (if very French!) debate is taking place these days in the French main chamber, where some socialist deputies are contesting an incoming change in the regulation of university studies that would allow some courses to be taught in… English! Quelle horreur!!! Since this option has been implemented by many universities, incl. Dauphine, it means that we all are acting outside the law! I do not fear in the least being indicted for teaching R and Bayesian statistics in English… However, I find the action of these deputies missing the point: just like most other Western countries, we need to attract bright students from emerging countries in order to keep our departments open. It is unrealistic to think that those students will accept to learn French in addition to English, just because our universities are that attractive (and they are not!). Plus, our own students are asking for courses in English as they realise that their English level is not that great and that this training is more efficient than regular English courses… This position was better expressed in a Le Monde tribune a few days ago signed by several university professors, incl. Cédric Villani.