French Community government under high tension due to higher education reform

French Community government under high tension due to higher education reform
French Community government under high tension due to higher education reform
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Tensions are increasing between coalition partners PS, Ecolo and MR in the French Community government. Everything has to do with a decree that aims to reform the “higher education landscape”, in short le décret Paysage, or the Landscape Decree. That decree was drawn up by Valérie Glatigny (MR), before she resigned from the French Community government for health reasons and was replaced by Françoise Bertieaux.

The decree sets out the period within which students must pass, and this also includes financing. Students have five years to obtain their bachelor’s degree and four years to obtain an additional master’s degree. They must complete the first bachelor year within two years. It “decret Paysage” was partially introduced in the 2022-2023 academic year and will only be fully effective from next academic year. But many students would fall between the two systems. The educational institutions would no longer receive subsidies for them, those students would then no longer be financed.

According to the association of French-speaking students (Fef), the reform would cross the studies of as many as 70,000 students. Opposition party PTB therefore prepared a proposal to abolish the reform. Governing parties PS and Ecolo wrote another proposal together, “to prevent thousands of students from being wrongly excluded from higher education”, as quoted by the newspaper. La Libre Belgique. The proposal from the PS and Ecolo would provide another year of postponement.

Boycott

After a week of discussion in the press, the two left-wing government partners, PS and Ecolo, submitted that proposal on Tuesday morning without prior consultation with the MR. This led to the planned discussion in the competent committee being postponed later in the day. Bertieaux refused to respond to questions. “Given this unconsulted initiative by the government partners, which leads to a breakdown of the decree, I am no longer able to answer on behalf of the government,” said the Minister of Higher Education.

The MR bounced back by boycotting several votes in the parliament of the French Community, writes Le Soir. But PS and Ecolo are prepared to persevere, if necessary with an alternating majority with the PTB. And there is another option: if one or more factions are prepared to abstain, PS and Ecolo would together get enough votes for a majority.

Tensions in the French Community government had previously risen due to a discussion between the PS and the MR about master’s programs in medicine.

Weyts’ milestone

In Flanders, around the same time as decree Paysage, introduced a decree with a similar “hard cut” or “milestone”. Just like in the French Community, Flemish students also have two years to pass all exams of their first bachelor year. Anyone who does not reach the first milestone after two years of study cannot continue their studies. In fact, Flemish Minister of Education Ben Weyts (N-VA) implemented throughout Flanders what KU Leuven itself had already introduced in 2021.

It is still too early to see an effect of the cut on the entire Flemish higher education, but at KU Leuven it has already paid off: 42.6 percent of new students passed all subjects in the first year in 2022-2023 . This would be a slight increase compared to the previous year, which brought KU Leuven back to the 2010 level after a downward trend.

The article is in Dutch

Belgium

Tags: French Community government high tension due higher education reform

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