The Long March of French Universities

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The Long March of French Universities was originally published in French in 2001 under the title La longue marche des universités françaises © Presses Universitaires de France, 2001 Published in 2004 by RoutledgeFalmer 29 West 35th Street New York, New York 10001 Published in Great Britain by RoutledgeFalmer 11 New Fetter Lane London EC4P 4EE Copyright © 2004 by Taylor & Francis Books, Inc. This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005. “To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to” RoutledgeFalmer is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available from the Library of Congress ISBN 0-203-46388-9 Master e-book ISBN

ISBN 0-203-47131-8 (Adobe eReader Format) ISBN 0-415-93497-4 (hardcover)

Table of Contents





Part I The “Faculty Republic” 1

From Napoleon’s Imperial University to the “Faculty Republic”



The “Faculty Republic”



Universities Steered by the Disciplines


Part II French Universities Come into Their Own 4

The Centralized, Standardizing, Egalitarian Model Destabilized



And the Ministry Recognized the Universities



French Universities Emerge


Part III From One University Configuration to Another 7

From Universities to University Configurations



University Configurations and Change













It is common practice to thank close family, the people who experienced the long, slow process of manuscript production as part of their daily lives, at the end of the acknowledgments. I would like to reverse the established order and put those who usually come last, first. The greater part of this book was written in 1998–1999, the year I spent at Harvard’s Center for European Studies, and my family was with me for the adventure. I want to tell my children, Raphaël and Léa, how proud I am of them for adapting and integrating so readily during our stay in America. I also want to thank my companion Laurent Canches, a documentary filmmaker, for agreeing to spend a year of his professional life several thousand kilometers away from his place of work. I know the many deadlines he had to meet beforehand to be able to stay in Cambridge with his family, the concessions he had to make, and the many inconveniences. This book owes much to my year at the Center for European Studies, for which I received a Franco-American Commission 1998–1999 Fulbright scholarship and a fellowship from Harvard University. I am deeply grateful to these two institutions for their trust, and for giving me the opportunity to complete the book amid the extraordinary intellectual effervescence of the CES. I would also like to thank all those at the Center who helped me clarify my thinking with their questions, comments, and musings, and those who through their enthusiasm, availability, and in some cases friendship, made the writing process much more enjoyable than it otherwise would have been: Pepper Culpepper, Laura Frader, Arthur Goldhammer, Peter Hall, Stanley Hoffman, Charles Maier, Andrew Martin, George Ross, Serenella Sfera, Rosemary Taylor, and Judith Vichniac. My thanks, too, to all the visiting scholars who, like myself, were welcomed at the CES in 1998–1999, as well as the CES doctoral students I spent time with on the fourth floor. A special thought for Gretchen Bouliane, whose office and fine sense of humour I shared during the year, and for Jacqueline Brown, Abby Collins, George Cumming, Lisa Eschenbach, Anna Popiel, and Sandy Selesky, who ensured the smooth running of the Center and made it such a pleasant place to work and live. The book has benefited from attentive reading and illuminating comments by Bernard Dizembourg, Dominique Desjeux, Olivier Favereau, Catherine Paradeise, Pierre Muller, Antoine Prost, and Arndt Sorge, whose assistance has


been precious. And since it proposes a synthesis of nearly fifteen years of surveys and published reflection on higher education, it owes a great deal to Erhard Friedberg, with whom I travelled a stretch of this research road and who, later, as director of the Centre de Sociologie des Organisations in Paris, provided me with the means to successfully complete what had been begun. The CSO has always played a crucial role in my research. Fellow researchers in the laboratory pay stimulating attention to one’s work, while dynamic, goodhumored doctoral students spur one on; in such surroundings one is continually rethinking one’s positions, finding points in others’ work that fuel one’s own, and enriching one’s thinking. Few at the centre have escaped reading first versions of my earlier books or articles, or hearing work presentations in laboratory seminars. I thank them all, particularly those I turned to most often. I am also deeply grateful to Martha Zuber and Marie-Annick Mazoyer of the centre for their support, patience, and invaluable bibliographic and documentary assistance, and to Annick Heddebault for her contagious enthusiasm. The book is based on numerous empirical studies, all of which required conducting interviews and writing monographs and survey reports. My fellow researchers and I could not have done this work without the good will of the hundreds of university and ministry administrators and teacher-researchers who agreed to answer our questions. My sincerest thanks to them for their willing cooperation. I would also like to thank those with whom I conducted and wrote the related field studies: Marc Blangy, Sophie Blanchet, Cécile Brisset-Sillion, Laurent Canches, Alexandra Fresse, Frédéric Hanin, Barbara Jankowski, Sandrine Lipiansky, Stéphanie Mignot-Gérard, Sylvie de Oliveira, Pascal Sanchez, and Luc Scheck, as well as all graduate students at the Paris Institut d’Etudes Politiques who participated in the 1995 and 1998 collective surveys. The research program this book is in part based on could not have been successfully completed without reiterated financial support from the Ministère de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche, and the Agence de Modernisation des Universités et des Etablissements. My thanks to them for their confidence in us. Special thanks to Alain Abecassis and Josette Soulas, who went beyond financial support to take an interest in the results, enriching them with their constructive reactions and comments. Lastly, I would like to thank those of my colleagues who, like me, have chosen higher education as their particular field of study, either for the long or short term. With Pierre Dubois, Marie-Françoise Fave-Bonnet, Bertrand Girod de l’Ain, Albert Gueissaz, Mary Henkel, Maurice Kogan, and François-Xavier Merrien I have had regular, stimulating exchanges, and in some cases the pleasure of collaborating. It is thanks to them that I’ve desired to continue working in this area. Not to mention the many warm discussions with Pierre Muller. Our friendly disagreements have always been an opportunity for me to clarify my ideas, and also, I hope, to further benefit from his work.


While administrative, economic, political, and technical elites in France are trained primarily in grandes écoles,* university studies represent a major segment of French higher education.1 Of the 1,748,300 students enrolled in postbaccalauréat* education in 1998–99, 1,429,750 were university students— nearly 82 percent. In 1996–97, 68,000 academics (including teachers in Instituts Universitaires de Technologie* or IUTs and in Ecoles Nationales Supérieures d’Ingénieurs but not in Instituts Universitaires de Formation des Maîtres or IUFMs [degree and certification programs for primary teachers]) and 55,179 nonacademic personnel were working in French universities.2 In 1999, available state funding for salaries and social security charges for these two personnel categories (which fell under the heading ‘ordinary civilian spending’) amounted to 29, 369, 115, 435 FF [€4,476,999,304]3 and the state’s operating budget for universities had reached the equivalent of €1,108,976,689.4 Nonetheless, it is often said and written that France has no universities— Charle, for instance, has written of the “impossible French university” (1994); likewise that this sharply differentiates France from other industrialized countries, and that it is one cause of the well-known recurrent French “university crisis” regularly highlighted by the media and regularly denounced. It may seem paradoxical to claim that a country with nearly a million and a half students enrolled in university education “has no University.”5 It seems less so when we recall that French university education developed over the nineteenth and most of the twentieth centuries within what were called facultés (faculties), single-discipline structures that had no relations with each other except if they belonged to the same family or order of disciplines.6 For more than a 160 years, the four traditional faculties—letters, sciences, law, and medicine—in a given town or city did not come together to form a university; they did not collectively represent a physical, administrative, scientific, normative entity with regard to which academics and students might develop a sense of belonging and loyalty. Each faculty was an island. Its cohesion lay in its being a member of a family of disciplines. Faculty compartmentalization at the local level was not compensated for at a higher level by any university community whose members shared common values, were unified in support of a single scientific ideal, conception, or idea of the University. And disciplinary compartmentalization was just as


strong at the national level, where it took the form of an academic “corporation” vertically structured into major disciplinary orders, each characterized by its own career management modes and under centralized control of its Paris professors. By abolishing the faculties and advocating the development of pluridisciplinary institutions with strengthened duties and powers, the 1968 Loi Faure (named after the education minister Edgar Faure who drafted it), aimed to put an end to faculty-dominant organization of university education and resuscitate universities in France. The law itself was not enough to bring about these changes, however. Studies I conducted in the 1980s with Erhard Friedberg show that French universities had hardly any substance, if they could be said to exist at all. Hence the title of our work En quête d’universités [In quest of universities] (Friedberg and Musselin 1989).7 Now the situation has changed, and French universities are no longer impossible. Quietly, with little or no media attention and almost without anyone’s realizing it, universities in France were profoundly transformed. Their self-governance capabilities have been increased, and their place within the French higher education system strengthened. Concomitantly, the joint management tie between the education ministry in charge of overseeing universities and the academic corporation has been weakened. In this way, universities have once more become full-fledged actors in the French university system. The process that made this change possible was initiated by the Loi d’orientation or general framework law of 1968, the Loi Faure, but it only really got going twenty years later, in 1988, when the ministry changed its steering modes for these institutions from a focus on the disciplines, thus the former faculties, to a focus on universities, that is, the individual university institutions. This change in turn shook up and redefined the whole French university system, as it impacted the way the ministry related to universities, the universities themselves, and career management of university academics. I make this affirmation not on the basis of personal feeling or lessons drawn from personal experience. On the contrary, it is founded on approximately fifteen years of empirical study and analysis of the French university world, including comparative study of operating modes in different French universities, intervention modes of the overseeing ministries in France and Germany, academic job markets in the two countries, and systematic comparison of studies I conducted in the mid-1980s and those I have more recently directed.8 This means it is founded on significant measure on the many interviews I and my colleagues have conducted with academics and administrators in a number of universities, elected officials and ministerial cabinet members, as well as analysis of numerous documents. Prolonged, detailed empirical research is what enables me to affirm that French universities “exist.” On the basis of this empirical material, I will show that French universities are today recognized by the ministry as full-fledged partners, that each is engaged in defining its own policies, that they are fully capable of making decisions, and that now much


more than in the past they are being directed by university presidents and their teams. To account for the present dynamic, and above all to understand why it has become possible only in the last ten years, it is crucial to adopt a longitudinal approach. To explain how and why the system functioned as it did and has continued to do so, we must go back in time, situate the changes in a longer perspective, and reconstitute the major developmental phases of the French university system, starting in the early nineteenth century, with Napoleon’s founding of the Imperial University (after the abolition of the ancien régime universities during the French Revolution). Studies retracing the history of French universities are useful to a point in this, but they do not in themselves enable us to understand why the most recent developments could not have occurred before the late twentieth century. I shall therefore be working from secondary analysis of historical studies.9 My long-term approach is informed by the concept of “path dependency” (Collier and Collier 1991; Pierson 1996,2000). I bring to light how the weight of existing arrangements or, alternatively, history, slowed or limited the impact of attempts to make profound changes in French university education, and why certain structural traits remained operative for more than 160 years. Moreover, recent developments require us to go beyond identifying and explaining the causes of the longevity or stability of a certain French “model”; we must also inquire into what made it possible to shake up that system in the last ten years and bring about profound changes. For this, other approaches must be used, since path dependency cannot effectively account for the possibility of redefining a path. The question of change is as much at the heart of this book as that of stability, for we must try to understand and explain what recently made it possible to leave the given path and follow another, which, though not perpendicular to the first, represents a significant change in direction. To best answer these different questions, this study is structured in three parts. In Part I, entitled “The faculty republic” and composed of chapters 1, 2, and 3, I describe the remarkably stable, change-resistant characteristics of French university education before the late 1980s. This first requires examining the history of French universities, since the characteristics of the French system were institutionalized by the Napoleonic reforms, which not only worked to strengthen what had already, under the ancien régime, been a standardized, national university sector run by an administrative center (the Ministry of Education), but also created an utterly new corporatist center and vertically structured French academic corporation. I then show that the late nineteenth-century republican reformers ultimately—and involuntarily—helped consolidate these different features, instating the “faculty republic,” despite their intention to bring about the renaissance of French universities (chapter 1). After retracing the foundations of the faculty republic, I present its defining features and how they marked the development of French university education up to the mid-1960s (chapter 2).


In chapter 3, I look at the paradoxes of the Loi Faure, why this law, which abolished the faculties and seemed able to empower the “new” universities so that they could hold their own within the French university system and become stronger, more autonomous institutions, actually only had limited impact and ultimately produced the anomic university functioning I studied in the 1980s. Part II (chapters 4, 5, and 6) presents and analyzes the profound transformations of the last ten or so years. In chapter 4, 1 describe the context in which these changes occurred. It is important to understand that though the characteristics of French university education were not altered by the Loi Faure, the new universities nonetheless experienced—or suffered—two major transformations. The first of these is the well-known increase in student numbers; the second, which is not generally granted sufficient importance, is marked internal differentiation, due in part to the fact that university education had become not only a mass phenomenon, but also because study programs had become diversified, namely, the shorter and/or professional degree programs had been introduced. French universities thus became much more heterogeneous and diversified, while the national framework for them, centralized and standardizing, remained unchanged. It was in this context that the characteristics of the French university system were redefined. That redefinition was brought about by the ministry’s new contract policy, first implemented in 1988, whereby each university was called upon to sign a four-year contract with the central administration. I analyze the effects of this policy on the education ministry’s steering modes, showing why and in how they were transformed but also why and how the policy made possible the emergence of a new representation of what French universities, and the role of the national overseeing ministry, should be (chapter 5). I then show how these changes in ministry intervention modes went hand in hand with stronger French university governance: after the 1980s university functioning changed (chapter 6). In the third and last part (chapters 7 and 8) I propose a concept for analyzing all university systems and developments within them. In effect, the study of French universities and their late emergence shows that their development cannot be understood without looking at how the central administration changed. Consequently, rather than considering academics, universities, and national systems as three separate worlds (this is the underlying assumption of most studies of university education), I insist on the ties that exist among these different levels, ties that create what I define as a “university configuration” (chapter 7). I then show the theoretical and practical uses and value of the notion, as well as its implications for the study of change (chapter 8). This all-encompassing approach, which assumes that university governance, overseeing ministry steering modes, and the academic corporation fit and function together and seeks to analyze how, I believe is indispensable for discovering and understanding what characterizes the French university system. I also believe that it contributes new, complementary insights into matters that I


will be treating less directly here, such as student population characteristics, study program content, the academic profession, research work, the fit between study programs offered in various areas and labor market needs, the place of universities in French higher education, relations between academics and the private sector, ties between universities and research institutions, and so forth. Lastly, I believe it constitutes the most propitious approach for determining how to accomplish what often seems more arduous than the twelve labors of Hercules, namely, making French universities change.

I The “Faculty Republic”

What I call the “faculty republic” was fully realized only at the end of the nineteenth century, after a series of reforms began during the Third Republic that culminated in the major reform law of 1896. French universities then remained virtually unchanged until 1968. But though this system became fully operative only at the turn of the twentieth century, its principal characteristics are to be found well before the Third Republic reforms, in its beginning, namely, in Napoleon’s Imperial University created in 1808. The reforms propelled by education minister Louis Liard during the Third Republic were designed in reaction against the Napoleonic ideal and are therefore often presented as acts abolishing the Imperial University. I show that they in fact legitimated and reinforced that heritage. But in order to show how and why these republican-spirited reformers failed in their attempt to destabilize the Napoleonic model, it is necessary to go back in time to the very first manifestations of the faculty republic and describe the conditions for its emergence. My analysis will make clear the full meaning of the term faculty republic— and the corresponding impotence of French universities, a condition that lasted through the 1960s. French universities were legislatively regenerated in 1968, when the Loi Faure simply abolished the faculties. Nonetheless, and despite all expectations to the contrary, the law was not in itself enough to enable the new universities it created to become autonomous, self-managing institutions. It is here that Part I, which is focused on stability, comes to an end. Part II is concerned with change and the institutional renaissance of French universities.

1 From Napoleon’s Imperial University to the “Faculty Republic”

French universities, first created in the Middle Ages, have always attracted the interest and attention of the state authorities—even when they themselves were not seeking state protection or financial support to ensure their development.1 The first attempt to “municipalize” universities, which Verger situates in the fifteenth century at the moment French universities became autonomous from the clergy, was soon brought to an end by royal intervention.2 In contrast to other public sectors, university education became a legitimate sphere for government action (de Swann 1995) with the constitution of the modern French state less than two centuries after the Sorbonne was founded. Under the various monarchs, and up until the French Revolution, a great number of measures were taken to harmonize the statutes regulating university institutions and certification modes. Charles VII’s thorough reform of the universities at the end of the Middle Ages,3 Louis XI’s interventions,4 the reform of legal studies under Louis XIV are but a few examples. All such measures worked to establish a set of rules for harmonizing the criteria on the basis of which university academics could practice, specifying curricula and examination content and organization, defining professional statuses, and so forth. The ancien régime’s standardizing thrust gave French university education a national character early on and helped construct an institutional framework that could be applied throughout the territory. “A number of techniques for standardizing the educational system had already been developed and tested during the Ancien Regime,” writes Karady; expelling the Jesuits in 1762 left the public authority “free to intervene in ways that rationalized the carte scolaire,* secularized the teaching corps, and normed criteria for hiring professors through the instatement in 1766 of a competitive examination known as the agrégation* for the Paris faculty of arts” (Karady 1986a, 261–262). Napoleon’s Imperial University: The End of Universities and the Institutionalization of the University Corporation During the French Revolution, despite lively debates on differing conceptions of higher education (Liard 1888; Chevallier et al. 1968), the national character of


the educational system was not called into question. However, faculties and university corporations were abolished, replaced with specialized, more professionally oriented schools. This meant that when Napoleon Bonaparte came to power he found himself looking at nearly virgin territory as far as education was concerned, and between 1806 and 1808, he designed a new educational system, the Imperial University.5 At precisely the time Wilhelm von Humboldt’s reform of German universities was laying the foundations for institutions characterized by freedom of teaching and study (Lern und Lehrfreiheit) and assigned the mission to transmit and produce knowledge, Napoleon’s Imperial University instated a minimalist, strictly utilitarian concept, one that would sterilize higher education and produce a national, centralized system. The four faculties of the Imperial University were restricted to two narrow roles: law and medicine would train students for those professions, while faculties of letters and sciences would confer “degrees.” In the latter disciplines, as Prost underlines, “it was not a matter of creating special schools but rather baccalauréat* juries. This meant that the faculties were made up of just the number of professors necessary to constitute a jury, and that the professor of belles lettres at the lycée* of the main town of each académie* [education district] was a member of the faculty of letters, while the professor of mathématiques transcendentes at that lycée* was a member of the faculty of sciences” (Prost 1968, 227). Though they did impose changes, the Napoleonic reforms were also perfectly continuous with the higher education system of the ancien régime: they reinforced the system’s national dimension from secondary through higher education. The idea on which the Imperial University was based was state monopoly of instruction, and its principles and rules applied throughout the national territory. Thoroughgoing harmonization of regulations instituted one national organizational and regulatory framework for all fields. The Imperial University controlled study course content, defined how students’ knowledge was to be tested, further developed the practice of conferring state degrees that had been established under the Consulate,6 specified correspondences between these degrees and access to certain professions, and so forth. In 1807 the baccalauréat was declared the first university degree, and university academics were put exclusively in charge of baccalauréat exams, a decision that had a significant effect on their teaching load.7 That effect is still being felt today: The baccalauréat became compulsory for admission in the early nineteenth century; then, in the 1960s, with the increase in the number of holders, it became a sufficient condition for admission,8 which of course had a direct effect on the number of students enrolled in higher education.9 The structures of the new university were likewise standardized. France was divided up into distinct académies, each with faculties representing five possible disciplinary orders: theology, medecine, law, sciences, and letters. Theoret ically, all faculties were identical and the same model was reproduced within each order.10 Faculties were also independent of each other. It has often


been pointed out that the ties between lycées and faculties of letters and sciences were much closer than ties between those faculties and faculties of medecine and law, which were organized on the model of professional schools.11 Lastly, national regulations were developed for managing academics in terms of remuneration, statuses,12 and conditions for access to the academic corporation. All these measures worked to further the construction of national university education begun under the ancien régime. Karady concludes that “what was new in the [1896] reform [see below] was not so much the creation of a new type of establishment as the integration of education units within a centralized, national administrative structure” (1986a, 262). The centralizing, standardizing, statist character of the Napoleonic reforms has been amply demonstrated elsewhere, for all levels of the education system. It is, however, often forgotten than Napoleonic Jacobinism was characterized not only by the idea of state control but also by a corporatist approach, which led in the case of higher education to the creation of a central authority for managing academic careers. Above and beyond the innumerable reforms it has undergone, this central career management authority has remained in place up to the present time; its present form is the Conseil National des Universités* or CNU.13 This was surely the main innovation of the First Empire reforms, the first major break with the ancien régime. And it is one of the founding features of the contemporary French University. Curiously, little attention has been paid to this aspect of the legacy of the Napoleonic reforms. The fact that the Imperial University had the status of unique academic corps is always cited as a manifestation of the strength and reinforcement of state prerogatives, since that corps was placed under the control of the Grand Maître de l’Université, who had extensive official powers.14 Successive holders of this position were called upon to “[define] university policy to the Chambers, public opinion, and personnel; [regulate] the advancement of state civil servants; [impose] sentences of reprimand, censure, transfer, and temporary suspension, with no possibility of appeal; and broaden their surveillance to include financial and accounting management of universities” (Gerbod 1965, 39). The fact is that while this measure reinforced state control, it also radically changed the organization of the university “profession”, transforming the earlier university corporations into a single, centralized one.15 Before the Revolution, the profession was structured into as many corporations as there were universities. At the end of the eighteenth century, these corporations were proving incapable of regulating members’ behavior— Louis Liard’s 1888 account shows that they could not make members respect a code of conduct or combat corruption and power abuses16—and these failures and others were cited during the Convention to justify abolishing them. While the Napoleonic reforms later restored the faculties, they did not restore the corporations. Given that the purpose of those reforms was to construct a


national, centralized educational system, they worked to create a single, nationalized and centralized corporation. The consequence of this measure was the institutionalization of two practices that were to become deep characteristics of the French system. First, the Conseil de l’Instruction Publique, was established alongside the Grand Maître. Its members, appointed by the political authorities together with all university professors, represented the different disciplines. This marked the beginning of state-corporation joint management of university education.17 Second, the reform introduced a type of academic career management that was not only centralized and state-controlled but also organized by disciplinary field. As Gerbod clearly showed in his 1965 study of academics in the nineteenth century, up through the July Monarchy the Grand Maître was not as influential as his function seemed to suggest; he very quickly lost the prerogative of managing academics to the Conseil de l’Instruction Publique, which became the central actor in corporation regulation. Each member of the Conseil administered the education system in the discipline he represented, managing careers, presiding over agrégation juries and study programs, finances, the creation of chairs, and so forth. In place of the old university corporations, then, the Imperial University gave rise to a hierarchical, centralized structure that governed the whole of the educational system, discipline by discipline. This structure marked the death knell for universities. It provided no system for coordinating the faculties of a given académie, and it limited the vocation of higher education to degree conferment and training of legal and medical professionals. In addition, by creating hierarchical, centralized academic corporations that managed “their” academics, it reinforced the institutional compartmentalization of the disciplines. Each family of disciplines was free to develop its own modes of internal regulation, impose its own rules of the game. The disciplines were thus in a position to deprive first the faculties, and later the reconstituted universities, of free management of their academic personnel. The Napoleonic reforms negated the idea of the University as a place in which the different types of knowledge came together. Those reforms are one of the main reasons why it has been nearly impossible for French universities to emerge. The interests and logics of the different disciplines were allowed to develop within a framework in which organization and profession perfectly coincided; one in which university organization, completely without autonomy, was merely the faithful reflection of the profession (Musselin 1998). The impact of discipline-based structuring was so strong that the standardizing dynamique of the Napoleonic reforms never penetrated academic career management modalities. Each disciplinary order developed its own rules and resisted attempts at cross-discipline standardization of conditions for acced ing to full professorship. This has been true from the nineteenth century to the present, from Victor Cousin’s 1840 attempt to make the agrégation in letters and sciences the equivalent of the agrégation du supérieur* in law and medicine (Mayeur 1985) to unsuccessful attempts to replace the agrégation du supérieur


by the new habilitation à diriger des recherches* (accreditation for supervising research).18 Since the time of the Imperial University, the French university system has become doubly centralized: The state center has been duly complemented by the corporation center. And while the two have distinct official powers—the state allocates funding and regulates while the corporation manages careers through national bodies—they became closely intertwined quite early on, as we shall see. The Late-Nineteenth-Century Reforms: A “Missed Opportunity”19 The education system was amended several times after Napoleon’s fall, but it was only in the last quarter of the nineteenth century that the university model was debated and rethought. The late-nineteenth-century reforms, particularly the law of 1896, making it legal once again for there to be a plurality of universities, are generally understood to have killed and buried the Imperial University. I shall try to show that this was not at all the case, that, on the contrary, the reforms redefined and consolidated several aspects of the Napoleonic reforms. As Georges Gusdorf wrote, “By what may seem a kind of fate, struggles against the Napoleonic system always took place within the Napoleonic arrangement” (Gusdorf 1964, 146)—though fate was not the only cause. In the 1870s, after initial reforms conducted by the minister of public instruction Victor Duruy under Napoleon III, the initiative for academic reform came from a set of figures with fully established intellectual and research reputations,20 and reforming ideas were expressed above all in the Société de l’Enseignement Supérieur and through its publication, the Revue Internationale de l’Enseignement.21 University academics, politicians, and the Ministry of Public Instruction (with Louis Liard as director for higher education) shared the same opinions and worked together on several reforms. These culminated in the law of July 10,1896, which provided, among other things, for the rebirth of universities. It endowed these institutions with decision-making bodies made up of representatives from the five faculty orders, and each university became the responsibility of the rector of the académie it was located in. The law marked the “reappearance, for the first time since the Revolution, of the term ‘university’ in French administrative language” (Renaut 1995, p. 155). Once again, the university institution had a place in French higher education. The 1896 reforms were largely inspired by the German university model established in Prussia in the early nineteenth century by Wilhelm von Humboldt. German “solutions” were thus imported into France in part because of the French desire to compete against German economic, cultural, and military superiority, which had been so cruelly revealed by the French defeat in 1870. Also, many French academics had spent time in Germany, and they were strongly attracted to the Humboldt university system.22 This attraction is expressed in numerous texts published in the Revue Internationale de l’Enseignement. As Christophe Charle


shows in his careful 1994 study based on texts by contemporaneous French academics,23 what attracted them most was the autonomy enjoyed by their German counterparts and the place given to research activities. In effect, the reformers were calling for higher education to be less taken up with examination preparation and degree conferment and more focused on transmitting and producing knowledge. The faculties of sciences and letters should no longer be lycée annexes; rather, they should receive “professional” students who could devote themselves entirely to the pursuit of knowledge. French university education seemed narrow-minded, corseted, even underdeveloped in comparison to its German counterpart. There were few French students, and they had a reputation for being dilettantes; French faculties were poor and the “scientific” activities of French academics both quantitatively and qualitatively weak. Weisz writes: “Probably the most frequent complaints were that higher education was overcentralized, administrative regulations stifled all initiative on the part of the professors, and the rigid hierarchical structure engendered intellectual inertia” (Weisz 1977, 211). There seems to have been unanimous support for one solution: “wisely regulated but real autonomy” (ibid.). The influence of Humboldt’s ideas on late-nineteenth-century French projects for reform may be seen in calls to grant a greater place to knowledge (and thus research) in the “new” French university and in the recurring theme of “the pursuit of the unity of knowledge,” which would facilitate bringing all the faculty orders together in a single institutional space. It should be noted, however, that for Humboldt and the Prussian idealist philosophers of the early nineteenth century—Schelling, Fichte, Schleiermacher—the point around which the unity of knowledge should be forged was the faculty of philosophy (though Kant considered it a lower faculty24), whereas the French reformers were pursuing a scientistic ideal. In other words, “the contest of the faculties was arbitrated in two very different ways: in favor of philosophy and the humanities in one case; of physics and mathematical science in the other” (Renaut 1995, 190). Reforms inspired by this scientistic ideal were not, however, successfully implemented in French universities. It cannot be denied that the late-nineteenthcentury reforms enabled French university education to take off quantitatively: The number of students attending the faculties increased quickly, from an average of 17,503 over the five-year study period 1886–1890 to 23,020 for 1891– 1895, 27,960 for 1896–1900, and 31,514 for 1901–1905—an increase of 180 percent in 20 years.25 But qualitatively these reforms failed in two fundamental ways. First, research remained a largely secondary activity compared to degree conferment and teaching. Charle (1994) points out that the new “pure re search” degrees introduced—the Diplôme d’Etudes Supérieures and the Doctorat de l’Université—were thrown off course or absorbed by the system in place, as were the new research institutes. The reforms imported from the German model ran up against the “dominant logic of the French model,” which either turned


them toward other goals, that is, the new degrees, or circumvented them, thereby maintaining itself, as with the new research institutes, which, instead of facilitating university decentralization, ultimately reinforced the center, Paris.26 Second, the scientistic ideal never worked as a principle for rallying and uniting the different faculties. Universities did not acquire greater institutional substance; they had no means of making their component parts act collectively or establish common values among their members; no means of getting the different faculties to develop similar conceptions of their purpose and tasks, criteria for excellence, work methods, or of getting them to grant legimacy to a disciplinary balance of power that favored the sciences. The biologist Maurice Caullery in his 1920 report, nearly a quarter of a century after the law of 1896 was passed, sums up this twofold failure, criticizing the “preponderance of degree conferment, the lack of freedom and autonomy in shaping university policies and daily university life, and the weakness of universities” relations with the outside world at the national and international levels (Caullery 1920, 51; quoted in Charle 1994,420). The reforms’ intellectual ambition had not been realized; they had not engendered the emergence of a French academic and research community. What prevented the positivist republican ideal from being established and successfully realized? Why were French universities still “impossible” at the end of the nineteenth century and why was the question of university rebirth still at the core of debates and reformers’ intentions through most of the twentieth? One way to answer those questions is to analyze what stood in the way of successfuly disseminating the philosophical inspiration for the reforms, namely, the scientistic ideal. Charle takes this avenue, demonstrating that “it was everyone for himself, with each of the faculties withdrawing into its specificity” (Charle 1994, 136).27 He identifies and analyzes the structural obstacles—academics’ social backgrounds, relations between Paris and the provinces, each discipline’s particular regulation modes—that made it difficult to disseminate the scientistic ideal, hypothesizing as follows: In order for science academics to have successfully converted the other faculties to their solutions, the time-honored cultural and disciplinary hierarchy would have had to be overturned, making the scientists’ position on the academic prestige ladder coincide with their objective rise toward social legitimacy, itself due to science’s new role in economic development. This in turn presupposes a consensus in scientific circles that there had to be a kind of sacred union of the sciences for dealing with the outside world (139). Whether or not academics as a whole supported the reform ideal seems to me the wrong question, however. The failures of the late-nineteenth-century reforms cannot be satisfactorily explained by the absence of across-the-board support for the intellectual ideal that inspired them. Indeed, this would mean positing that


French universities cannot exist without a shared ideal of the “university” or, to put it another way, without French university academics having been brought together into a community structured and organized by a single principle (positivism, for example). In fact, if we compare French experience with that of other countries, we see that no such condition is required for universities to exist. American research universities were developed for the most part before an academic ‘community’ had emerged in the United States. The academic profession there was organized relatively late,28 and well after Johns Hopkins or Harvard University had become involved in scientific activities and researcher training.29 The case of Germany should also be considered. After Humboldt’s reforms were implemented, German universities acquired an institutional status that they preserved even in periods when their intellectual and social influence in the country and world at large was relatively weak (Ringer 1969). Still, it would be a mistake to see those universities as proof of the successful dissemination of the early-nineteenth-century Humboldtian ideal, because German universities actually distanced themselves from those reforms on many points. Adopting Moraw’s arguments on the question (1982), Torstendahl (1993) stresses that the Berlin University model was modified by other German universities, and that the ideal of the different types of knowledge coming together around the faculty of philosophy was never realized. Nineteenthcentury German universities underwent major differentiation and specialization processes that favored the development of new disciplines in sciences as well as humanities, and this put an end to the unifying approach (Liedman 1993). The solidity and substance of the German university institution were thus not the pure product of any shared community adherence to the Humboldtian ideal. We must therefore find other factors to explain the failures of the French republican reforms and the aborted rebirth of French universities. In my view, two features played a central role: maintenance of the twofold state-corporation centralization inherited from the Napoleonic reforms and the difficulty of transforming ideas into actions. At the end of the reform period, state centralization clearly remained intact. The new provisions did not actually call into question universities’ monopoly on academic degree conferment. Though the law of 1875, continuing the Loi Falloux (see below), recognized the principle of academic freedom and opened the way for developing nonpublic-sector universities, the law of 1880 ultimately returned the monopoly on academic degree conferment to the state and thus deprived private institutions of the right to call themselves universi ties. Renaut (1995) pointed up this about-face and brilliantly analyzed the causes. He also specified the lessons to be drawn from it: The reaffirmation of the state’s monopoly made developing independent universities impossible, and “from then on, [the French University] would have trouble having any kind of new future; its relations with the state—woven and indeed knotted at the time of Napoleon— would not really be loosened” (173). The return to a state monopoly meant there


was no competition between universities and nonpublic training institutions, since national degrees maintained their primacy30 and continued to be preferred by students.31 By means of those degrees the state exercised its right to oversee education content. In sum, state central power, with its standardizing dynamic, was maintained. Nonetheless, and contrary to Renaut’s interpretation (1995), the latenineteenth-century reforms did not merely tighten existing ties between university and state; they also reconstituted and reinforced corporation and discipline centralization. During the nineteenth century, several provisions had modified the functioning of the unique corps created by the Napoleonic reforms, among them the Loi Falloux of 1850, which gave “nonacademics” a place on the Conseil de l’Instruction Publique. As long as oversight was a matter for stateappointed peers, academics had felt relatively protected and secure; the Loi Falloux, on the other hand, made oversight part of the exercise of political power, and for several years that power was harsher than the imperial yoke had been. Under Hypolite de Fortoul, education minister from 1851 to 1856, teachers were regularly censured and repressed; higher education curricula were restructured and detailed course outlines had to be submitted for ministry approval (Gerbod 1965). It is hardly surprising, then, that late-nineteenth-century discussions on reforming the Conseil de l’Instruction Publique focused not on whether or not to abolish it but on whether or not to make it independent, and not on whether or not to abolish the peer monopoly but on whether or not to reestablish it. After tense debate, it was ultimately decided that peers should manage peers. The law of January 2,1880, stipulated that the Conseil Supérieur de l’Instruction Publique was to be composed exclusively of university members. Clearly the republican reforms fully reconstituted the corporatist center, returning it to its full legitimacy in the eyes of university academics. The Conseil acquired even further legitimacy when projects to “deconcentrate” higher education teacher management by handing it over to individual universities failed. In fact, above and beyond the consensus for creating universities, there was strong tension between partisans of the corporatist tradition, seeking to “reestablish lost corporatist solidarity and cohesion,” and economic and political liberals, who advocated “complete freedom for the faculties in determining study programs and hiring professors” (Weisz 1977, 212–213). The first group won out. According to Weisz, this was because the reforms also corresponded to a “professionalization” strategy on the part of the academic community, a strategy driven by the desire to promote the university community as a whole, without internal distinction, a desire to become “independent academics and researchers accountable neither to the state nor society at large, but to their peers in the international scientific community” (ibid. 70–71). In fact, this approach involved defending the corporation against any type of differentiation among peers. In Weisz’s studies (1977 and 1983), the “winner” in the debate on remunerating university academics was the principle of noncompetition. While some participants, including the liberal


parliamentarian Edouard Laboulaye, called for instituting a principle that would allow French professors to be paid out of student tuition fees for their courses (as was the case for professors in Germany), the minister, after long debate, opted for a standard salary scale: equal pay for equal degree and title, whatever the content and quality of the work, whatever the number of students enrolled.32 Charle’s conclusion is essentially the same (1994). He speaks of a “refusal on social grounds,”33 an elegant way of saying that those who propelled the reform were not exactly ardent proponents of a German-style approach based on competition and decentralization, which would have necessitated new and much less favorable career rules.34 All these facts show that the late-nineteenth-century reforms worked to reconstitute and consolidate the corporatist center. The right of each disciplinary family to have its own modalities was not questioned, and the intensely centralized, discipline-based type of career management was maintained, reinforced, and once again legitimated. Another factor that explains the disappointing results of the late-nineteenthcentury reforms was the incomplete translation of the positivist republican ideal into operational structures. On this point, too, it is instructive to compare France and Germany. The structures that developed out of the early nineteeth-century Prussian reforms constituted a more faithful reflection of the intellectual project than in France, as Renaut inadvertently shows in his account of the dispute between Schleiermacher and Fichte on how to organize the future Berlin University (1995).35 According to Renaut, the German idealist model could carry the day because Humboldt was wise enough to choose Schleiermacher’s institutional project over Fichte’s authoritarian one. Conversely, in France, there was none of the rehauling of structural conditions that would have been necessary for the republican positivist ideal for reforming the French University to succeed.36 Let me be perfectly clear. I am not suggesting that to “make possible” the French university it would have been enough to conceive of an organizational form adequate to the intellectual concept. I am simply saying that the concept is not enough, and that it can be realized only if consistent institutional structures are developed in its wake. Contrary to what Renaut would have us believe, it was not the high quality of early-nineteenth-century public debate on German universities that made possible the emergence of the “Humboldtian” model, but rather the fact that that ideal was embodied in structures and operating modes that could allow German universities to develop and, ultimately, to emancipate themselves from the very ideal that had brought them into being. In France, the “institutional design” propelled by the law of 1896 in fact put into place two organizational features that were incompatible with the philosophy behind the reform: first, it concentrated decision-making power within the faculties, thus weakening the university level; second, it did not critically consider the fact that each major disciplinary family had its own particular rules of the game, thereby allowing those families to withdraw into themselves (Charle 1994).


The reform process itself was largely responsible for the power of these two features. Weisz’s analysis of that process (1977 and 1983) enables us to understand why there was no French equivalent to the dispute between Schleiermacher and Fichte despite the fact that in late-nineteenth-century debates on the reforms there were indeed two opposed conceptions, one liberal, the other corporatist.37 The two groups agreed on one point: French universities had to be reborn. And it was precisely the fact that there was no discussion of what exactly they understood that to mean that made possible such wide agreement. The great political skill of the reformers, particularly Louis Liard, consisted precisely in grasping and consolidating this clear (though minimal) consensus, all the while managing not to stir the profound differences of opinion just beneath the surface. Weisz maintains that the reformers were able to avoid open confrontation between the two competing visions by mobilizing everyone around the notion of “University,” a concept vague enough for each to see in it what he liked.38 Rather than shatter the fragile consensus on the University idea by generating a debate that would have crystallized oppositions, they chose a step-by-step approach—small measures taken incrementally one after another.39 This resulted most often in victory for the corporatist conception over the liberal theses, and thus a reinforcement of disciplinary specificities and differences. Though the reform can be presented by means of a few major dates, namely, 1885 and 1896,40 there were also less momentous but likewise important steps taken, steps which laid out the chosen path more clearly. The reform process did not begin with the creation of universities—that was its crowning achievement. In other words, the creation of universities was not the cornerstone of the whole reform but only the final touch to an already reconstructed edifice of which the faculties were and remained the foundation. In bringing the faculties together under one roof, the law of 1896 did indeed return to the definition of a university as a place where the different types of knowledge came together and were integrated; and, in creating a common deliberative body for the different faculties,41 it made a supplementary breakthrough. Collaboration and power balances among the disciplines would now be handled, in part at least, within each university. Still, this “whole,” understood to bring together and even transcend the “parts,” was in fact instituted eighty-eight years after the ‘parts’ had been reconstituted, that is, in 1808, within the Imperial University and nearly eleven years after they had been given a certain degree of autonomy. In 1885 the faculties had become legal entities, a first step toward financial autonomy as they could now raise and spend private funds. A few months later, “the decree of December 28 strengthened the autonomy of higher education institutions by creating the function of faculty dean. While deans were to be appointed by the national education minister, they were first of all elected by the relevant faculty assembly, and they were charged with administering the faculty entity, both as representatives of it and agents of the central authority” (Renaut 1995, 155). Furthermore, within each faculty a council and assembly had been created. The assembly, composed of all faculty members, was to make decisions concerning


libraries, students, and so forth. More important decisions, namely, in the area of hiring, were the business of the council, where only permanent teachers sat (T.N.Clark 1973, 25–26). If to these changes we add a set of decrees that, from 1880 to 1883, successively abolished professors’ obligation to submit course outlines to the ministry and reduced the state’s power to intervene in academic career management, then the 1889 finance law endowing individual faculties with a budget, and, lastly, the development of procedures allowing for relevant university professors to participate in decisions on appointments of tenured professors to chairs, it is clear that the rebirth of universities was preceded by the rebirth of the faculties. The consensus that had been forged around the idea of re-creating universities thus logically led to the rebirth of apprehensions and resistance when it came to realizing the idea in the late 1880s. Louis Liard’s initial project, which provided for the creation of a small number of full research universities rather than a scattering of institutions not all of which would include all the faculty orders, was withdrawn.42 “Indeed, it was necessary to satisfy regional pressure groups, who wanted to turn each local group of faculties into a university, while calming the faculties’ fears of losing their autonomy43 and making it clear that pooling resources and making common infrastructure investments would guarantee maximum efficiency” (Karady 1986b, 332). The reformers’ step-by-step strategy, which led them to construct the law of 1896 without radically rearranging things, did make it possible to prepare the ground for the creation of new universities,44 and it made that prospect seem ineluctable. But it also meant that the last and highest level of the reform “rocket” was extremely dependent on all the lower levels. Furthermore, the law of 1896 did not seriously modify the previously constructed edifice.45 As early as 1885 every académie had set up a Conseil Général des Facultés composed of deans and the académie rector [local representative of the national education ministry], and in 1893 these councils had become legal entities (T.N.Clark 1973). The Conseil d’Université instituted by the law of July 1896 was thus only a continuation of this earlier council, though this did not give it any greater legitimacy among academics, as it was to be presided over by none other than the rector, who, in contrast to the faculty dean, was appointed by the national education minister rather than chosen by tenured professors. At the dawn of the twentieth century, all was in place to ensure the endurance of the faculty republic.

2 The “Faculty Republic”

It cannot be denied that French university education no longer resembled what it had been in the Napoleonic period, either in scope or content, after the reforms undertaken during the Third Republic. The faculties had become autonomous from secondary education; students and teachers were becoming professionalized and acquiring firmer statuses than before. Nevertheless, these reforms did not call into question the defining characteristics of French higher education as instituted by Napoleon’s Imperial University—centralized, national, part of the state apparatus. Indeed, they strengthened those characteristics. French universities were re-created in 1896, but their prerogatives and their legitimacy, compared to that of the faculties, remained strictly limited. The aborted advent of French universities in 1896, and the corresponding reinforcement of the faculties, strongly marked the institutional history of French university institutions through the twentieth century. And what I call the “faculty republic” remained in place until 1968.1 The faculty republic had three fundamental characteristics. First, academic careers in universities continued to be managed from within the discipline; universities had no role. This feature was, in fact, reinforced as career management became less a matter for state intervention and, gradually, became the exclusive province of academics. Second, within what were for all intents and purposes nonexistent universities, the central actors were faculty deans. Third, the state steered universities by means of the faculty structures. In sum, state steering modes, academic career management, and university “government” all reinforced each other, thereby creating a university system dominated by vertical disciplinary logic, a system in which universities had no real place. Before considering these three characteristics in detail, it should be clarified that certain strong features of the first sixty years of the twentieth century were not particular to that period—either they preexisted them or they have been maintained through the present time. It is not so much any single one of these components as their simultaneous presence and aggregated effect that define what I am calling the faculty republic.


Career Management and the Faculty Structure The first characteristic is the direct result of the fact that universities’ administrative reemergence after 1896 did not change the discipline-based structures put in place by the Napoleonic reforms. On the contrary, at the end of the nineteenth century, vertical fragmentation of the university community was further accentuated. Weisz explains that, despite efforts by the Société d’Enseignement Supérieur to remain the only professional association, specialized associations did develop,2 as did demands for more thoroughly discipline-based organization of career administration, namely, calls to replace the Conseil Supérieur de l’Instruction Publique and the Comité Consultatif by a set of national councils, one for each faculty order. This demand was met in 1945 with the establishment of national-level subcouncils corresponding to the different faculty orders (Cohen 1978). Furthermore, it should be noted that career management followed rules specific to each faculty order.3 The procedures for acceding to full professorship and formal career advancement in general were not the same for law, medicine, sciences, and letters. There was and continues to be a strong demarcation line between disciplines in which full professorship is obtained through the agrégation du supérieur nationwide competitive examination and all others. Among faculties without agrégation du supérieur exams the split is between letters, in which a prior post in secondary school education quickly became a strong hiring asset, and sciences, in which it is highly advisable not to begin one’s career as a high school teacher. These practices subsisted throughout the faculty republic and still exist today.4 Until the early 1960s, there was also geographic segmentation between what were called “departmental” faculties [reference is to the département, a fundamental French administrative unit] and Paris faculties, a segmentation reflected particularly in salary differences. But administrative and salary differences were only the most visible part of Paris’s domination in matters of career management. To begin with, many Paris academics taught in a number of Paris institutions, had professional practices, and received royalties on primary and secondary textbooks (Weisz 1983); they thus had additional sources of revenue. Second, Paris academics largely dominated the central bodies— the Counseil Supérieur de l’Instruction Publique and Conseil Consultatif— responsible for examining hiring decisions for vacant chairs. Also, one-third of students study in Paris, the majority of doctoral theses are defended there, and Paris is where the vast majority of research centers are. Lastly and perhaps most important, the Paris faculties were the university system’s magnetic center: a successful academic career culminated in Paris.5 The sharp inequality between Paris and the provinces continued through the first half of the twentieth century and only began to diminish in 1960.6 Over the same period, however, disciplinary differences were continually reinforced. One of the most visible manifestations of this was the development of academic staff


categories particular to each disciplinary order. Mayeur (1985) studied many possible examples, of which I will discuss two: maîtres de conférences* and assistants. The academic corps known as maîtres de conférences was created in 1878, but only in letters and sciences. In medicine and law, a second corps, in addition to full professors, already existed: auxiliaries who had already passed the agrégation du supérieur exam and were waiting for professorships to open up. Regarding assistants, practices varied from faculty to faculty (Mayeur). In sciences and medicine, assistants came into official existence in 1925, when permanent-status lab demonstrators (present in laboratories since the nineteenth century) were given that title. In letters this category was only established in 1942 and it did not constitute a body of permanent higher education academics.7 Lastly, in law, assistant posts were distributed as scholarships enabling the holder to prepare a doctoral thesis or the agrégation du supérieur exam. For this single staff category, then, there was wide variation from one family of disciplines to the next.8 The two strongest features of the French university profession for the first twothirds of the twentieth century were thus the vertical, centralized structure of career management and faculty particularities. Universities were entirely excluded from promotion and hiring decisions, and there was no place or structure capable of creating living horizontal connections between the different faculty communities or sparking the development of transversal teaching or research projects among the compartmentalized worlds of the faculty orders. Institutionalizing Faculty-dominant Steering This general situation was reinforced by the fact that the faculty republic was also a period of joint management of universities by the central state administration and the national-level corporatist bodies, and this way of steering university education respected and legitimated the vertical field constituted by each faculty order. The Imperial University had been characterized by joint management and disciplinary specialization, as Gerbod (1965) showed, pointing up the particular importance of the Conseil de l’Instruction Publique, and the late-nineteenth-century reforms hardly worked to loosen the close ties existing between the ministry, where department directors and even the minister himself were former professors, and university “representatives,” who in fact represented their discipline and faculty order. Indeed, the Conseil de l’Instruction Publique recovered its original purity in this period—nonuniversity staff were excluded— and, while according to the official texts the ministry disposed of numerous prerogatives, practice was quite remote from theory. Up through World War II, the creation of new chairs and appointing of inaugural chairholders were officially ministry business while it was up to the national corps and faculty councils to fill vacant professorships. In reality, as Clark has shown, the minister consulted the Conseil de l’Instruction Publique in all decisions regarding the creation of new chairs: “National councils of senior universitaires, largely from


Parisian institutions, continued to advise the Ministry through the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries…. Their approval was necessary for changes in the titles of chairs and the naming of all incumbents of chairs (T.N.Clark 1973, 26). For filling vacant chairs, the faculty concerned and the Conseil Supérieur de l’Instruction Publique each proposed a list of two names; ministry most often followed the faculty’s choice, even if “the system functioned as an implicit threat, which forced the faculty councils to make choices justifiable on intellectual grounds” (Weisz 1983, 197). Charle does report cases where the ministry used its position to overtly political ends: “Republican governments did not hesitate to create chairs on the basis of extra-university considerations, either to introduce new study programs that the faculties or Collège de France had rejected, or, fairly frequently, to pay back loyal political supporters” (1994, 322– 323). The ministry could also forego agreement from the corporatist center on occasion. But the cases Charle cites all occurred between 1900 and 1908, and he affirms that strong state intervention of this type became increasingly rare. It therefore seems fair to say that the first half of the twentieth century was marked by collusion between the ministry and the corporatist center, and a blurring of their respective responsibilities and official powers. After World War II, the system remained one of joint management but began developing in three directions. First, it became even more faculty driven due to the reorganizing of the central corporation authority into five specialized sections, each corresponding to a faculty order (it was now called the Conseil Consultatif des Universités, precursor of the present-day Conseil National des Universités or CNU). Second, distribution of powers between the ministry and this new authority became much more clear-cut. The ministry was to be in charge of post creation, management, and distribution of posts among the faculties; it would also formulate rules for career advancement and organize hiring and promotion procedures. The national corporatist authority, on the other hand, was made responsible in 1945 for the selection of individuals: “It had to approve the first incumbent of a new chair (instead of leaving this to the ministry as in earlier years), and it established national ‘pools’ of names from which junior faculty for the entire system were drawn” (T.N.Clark 1973, 26).9 Lastly, the balance of power was clearly established in favor of the faculties; they had never had so much weight in teacher hiring. Though the regulations officially left the last word to the education minister, he almost always followed the faculty’s recommendation, as Ellrodt (1992) points out. Consulting the faculty was not compulsory in all cases, but “it was the informal rule…. The regime that preceded the abolition of aptitude lists thus left the faculties a great deal of real autonomy, at least for filling vacant posts, which are by far more numerous than new one in periods of stability” (1992, 229).10 Joint management was not limited to careers and posts; as a reality, it was broadly reflected in the state’s approach to intervening in university education. If we consider the administration directory, we see that in 1947 the National Ministry of Education included a Department of Higher Education (Direction de


l’Enseignement Supérieur or DES) made up of three bureaus respectively in charge of staff—this in turn was divided into three sections by discipline; study program organization, and budget. This structure remained in place and virtually identical until 1960. In 1961 the DES was restructured into three subdepartments with exactly the same powers as the three bureaus that preceded them. The administrative registry itself, then, reflects how important segmentation in terms of discipline was. This is confirmed by texts on the French University published in the 1960s, and later, in interpretations of the events of May 1968. Salmon (1982) explains that “the curriculum in law was fixed for every faculty of law in minute detail by committees of professors of law, meeting in the ministry” and he concludes: “There was therefore selfgovernment in each field on a national scale, with little possibility of variation at the local level” (1982, 66). Likewise, faculty influence is observable in official ministry texts. The curricula reform conducted by Christian Fouchet in 1966 perfectly reflects how strong discipline compartmentalization was and the efforts of each discipline to impose its model throughout France: “Each field (sociology, history, and so forth) was defined in the greatest detail, with a specific number of hours given for each subject and year of study. The examinations were defined in typically French style: universities had no choice, and for each program of study [my emphasis], the reform imposed the nature and length of the different exams and how much each was to count in the final evaluation” (Prost 1992, 124). Clearly, the ministry had litle leverage over the faculty orders. They chose their members, decided on the content of study programs, and negotiated their budget directly with the central administration. In this faculty-dominated structure, the deans, especially those of the major Paris faculties, played a central role, and the ministry considered them its true interlocutors, to the detriment of académie rectors. Within the universities, the deans were the only actors legitimately in charge. The Deans as Central University Figures Among the remarkable features of the faculty republic were its universities’ lack of substance and the importance of the role of faculty deans. According to Prost, before 1969 “the university was nothing more than a group of faculties, and real power belonged to the faculty deans. The disciplinary departments below them, together with all other forms of organization, had no real power, no budget to manage. The rector above them, a state functionary who presided over the Conseil de l’Université, had a ceremonial symbolic role” (Prost 1992, 136–137). The rector was often decried as the ministry’s “secular arm.” As Gusdorf put it, “The rector is the guarantor not of our independence, but our dependence” (1964, 146). These words express an objection not to rectors’ real action and constraining power but rather their lack of legitimacy, the fact that they represented the state, which appointed them, rather than the corporation, from which they most often hailed. The following mid-1960s account by Rector


Gérald Antoine confirms the two major limitiations of the function. Rectors had virtually no means of taking action, but, above all, they suffered from a pronounced lack of legitimacy: Governing thus at third remove is an ambiguous, uneasy undertaking for the state-appointed rector. Indeed, what is such a “president” doing at the head of a University Council…when, with few exceptions, he is not an original member of that university? He necessarily appears an intruder, or, to put it in more kindly fashion, a piece of architecture that has been superimposed on the exterior of the edifice (Antoine and Passeron 1966, 33).11 For deans the situation was radically different. Elected by their peers, they enjoyed great legitimacy. And it was at the faculty level that all important decisions were made: budget negotiations, internal budget allocation, organization of study programs, hiring, and so forth. Here organizational structures perfectly corresponded to professional, discipline-based ones; indeed, organization was dissolved in profession (Musselin 1998). What made it particularly easy for this to occur was that decision-making processes were entirely collegial, in the sense that they were in the hands of full professors only and thus, exclusively, of peers.12 The corollary of faculty and faculty dean-dominated functioning was absence of interfaculty relations and intra-university dynamics. The lack of cooperation was visible from the early twentieth century. Weisz cites the difficulties experienced by disciplines that cut across faculty boundaries (the social sciences and geography, for example, or business programs) and duplication of courses from one faculty to another. This situation was also noted in the 1920 Caullery report, and it was at the core of critiques developed at the first Colloque de Caen in 1956 (see chap. 3). Department compartmentalization, the difficulty of organizing multidisciplinary curricula and arranging for courses to be taught by teachers from other faculties in the same university were all noted and criticized at this conference. The weakness of ties among faculties was due to the vertical structure of the French university system. Relevant interlocutors for a faculty dean were not in fact other faculty deans at the same university, but rather other deans of the same faculty order throughout France, and the national conference of deans from the same family of disciplines was of much greater importance than the university council. Clearly, French universities did not exist before 1968. But their nonexistence is only one of the reasons for referring to this period as the faculty republic. As I have shown throughout this chapter, the insubstantialness of the “university” level cannot be dissociated from the strength of the faculty-based structure in state steering modes, in relations between ministry and corporation, and in academic career management. It is the consistency of the system as a whole, and the reinforcing effect it had, that make it possible to speak of a faculty republic.


The absence of course exchange between faculties of the same university cannot be explained solely by university conformism or an inability to imagine such an arrangement. Attempts at exchange were made in some universities—they did not succeed. To understand this situation fully we must also take into account the obstacles that such projects encountered outside the universities, problems such as incompatibility with national acadamic program models (what are known as maquettes nationales), budget allocation for course hours (in the case of course exchange, would hours taught be paid for by the professor’s “home” faculty or the one he/she went to teach in?), and lack of mutual recognition among colleagues from different faculties. In sum, the faculty republic extended well beyond the faculties themselves.

3 Universities Steered by the Disciplines

Two fundamental dynamics have been identified in the development of French university education to the mid-1960s. One is a standardizing dynamic leading to the construction of a national system. By means of state-sanctioned degrees and harmonized statuses and structures, the system aims to guarantee that the same quality education supply will be found throughout France and that any citizen with the baccalauréat degree can enter university. The particularities of this public, virtually free system provided by state-paid civil servants and funded exclusively by the state are its uniformity, the academic character of its study programs, its weak adaptive capacity, and the narrow range of careers it prepares students for. With the exception of medicine and law, university study in France leads to degrees that open doors to careers in secondary school teaching and public administration—period. Furthermore, there is nothing to threaten the university sector’s remarkable stability and homogeneity (Bourricaud 1971, 47), as these have been counterbalanced by the development of a nonuniversity higher education sector, the grandes écoles. Created to compensate for university deficiencies, this sector in fact profited from them, assuming for itself the work of training the country’s technical, administrative, political, and economic elites. Until the 1960s, then, French higher education expanded in accordance with two developmental models: the centralizing, rigorously egalitarian, standardizing model of university education, and the multicentered, diversified model of all other higher education institutions, produced by external differentiation.1 Parallel to the standardizing dynamic, French university education has been strongly marked by what can be called a faculty dynamic. As explained, the French University is structured by vertical, compartmentalized disciplines that are strongly homogeneous internally and significantly different from each other (in matters of academic staff status, career advancement process, study program organization, etc.). This second dynamic was strengthened by the “faculty republic” described in the preceding chapter. That “republic” came to an end with the law of November 1968, the Loi Faure, which abolished the faculties. The political and social context in which this law was passed are well known, and it has often been pointed out that it was promulgated after ten years of growth in student numbers during which


successive education ministers were unable to effectively implement any reform. The Loi Faure has been criticized often and by many: for shattering the collegial model and thereby disincorporating professorial power; for setting up a system where the electoral modes and composition of university decision-making bodies made them vulnerable to politicization; for reconstituting the old faculties within “incomplete” universities,2 now constructed around political alliances rather than consistent training and research structures; and for the new basic university component it created, the Unité d’Enseignement et de Recherche* or UER [Teaching and research unit], perceived as a kind of extra level between the “college” and “department” of American universities. It cannot be denied, however, that the law of 1968 returned universities to French higher education after nearly 200 years of absence. It thus made possible what the law of July 1896 had failed to realize: supradisciplinary institutions. The law of November 7, 1968, marked the beginning of a fundamental stage in the history of the French University. Not only, as Prost has written, did “the year 1968 mark the end of the twentieth-century university as organized under the egis of Louis Liard by the decrees of 1885 and the law of 1896” (1992, 138), but it also dealt a blow to the faculty-based conception of university education instituted with the Imperial University. But while the law aimed to provide the new universities with immediate institutional means to become more autonomous and capable of developing their own collective projects, the organizational learning process within those universities was very slow, and their governance modes remained weak. Is the slowness to be imputed to the institutional choices made in the Loi Faure and later, in 1984, the Loi Savary? Only in part. We must once again take into account the immobilism of the central administration’s steering modes, of ministry-academic corporation relations, and of career management structures. In light of the main conclusions I reached in my 1980s studies of French universities and central administration functioning, it is clear that weak university governance was due to, and in large part maintained by, the steering modes of the overseeing Ministère d’Education Nationale. After reviewing the circumstances in which the Loi Faure was passed and the changes it brought about, I shall show how the universities that succeeded the faculty republic in the twenty years following passage of the law continued to be steered by the disciplines. The Loi Faure of 1968: A Pragmatic Rather Than Idealistic Conception of the University The Loi Faure can be interpreted in several ways, since, as Edgar Faure’s speeches to the National Assembly and the Senate show (Faure 1969), it contained a far-reaching social project. For Edgar Faure the University crisis was only one aspect of the larger crisis that was shaking up France’s youth and the


society at large. The issue was how to prepare young people to live in a society characterized by upward socio-occupational mobility. This involved “learning how to learn” and acquiring multidisciplinary skills, rather than merely accumulating knowledge. The reform was not for the University; its purpose was to enable the University to participate effectively in training future citizens. This was why the organization of university education had to be changed, the faculties abolished, and true universities created. The idea underlying the law, namely, that modern, dynamic higher education was inconceivable without universities, derived in fact from conclusions reached by a number of university academics, who, in the 1950s, had already begun publishing critical essays and straightforward diagnoses of the situation and making suggestions for change (cf. Esprit 1964; Gusdorf 1964; Antoine and Passeron; 1966, among others). In this way, what Bourricaud (1982) has called a “reform coalition” was created; its positions were formulated to a large degree at the first and second Colloques de Caen in 1956 and 1966.3 As in the late nineteenth century, the constitution of autonomous universities stood at the core of their ideas for reform, a kind of a leitmotiv toward which sometimes quite distinct positions converged.4 Most pre-1968 critiques focused on the rigid chair system as a factor of dispersion, resistance to innovation, and sterile fragmentation of knowledge,5 and they called for the development of universities that would allow for interdisciplinary exchange and a hybridizing of different types of knowledge. Colloquium participants’ belief that universities were the solution to the problem can only recall late-nineteenth-century thinking on the matter. Reading essays and proposals from the two periods gives one the feeling that history was repeating itself, even though the earlier thinkers were inspired by Humboldt’s university and the later ones by American research universities. In the general report to the 1966 colloquium, for example, after deploring the absence of universities in France, the mathemetician André Lichnerowicz called for the creation of autonomous, competing institutions, each with an elected president and structured into departments with several professorships. Such an arrangement would put an end to the chair system and break up the five great faculty orders. He also proposed abolishing national degrees and allocating a lump-sum budget component for teaching posts to each university, a sum not preallocated by the education ministry. The universities imagined by participants to the 1966 Caen colloquium were institutions with a high degree of autonomy in matters of administration, budget, teaching approaches and methods, and academic staff management. Their program would surely not have been rejected by the most liberal republican reformers of the preceding century. While the parallel between the nineteenth-century republican reforms and the 1968 reform is tempting, it cannot be pushed too far, for three reasons. First, the contexts were significantly different. It is true that the guiding principles of the Loi Faure were influenced by ideas sketched out by the “reform coalition” of the Colloques de Caen, but the law was not the culmination of a process of reflection


and debate in the way the late-nineteenth-century measures were. The law was not oblivious to such reflection and debate, but it did not proceed from them, for the Loi Faure, and the speed with which it was prepared, discussed, and passed, were due above all to “the events of May.” Though a few reforms had been implemented in the preceding years, namely, the creation of Instituts Universitaires de Technologie* or lUTs—and though the ministry was on the verge of adopting modifications even as the first barricades went up (Prost 1992), before the student uprisings no fundamental reform figured on the government’s agenda. The Loi Faure was a consequence of May ’68 rather than a few university professors’ ideas for reform, though it did take inspiration from those ideas. Moreover, there was no joint preparatory work between university reformers and the central administration before the student actions, as cooperation between the two sets of actors was very weak. Over the 1950s, education ministry officials had focused above all on secondary school reform (with some exceptions, such as Pierre Mendès France among politicians and the Higher Education Department director Gaston Berger among administrative officials; see Bourricaud 1982). Over the 1960s, higher education directors at the ministry never received the kind of support from the reformers that Louis Liard had received eighty years before. The second difference between the two reform periods involves fundamental conceptions of the University. While the Loi Faure did indeed return to the ideal of uniting the different kinds of knowledge—already the goal of the Third Republic reformers—its approach for reaching that end, namely, mutidisciplinarity, was much more pragmatic. The myth of integrating all knowledge around a single organizing principle, whether derived from science or philosophy, was abandoned in favor of a myth of transversal cooperation. Collaboration between the disciplines and engagement in joint teaching and research activities would compensate for the effects of differentiation and specialization by discipline, and ultimately integrate knowledge. This was made clear in the new and highly symbolic term devised to designate university academics—“teacher-researcher”—and the aforecited term for departments, UER, “Teaching and research unit.” Cooperation was to be facilitated through the creation of new institutional conditions. The law of 1968 aimed at reducing the effective power of the faculties and strengthening the collective dimension of individual universities by endowing them with deliberative bodies: the Conseil Scientifique*, composed of members elected from all the disciplines and meant to breathe life into multidisciplinarity, the not exclusively academic Conseil d’Université [the rough equivalent of today’s Conseil d’Administration*], meant to strengthen university-level decision-making power. Furthermore, to make it clear that the state would henceforth exercise softer control, and to give the new institutions greater legitimacy, each was to be run by a “president” elected from among its full professors for a nonrenewable five-year term. So whereas the aim of the Third Republic reforms was for the scientistic ideal to be unanimously adopted by university academics who could then, thanks to


convergent conceptions, methodologies, and goals, facilitate the constitution of universities, the notion of multidisciplinary cooperation central to the Loi Faure was a goal in itself, to be attained by creating the appropriate structures. The law created not only institutions, but visible physical places: campuses with facilities such as buildings for housing central services, university libraries that could hold their own next to faculty and research center libraries, and so forth. Lastly, the Loi Faure turned its back on collegial functioning among peers. In the minds of the nineteenth-century republican reformers, the university was to be first and foremost a professional organization whose direction, decisions, and fate were to be determined exclusively by professors. This conception likewise predominated among the organizers of the Colloques de Caen.6 Edgar Faure, on the other hand, invoking the Gaullian principle of “participation,” affirmed that universities could not be run solely by academics; all actors in university life must be involved. The law thus legitimated certain May ’68 student demands. Universities were to be governed jointly by students, administrative staff, and all teachers, including junior academics, and a place was to be made for actors external to the institution proper but with important roles in the university environment, what may be called stakeholders (personnalités extérieures*). This was the framework laid out by the Loi Faure for the renaissance of French universities. The new-born institutions were to mature by learning simultaneously how to manage multidisciplinarity and participation. A Slow Organizational Learning Process There were two phases to the development of universities as defined by the Loi Faure. For the first ten years, and particularly in the early 1970s, the governing bodies were highly politicized, with conflicts among groups making it difficult to reach consensus. This situation then yielded to anomic governing modes characterized by weak decision-making capacity. In the 1970s the universities experienced the pitfalls of politicization. Though the empirical corpus for studying the years immediately following passage of the Loi Faure is small and the analysis that follows may seem reductive, it seems fair to say that no sooner were the new universities in place than they found themselves confronting two sources of tension. The first was juxtaposition of disciplines with divergent interests. The universities that took shape immediately following passage of the law clearly had little in common with the multidisciplinary institutions Edgar Faure had imagined. Political differences proved a much more effective organizing principle than the theme of integrating all knowledge, and they often led to the creation of two or three universities per large city. This in turn tended to reconstitute the old faculties, but only partially, since political alliances also led to previously unknown rapprochements between disciplines. Indeed, the new universities extended beyond the framework of the former faculties, obliging the different disciplines to engage in more markedly collective management.


Switching from intradisciplinary faculty management to interdisciplinary university management would in itself have demanded a certain amount of knowhow, hence, learning on the part of university academics. But they also had to surrender collegial functioning and allow other categories of actors, nonpeers, to have their say. This was the second source of tension. Whereas all full professors had had a seat on the faculty council, university council composition required academics to elect representatives from their number. Collegiality had been replaced by elective representative democracy, and the question of just how representative the representatives were became acute. The Loi Faure thus obliged actors in the new universities to construct agreements among parties with divergent interests. They had to overcome facultytype particularities in order to set common guidelines that would transcend disciplinary bastions and, simultaneously, introduce new actor categories into the game. According to René Rémond, these two linked requirements put the universities in the contradictory situation of having to create a whole from scratch by first multiplying the number of parts: If the definition of the university as an autonomous unit and a whole that both precedes and is greater than its parts and can assert power as a major decision-making center were to have been realized, more attention would have had to be paid to what unites and unifies than to what differentiates and separates. The process adopted for realizing the new universities, and the law’s provisions for electing representatives and ensuring representation of the different categories in the governing bodies all worked against this…. The top-level university council was no more than a sum of collegial delegates whose main concern was to defend their category interests. (Rémond 1979, 51) At first, opposition among the different parties prevailed, favoring conflict exacerbation. The university councils became spaces not for elaborating decisions but for stance-taking, debating, contesting. It is not surprising that in relating his experience as president of the Université de Paris X-Nanterre, René Rémond assimilated university government to the governing of a society and compared the university council to a parliamentary assembly rather than to a company board of directors. The image and symbolism of his comparison are telling, suggesting as they do that the universities were more a world of speech-making and interminable deliberations than action. This representation predominated in the French universities of the 1970s, where the councils were often transformed into general assemblies and verbal sparring in the pursuit of particularist and category interests won out over concerted solution-seeking and reconciling of differences. The many press articles relating incidents that occurred on university campuses during this period—occasion ally violent ones—together with certain university presidents’ accounts of their experience (Merlin 1980, Rémond 1979)


attest to how difficult it was to govern universities.7 “To take charge of a university collective in 1970 was suddenly to find oneself confronted with problems that are obscured in ordinary daily life but that here were posed in the most radical terms: the stark choice between violence or order, discovery of the aggressiveness latent in all human groups, awareness that democracy is not naturally given but constructed through reason and will” (ibid., 11 and 12). In the 1980s, after these turbulent beginnings, the universities created by the Loi Faure showed a different face: anomie and low capacity for collective action. Instead of political or union conflicts, verbal or physical violence, the most striking feature of these institutions became their anomie. It had now become familiar practice for representatives of different status categories promoting distinct political or union programs to sit around the same table; this situation no longer unleashed much in the way of passions. And while political and union conflicts continued to crystallize around council elections and while it remained important to display partisan membership, the decision-making bodies had grown fairly insensitive to these kinds of division in their daily functioning. A price was paid for the recovered calm, however. Keeping a low profile and playing by improvised rules had their own effects on council functioning, the exercise of leadership, and general university governance, effects which may be summed up thus: nondecision, nonintervention. These are the conclusions I reached on the basis of research conducted in the first half of the 1980s, the results of which I will now present in fairly spare terms.8 In all countries, universities function on the basis of numerous meetings. While academics accept councils, and commissions, and committees as necessary evils that limit individual power and power-seizing, enable diverse interests to be represented, and make it possible to express disagreement, they rail against them for being time-consuming, getting bogged down, not following up on decisions from one session to the next, and so forth. Such criticism is common, but French academics’ criticism of their university governing councils in the 1980s went much further. The views of academics not on councils were highly convergent: They were contemptuous of the work of those bodies, particularly the Conseil d’Université. And their criticism extended beyond work done by the councils to the quality of council members; they were suspected of having nothing better to do, of conducting no serious research. For their part, council members were not strongly committed to the task. Being present to defend their interests seemed much more important to them than any contribution they might make to collective decision making. They spent little time preparing for meetings, and they rarely read meeting-related documents when these were transmitted, even when they received them in advance. Members’ low degree of commitment went hand in hand with the councils’ nonconflictual character (Beckmeir and Neusel 1991). Conflicts were few over all; for those that did come up, flexible coalitions formed for the occasion, then came undone. Power balances did not seem to stabilize around political or union oppositions, status oppositions (maîtres de conferences versus full


professors), disciplinary enmities, or conflicts between different types of colleagues (administrative versus academic staff). Indeed, the main characteristic of these bodies was their apathy. The fact that internal oppositions and purely political debates were no longer as strong had not made it easier to construct collective agreements. On the contrary, the decision-making capacity of these bodies seemed markedly low; they seemed to have withdrawn into the comfort of not deciding. Specifically, two decision-making modes dominated. The first consisted in renewing arrangements that had been decided elsewhere without modifying them. This prevailed in two cases. One was proposals from individual academics, such as curricula proposals requiring successive approval by three different councils (the department board if there was one, the UER council, the university council). The collective choices of directly concerned academics, that is, those in the field or discipline, were often passed up through the different stages without change, or, in the case of several competing projects, without any selection. The other involved top-down processes. In deciding how to divide up funding among the different UERs, for example, the exact same set of criteria was applied by university councils as that used by the education ministry to determine budget allocations for each university. Second, decisions were often simply not made, especially when the decisionmaking body itself was supposed to generate or make choices or rank different proposals. Instead, the responsibility was left to the highest level—the ministry. Several universities never presented a priority ranking of the new posts they were requesting, leaving the ministry free to decide if it was more urgent to create a post in history or philosophy, for example. The councils of the universities I studied had clearly managed to put the tumult of the 1970s behind them, but the resulting calm went hand in hand with an effacing of their roles, as if nonintervention were the price to pay for peace. Another indication of anomie was the low-profile roles of university leaders. They did not compensate for the weakness of decision-making bodies by playing stronger leadership roles. Presidents and UER directors alike understood their role as being first and foremost that of primus inter pares and they fulfilled essentially two functions: internal mediation and representing the interests of their body, UER or university, externally. This meant the complementary functions of guiding and being a go-between (i.e., UER directors relaying information between president and teachers and university presidents relaying information between the ministry and the UERs) were neglected. The mode of designating university presidents, together with the nonrenewable five-year term, worked to temper any interventionist or dirigiste zeal they might have had. The same was true for UER directors. Though they could in principle be elected for two successive terms, not many teachers were willing to accept the job for more than one: the fact that they would become once again “a teacher like the others” had a moderating effect on any enthusiasm for the position. This meant that neither presidents nor UER directors were actually


in a position to exercise power. The law and statutes granted them a number of prerogatives, but these were difficult to use in practice. Over and beyond crisis situations (Musselin 1987), there was hardly any strong leadership, especially since a post-’68 primus inter pares, though elected by a broader community, did not have the same strong legitimacy as the former faculty dean. What had been a type of distinction and to some degree a measure of academic recognition had become a task that some merely accepted to perform temporarily for the community. University leaders thus found themselves in a situation of weakness, and this was accentuated by the ambiguity inherent in the law of 1968 (and not dispelled by the law of 1984), which instituted two possible governing structures, one favoring the president-UER directors axis while minimizing the role of the councils and thus weakening the deliberative basis for university decision making, the other favoring the president-councils axis while marginalizing UER directors, who were not elected by university councils. The councils’ weak decision-making capacity and UER directors’ low-profile, low-intensity leadership considerably weakened French universities’ selfgoverning capability. Academics did not feel committed to any collectively fixed institutionwide strategic plans. The world they belonged to and that constituted their frame of reference remained that of their discipline. Moreover, there was no mechanism, whether hierarchical, participatory, collegial, or bureaucratic, to enable proposals developed by individual academics to go before a decision-making committee and thereby become universitywide projects, that is, publicly recognized by the university and viewed as a matter of priority. Lastly, universities underused the maneuvering room they did have, the zones of autonomy shaped by the law. Instead of refusing to rank requests for new posts by priority, transmitting competing requests for study program accreditation to the ministry without choosing between them, scrupulously following GARACES norms for distributing operating funds among the UERs,9 each university could have defined its own preferences and developed its own policies—but they didn’t. Viewed from without, French universities appeared to lack maturity, and there seemed no point in giving greater autonomy to university academics incapable of making use of the autonomy they already had. Critics pointing up the difficulties encountered by the universities generally arrived at the same conclusion: The institutional design in the Loi Faure was unsatisfactory and had to be changed. This diagnosis led to several reform projects, all of which focused on universities and university structures, some of which were adopted. In the mid-1970s, the Loi Sauvage changed council composition, giving more weight to full professors, with the explicit purposes of reinforcing professorial power and reducing politicization. Those who thought the Loi Faure had failed to introduce sufficient democracy and favored even greater participation—mainly leftist academics—were particularly unhappy with this new law, and their criticism led to its abrogation in 1981, when the Socialists took power. This same group exercised strong influence during drafting of the


Loi Savary, which, in its general approach to university functioning, was a direct continuation of the Loi Faure. The Loi Savary increased the number and size of decision-making bodies. When, after three years of consultations, discussions, and debates, the Loi Savary was finally passed in 1984, certain universities refused to apply it, and, in 1986, when the right took control of the legislature and government, opening France’s first period of “cohabitation,”10 the law was still not operative in all universities. Among the reasons given for refusing to apply it was that the increased number of councils and their composition would only make the less than smooth functioning of the decision-making bodies rougher still. The proposed Loi Devaquet, drafted in 1986 just after the Socialist president François Mitterrand appointed the gaullist leader Jacques Chirac prime minister, took account of these arguments and provided for reducing the number of councils and changing their composition. The statutes would surely have been rewritten once again had not this project been abandoned after the death of Malik Oussekine in the student demonstrations it provoked.11 The sudden withdrawal of the proposed law enabled the government of Socialist prime minister Michel Rocard, two years later, to impose the Loi Savary on all universities, though it did so without enthusiasm. From this rapid overview it is clear that the successive reforms all closely followed the same reasoning: poor university functioning (overly politicized/ anomic) was due to poor functioning of the decision-making bodies (not democratic enough/too participatory); therefore these structures had to be reformed (reduced/increased in number; composed differently, elected differently, etc.). All the reforms focused on university structures; none referred to the larger context within which they would be integrated. None of them—not the Loi Faure, the Loi Sauvage, the Loi Savary, or the proposed Loi Devaquet— tackled the reality of state-corporatist centralization or the standardized national system. They did not break with the Napoleonic arrangement any more than the law of 1896 had. Systemwide Inertia Undeniably, contemporary French universities were founded by the Loi Faure, and in doing so, the law brought about the emergence of a new actor in the university system. “The reform of 1968 brought about…a decisive change: it broke the faculty framework up into two new entities, the UERs, which were narrower than the faculties, and the university, wider than them” (Prost 1992, 137). Still, this founding act was performed within a university system whose architecture had not been modified by pre-1968 reforms and would not be modified by the Loi Faure itself. The Loi Faure took effect at the end of a major wave of student enrollments, a wave that had begun to build in the late 1950s and reached its peak in the 1960s. According to Salmon (1982), from the academic years 1958–1959 to 1968–


1969, the number of students enrolled in university in France increased by 305 percent (from 192,128 to 586,466 students), while the number enrolled in nonuniversity institutions “only” went up 210 percent (from 67,672 to 142, 334). Between 1970 and 1988, however, annual growth returned to a more normal rate of 2 to 4 percent a year.12 The increase in student numbers was not a controlled phenomenon; the arrival of growing numbers of baccalauréat holders at university gates was not so much a matter of deliberate choice as the “mechanical” consequence of post-1945 primary and secondary school reforms. Moreover, higher education massification rolled in on faculty structures that had hardly been changed since the late nineteenth century. The reforms of the 1950s and 1960s mainly involved revising study programs—specifically, in medicine (Jamous 1969)— and creating new degrees. In 1954 a new doctoral degree, the troisième cycle* thesis, was created in the sciences; in 1958, it was established for the humanities. The political authorities of the time were hardly unaware of the increase in bac-holders brought about by the increase in secondary student numbers, nor of the quantitive consequences of this development for higher education, but no measures had been taken to adapt faculty structures or their study programs. The standardized, national, public university system, with 160,000 students in the mid-1950s, had to take in four times that number over the next fifteen years without having at all prepared for the change. There was no questioning of the relevance of maintaining identical study programs throughout the territory regardless of student numbers, on the contrary, the 1966 Fouchet reform reflected an unshakeable belief in the possibility of conceiving a single curriculum for every discipline. Nor was there any discussion of how to change funding and budgets for a university system that was going to triple in size. While the cheery economic outlook of the time goes a long way toward explaining this, it is still surprising that with the prospect of major increases in student numbers, there was no debate either on whether higher education should remain virtually free or on whether it should rely only on public funds—two fundamental components of the French university system. Only the third fundamental component was debated—nonselection—and the principle was nearly dropped. In his 1992 study of higher education policy at the beginning of the Fifth Republic, Prost explains that De Gaulle was indeed preoccupied by the prospect of a massive increase in students due to increased number of bac-holders, but he failed to obtain approval for either of the two ideas then under consideration for counteracting that effect: turning the baccalauréat into a competitive exam for a limited number of student slots, and making university admission selective. The second alternative was scheduled for passage in early 1968, after seven years of controversy in the education ministry. It was swept into oblivion by the events of May.13 Consequently, higher education expanded in France by replicating the faculty republic at a larger scale. After the May protests, the Loi Faure did indeed abolish the faculties, but it modified none of the three systemic components just


mentioned, nor did it tackle education system centralization. While providing for universities’ budgetary autonomy and recommending lump-sum allocations for operating costs and ex-post oversight of expenditures, it maintained exclusive state funding. This made it fairly easy for the ministry to “forget” the other new principles and continue exercising the same budget control over universities. The Loi Faure provided for pedagogical autonomy and allowed each university to fashion its own degrees.14 However, since national degrees had not been abolished, very little in the way of university-specific degrees were developed. Students continued to prefer state-recognized degrees, so the main activity of universities continued to be conferment of such degrees, and the ministry made no moves to withdraw from this crucial regulation and oversight domain. As for selective student admission, the law explicitly ruled it out. In a speech delivered in the fall of 1968, Edgar Faure lambasted the idea as “a refuge for an outdated conception of culture,” thereby precluding for a long time to come De Gaulle’s plan of controlling admission to higher education. Lastly, no change in career management modes was envisioned, except establishing a highly specialized central corporatist authority, as will be explained below. The aim of the Loi Faure and the laws that followed was first and foremost to reform the universities. These laws made no mention of the ministry or the academic corporation, which were left to function as if the laws did not exist. The ministry in particular continued to ignore the universities created by the law of 1968, hearkening instead to the disciplines. That the central administration ignored the birth of the universities was clear in two of its operating modes. First, the existence of these new institutions was not reflected anywhere in ministry reorganizations; second, faculty logic remained strong in ministry departments in charge of higher education. Sociologists of organization have often demonstrated the discrepancies between operating modes as prescribed by organization charts and the way organizations actually operate, and clearly we should not give the charts undue attention if what we are interested in are internal power structures and organization games. If we try to read the “concrete realities” of collective action in the branching hierarchies that compose these formal descriptions, their predictive value is low. We cannot, however, disregard their symbolic content. “Reading” the various versions of the French central administration directory from the early 1960s to the late 1980s is highly instructive. It reveals that the law of 1968 brought about no changes in central administration organization modes. The new universities were in no way integrated into successive administrative organization charts. In 1961 university education was the exclusive province of the DES or Direction des Enseignements Supérieurs [Department of higher education], structured into three subdepartments: personnel, equipment and accounting, and study programs. In 1966, after five years without any major changes, the DES was completely restructured to incorporate a new hierarchical echelon, the ‘services,’ positioned just above the subdepartments.15 In addition, the DES’s


three basic tasks were given greater substance: a subdepartment for coordinating matters common to the different DES bureaus was created [bureaus are the smallest administration units]; accounting became a “service” in its own right; and a “service for higher technical education and training” was created. Later, however, there is no trace of any effort to adapt ministerial organization to the transformations announced by the law of 1968. In the 1970s, the implacable process of expansion continued, with the creation in 1975 of a “Secretary of state for universities” [just below the education minister]; then, in 1979, a ministry devoted entirely to universities, with each of the major task areas acquiring the status of “department” [the first ministry division]. From 1981 to 1994, the architecture of the organization charts remained the same: a department in charge of education (including university and technical, initial and continuing), one for university research [as distinct from that conducted by the major state research institutions such as the CNRS and INSERM],16 one for academic and technical personnel, and one for budget funding.17 If we take a closer look we see that as each main task area developed, it was restructured in such a way as to distinguish between higher education institutions with specific status on the one hand, universities (or faculties) on the other, and, within the second category, to distinguish among families of disciplines (in the case of study course management, the discipline criterion was sometimes replaced by a division in terms of education cycle). This meant that as the organization chart expanded it was further segmented, which in turn increased coordination costs, since there was no horizontal integration, no matrix structure combining the discipline-based approach with an approach in terms of project, académie, or institution. Coordination could only be vertical, centralized—and fragile. It occurred at a far remove from the bureaus, which were the real operation units, and it was limited by the informal relations obtaining between bureaus and their partners outside the ministry. Consistent with what Dupuy and Thoenig (1983) call an essential characteristic of French administration, each bureau attached much more importance to the relations it maintained with the segment of the environment it logically had access to (university staff services for some, study program directors for others, local accounting services for yet others, and so forth) than to the development of intraministerial cooperation. Lastly, the division into major task areas, subdivision into institutional statuses, and sub-subdivision into disciplines or education cycles dissolved the notion of individual universities and prevented the development of expert ministry knowledge of those universities. It is hardly surprising that this was the pre-1968 situation, since, as explained, universities were no more than an administrative echelon then whereas faculties were the relevant level for the ministry to find interlocutors at, namely, deans. It is more surprising that this situation continued after the Loi Faure. In fact, the ministry restructuration orchestrated by education minister Olivier Guichard between 1970 and 1975 led to sharply accentuated fragmentation and even greater dilution of the university institution. Most higher education tasks were divided up among departments


whose domains extended to the whole of the education system, from kindergarten to the equivalent of graduate school. Managing the carte universitaire* thus fell to the same forecast and planning department that managed the carte scolaire; higher education staff was a “service” in the department in charge of the education staff as a whole (from nursery school to university), and so forth. And while the creation of a secretariat followed by a full-fledged ministry for universities at least made it possible to bring together all higher education services within a single entity, fragmentation remained marked. Above all, there was no department or bureau able to develop an integrated vision of each higher education institution. In other words, the formal structure of the overseeing ministry meant that for the universities created by the Loi Faure, only one interlocutor could handle a question concerning budget, teaching, personnel, and research matters all at once, and that was the secretary of state, or minister, him or herself. The rearranging done by the Left after it took power in 1981 did not at all change this situation. The fragmentation of the central administration, like the absence of universities in the administration’s organization chart, were amply confirmed by Erhard Friedberg and my 1987 survey of ministry actors. Indeed, that study revealed how little account the ministry took of university institutions and the omnipresence of the disciplines and disciplinary experts.18 What impact did the disciplines have on ministerial decision-making processes? Above and beyond purely regulational activities, the main departments of the education ministry managed the university sector through decision making in four major areas: accreditation of study programs leading to national degrees, allocation of prebudgeted operating funds, distribution of teaching posts, and allocation of university research funding. Allocation of university research funds was managed separately,19 while the other three areas were closely intertwined, with all three coming together in one crucial ministry procedure: accrediting study programs leading to national degrees. Decisions on whether or not to allocate supplementary funds depended on decisions about whether or not to maintain programs or create new ones. The importance of accreditation procedures in the ministry is reflected in both the concentration of interdepartmental relations around those procedures and the strong position of the ministry department in charge of steering them, the Direction des Enseignements Supérieurs. In 1987, when we conducted our study, accreditation was managed on a strictly disciplinary basis. This meant that every four years, the bureau in charge of humanities had to decide whether to renew each and every existing study program in that set of disciplines and examine all requests for creating new ones. The fact that these degrees could be obtained in a humanities-dominant university or a multidisciplinary one, the fact that they might pertain to an institutional strategy or reflect an individual project had little effect on decisions.20 The main criteria used were the intrinsic pedagogic and academic relevance of the program under scrutiny, and this relevance was evaluated in terms of how well it conformed to the minimal compulsory national


guidelines (maquette nationale) and how closely its content matched the academic requirements of the relevant disciplinary field. In fact, budget calculations were doubly affected by discipline-centered logic, first in that operating budgets were calculated primarily on the basis of accreditation decisions, second because calculation modes were based on norms (average cost, number of student enrollments per study program, and so forth) that took account of disciplinary differences (anticipated cost and degree of academic supervision were different for a law student and a science student, for example). The impact of the disciplines on decision-making processes was strengthened by the fact that the ministry systematically consulted university experts. Each case was examined by a specialist from the discipline in question, and above all, decisions strongly tended to be made in accordance with specialists’ recommendations. Experts were also consulted in matters of post creation and evaluation of projects submitted for university research funding. There again, their recommendations were generally followed. We concluded (Friedberg and Musselin 1993) that the central administration’s work was actually being overseen by the corporation and that the corporation component of ministerial decisions was stronger than the administrative one. The system of joint management by the central administration and individual university academics suffered from low visibility and a lack of legitimacy. First, the experts’ action was virtually invisible. There was no trace in the administration directory of who composed any mission scientifique*; only the names of the official in charge (usually a physicist) and his/her deputy (most often a historian) figured in the organization charts. Above all, it was not well known that such experts were active in ministry decision making, and the fact that their recommendations were in large measure followed by the administration was not made public. Consequently, the prevailing sentiment was that expert recommendations were secondary and that administrators were merely following their own will and pleasure. When the experts’ role did become known, it was often contested, as the experts were not considered either “representatives” of the fields for which they were making recommendations or uncontested scholars. They enjoyed neither electoral nor academic legitimacy. That they were appointed by the education minister and therefore changed with each changeover of political power, and in some cases each change of minister, meant that their recommendations were viewed with suspicion; specifically, they were often suspected of having political or ideological biases, even when their scholarly reputations were well established. As in the time of the faculty republic, then, the overseeing ministry was the locus of administration-academic corporation joint management,21 and the corporation’s expertise weighed more heavily than the administration’s in choices affecting funding allocation. Corporatist joint management suffered from a deficit of legitimacy while greatly impacting ministry intervention modes, strengthening systematic attention to disciplinary specificities, and increasing


university marginalization, since the experts’ recommendations concerned segments of disciplines, not individual university institutions. While the law of 1968 had abolished the faculties, the central administration’s steering modes clearly remained loyal to the faculty-based organization that had prevailed prior to it. Nor did the law reduce prevailing vertical academic career management and corporatist centralization, which actually became stronger, as we shall now see. It cannot be denied that the academic profession in France underwent profound changes in the 1960s. First and foremost, it grew, and its growth affected established status balances, age pyramid trends (the profession became much “younger”), and sociability and interacquaintance networks. Furthermore, the preponderantly influential position of Paris professors and faculty deans (often dubbed mandarins) was seriously shaken, both by the dismantling of the old faculties and the increasing numbers of recognized research centers outside Paris. However, the Loi Faure and the laws that followed did not in fact lead to rethinking hiring or promotion modes or recasting roles for steering the profession as a whole. This does not mean that no measures were taken. On the contrary, post-1968 regulatory activity was intense. Still, the distribution of roles between the central administration and academics remained exactly the same. No room was made for universities, and academic career management remained centralized, vertical, and independent of universities. The size of the profession (number of budgeted academic posts), its content (the relative weights of the disciplines), its internal structure (in terms of status categories), the fixing of rules for access—all remain today in the hands of the state authorities, who in turn are obliged to come to terms with the corporation. The remit-sharing instituted after World War II has been maintained, and the system continues to be managed jointly. Decisions concerning academic posts are still made in concert with “representatives” of the profession, whether elected or not. Proposals for post creation are examined by ministry-selected academic experts assembled into a mission scientifique*; changes in the professional status system are made only after consultation with teachers’ unions and the various category-based associations, and so forth. In the period under study there were a great number of occasions for joint management, especially since teaching posts became a major focus for the central administration. One effect of the faculty republic had been to accentuate differences between faculty orders in matters of career and status management. The increase in teacher numbers due to the influx of students aggravated this situation by multiplying statuses and creating a new group, teachers employed through a variety of fixed contracts, who, in passing from one contract renewal to the next, came to constitute a group of “permanent temporary staff”—with two major consequences. First, starting in the late 1970s, many of these contractual staff were made permanent civil servants. This measure was taken after student growth rates


slowed, and through the first half of the 1980s it blocked hiring of new academics while intensifying promotion problems and occasionally allowing teachers who might well not have been selected if they had had to go through the usual procedures to accede to the academic profession. This made it more difficult to hire temporary academic staff and thus to adjust to developments in teaching and research workloads. After this wave of teachers were made permanent, and to prevent a similar situation from arising, all new contractual posts could only be renewed a limited number of times.22 Second, efforts were made to simplify statuses and harmonize them across disciplines. Professional statuses in law, humanities, and sciences were made identical (the exception was medicine), though law, political science, economics, and business administration kept their own modes of acceding to professorship: the agrégation du supérieur. Remarkably, all these changes were decided through negotiations between state authorities and the profession. Universities and university presidents played only marginal roles.23 The exclusion of universities is just as striking if we consider the numerous reforms of academic hiring procedures. The procedure of drawing up lists of qualified candidates, where it was up to the Comité Consultatif des Universités (which later became the Conseil National des Universités or CNU), to decide which candidates were qualified for the position of maître de conferences and full professor and up to local faculty committees to choose a candidate from that list, had proven problematic: with the increase in teacher numbers, qualified lists were getting longer and longer and seniority on the list had become the decisive selection criterion. In 1979 it was decided to do away with the lists in all disciplines where they existed. The procedure that replaced them strengthened national over local power. Commissions de Spécialistes* in university UERs were now called upon to examine application files, list at most five candidates by order of preference, and send their ranking to the relevant national-level section of the new Conseil National des Universités, which could then approve the list, change it, or reject it. The national level thus had the last word, and it could act as censor. The 1984 Loi Savary then redefined the composition of the academic profession,24 thereby reversing this procedure,25 but only for two years, until 1986, when the Right won the legislative elections and executive power and the laws were changed once again, with the final decision put back into the hands of the relevant section of the CNU. This regulatory instability, which stands in contrast to the stability of career management rules in other countries, may be explained by the concern to regulate the flow of candidacies and avoid bottlenecks. But it is also symptomatic of the ties that existed between the ministry and certain representatives of the corporation. In effect, nearly everything depended on which university academics had the ministry’s ear. If they were against mandarin power, they recommended solutions that would strengthen the university specialist commissions and further decentralize decision making. If they were


against the dangers of localism,26 they would try to reinforce the central authority, claiming that it alone could guarantee progress toward the goal of academic excellence. Lastly, though the ministry does not intervene directly in hiring and promotion decisions, it did have and still has a “regulatory” role in the composition of national authority sections: while two-thirds of section members are elected by the profession, the remaining third is appointed by the ministry, though it does not itself determine the list of possible appointees, relying heavily for this on its “academic experts.” Ministry appointments can help correct imbalances in representation engendered by election results; if there is no elected representative for a field with a significant university presence, ministry appointments can compensate. But understandably, ministerial appointments can also affect political balances, for it often happens that figures favorable to the government— if not overtly partisan and known to be so—are named (Ellrodt 1992, 227). In ministry appointments it is hard to distinguish between political and academic criteria.27 All these points demonstrate that career management after 1968 remained in the linked hands of the ministry and the academic corporation. University institutions got the meanest share of decision-making power. The Conseil d’Université was, of course, in a position to examine the list of candidates produced by the university Commission de Spécialistes, but here too, nondecision seems to have been the prevailing practice; universities usually simply approved academic specialists’ decisions. In other words, abolishing “qualified candidate lists” ultimately led to reducing the freedom of choice the faculties had enjoyed, a state of affairs that benefited the central authority while failing to make the universities created on paper by the Loi Faure into influential process actors. The Paris ministry and academic corporation’s joint management of university affairs has thus been a constant in the French university system since the time Napoleon set up a single, centralized, discipline-structured corporation. Nothing —neither the administrative re-creation of universities during the Third Republic nor the post-May 1968 legislative abolition of the faculty orders and construction of multidisciplinary universities with stronger decision-making bodies—was able to shake or weaken that fundamental characteristic. The alliance between ministry and corporation, between state and corporation centers, meant the ministry was obliged to find ways of meeting the demands of corporation representatives. This constraint was especially strong given that there were numerous types of representation (by union, discipline, category, status) and numerous claimants to the title of “representative,” none of whom were fully legitimate, that is, recognized by all French academics or even a large majority of them. The ministry-corporation “alliance” also explains why it was impossible for intermediary levels to emerge that might have developed forms of transversal cooperation between the vertical, centralized pillars constituted by the disciplines and subdisciplines. From 1808 to the late 1980s, the faculty structure was always


“ahead” of the universities. Despite the Loi Faure, universities remained weak institutions, hard pressed to find a place for themselves between corporation and ministry and unable to develop governance modes strong enough to combat “faculty” logic with “autonomous institution” logic. Lastly, that alliance took the form of a ministry steering approach that gave priority to disciplinary characteristics and specificities and denied the existence of universities, even after their legislative re-creation. The central administration’s intervention modes thus precluded any chance the universities might have had of developing into strong institutions. Another strong component of the French university system may be seen in the ever-present, ever-renewed will to construct a national system that, ideally, reproduces identical institutions, curricula, even teachers, throughout the territory. These two constants, the type of relations they bring about among ministry, universities, and academic corporation and the operating modes they favor within each of these collective actors, characterize the particular configuration within which French university education developed from the time of the Imperial University until very recently. The longevity or stability of these characteristics deserved to be examined. I have sought to explain why the ambitious reforms that succeeded upon Napoleon’s own had only moderate impact. One of the recurrent causes identified here is the constant focus on rehauling university structure without calling into question discipline-focused logic, ministry-corporation joint management, and the standardizing national model. But there were other causes at work, as we shall see in the next section, causes that enable us to explain why, in the last decade of the twentieth century, change could finally occur.

II French Universities Come into Their Own

The last twelve years mark an unprecedented break from the faculty republic and the transition period that followed it. All recently conducted empirical studies show how great the new changes are. Against all expectations, French universities have become possible. The anomic, leadership-less institutions of the early 1980s have developed their decision-making capabilities, chosen active presidents and presidential teams, and strengthened their respective collective identities. These changes reveal universities’ ability to take reactive advantage of the changes in steering modes that the ministry initiated in the late 1980s. By introducing four-year contracts between the ministry and each university, and a stronger relation of negotiation between these two system components, the ministry simultaneously encouraged the emergence of more autonomous universities and brought the central administration around to recognizing the universities. While faculty logic and state-corporatist joint management have not disappeared, they are now in competition with steering modes wherein purely disciplinary references are integrated into the all-encompassing vision of the policies specific to each university. Putting university institutions at the center and using more negotiative processes have worked to encourage still greater institutional diversity and called into question whether a national public system financed entirely by the state and managed from above should indeed be maintained. None of the three changes mentioned above marks an absolute break with the past. The centralized, standardizing model has been shaken by the increasing diversity of university education, but it has not disappeared. Likewise the ministry has “recognized” the universities in its intervention modes and policies, but this does not mean it no longer takes the disciplines into account. Lastly, universities have become professionalized, and their decisions are more collective, but what they have been able to realize is often still far from what was intended, because resistance to the changes remain strong. In sum, there has been a significant change in direction, not an about-face. The following three chapters will examine the changes that constitute that change and their consequences.

4 The Centralized, Standardizing, Egalitarian Model Destabilized

As explained in Part I, the standardizing dynamic of French university education began in the ancien régime, reached its apogee with Napoleon’s Imperial University, and valiantly persevered through the faculty republic, theoretically ensuring identical university education throughout French territory. This dynamic was fueled by the egalitarian principle that it was essential to guarantee the strict equivalence of all study courses offered to students enrolled in similar degree programs at different locations in France, the strict equivalence of all individual institutions with the same official status, and of all teachers of the same professional status. The principles of uniformity and equality were actualized in concrete measures guaranteeing the same rules of access to university education for all, the same enrollment fees, national validity of university degrees, and so forth. The strong homogeneity of study program supply during the faculty republic is to be explained by this firm respect for the single mold: a limited number of students preparing for a narrow spectrum of careers were offered highly standardized, nondiversified curricula. But the sharp increase in student numbers from 1958 to 1968 tripled the size of French university education, with a prodigious annual growth rate of between 11 and 18 percent.1 And from 1970 to 1987, universities grew continuously, though the rate over these years was much more moderate—2 to 4 percent, as mentioned. The cumulative effect was to multiply student numbers by 1.65 between 1968 and 1987.2 At that point a new massive increase began—the second wave; it subsided in the mid-1990s.3 At first glance, it would seem that this remarkable quantitative growth had little effect on the two principles of uniformity and equality. They remained as present—and legitimate—as ever in French university education. But this should not mask the fact that over the last thirty years discrepancies between those principles and the reality of French universities have widened. French universities have become significantly more heterogeneous, making centralized, standardizing, egalitarian management of the system a delicate exercise.


Uniformity and Equality: Two Principles Considered Eminently Legitimate Despite the growing contradiction between these guiding principles and the real situation of French universities, the principles continue to have great power. They are part of French norms in education; they continue to be understood as eminently legitimate grounds for public action in this sphere and to suffuse the ministry’s modalities for action in higher education. While the legitimacy enjoyed by these principles is quite real, it should be clarified. We cannot really speak of massive, activist support for uniformity and equality. The most we can say is that the two principles do not elicit any marked hostility or give rise to “anti-uniformity-equality” collective mobilization. An education minister who declares himself or herself in favor of standard national university degrees will certainly not bring anyone onto the streets in protest. But uniformity and equality are in fact supported by default,4 and this has to do with what may be called the naturalist quality of their legitimacy. The two principles are so taken for granted by all public and political actors that no one bothers to justify or defend them any more; no one considers it necessary to demonstrate their legitimacy, which is recognized, protected by law, regularly upheld on constitutional grounds,5 but above all, implicit. When data are published showing disparities between universities, for example, this never gives rise to arguments justifying those disparities. On the contrary, all instances of inequality are automatically, systematically considered “unjust,” “unjustified,” and “unjustifiable,” eliciting speeches on how to bring forward those universities that are behind. Consider the position taken in the daily newspaper Le Monde by Education Minister François Bayrou in November 1995, at a time when students in several French universities were on strike: I am determined to put a speedy end to the most glaring injustices in terms of positions and funding. We have norms that enable us to compare the budget funding available to the various universities, and even if those norms are debated and debatable, even if they will one day have to be improved, they do enable us to make objective comparisons. And what we see is that certain universities actually receive more than 250% of what they have been theoretically allotted [in accordance with government funding calculations] whereas others are quite forgotten at only 40%. I will not allow such injustices to be perpetuated. (Le Monde, November 10, 1995) What is clear in the minister’s words is that while criteria for measuring inequalities could be subject to debate, there could be no debate on whether such inequalities had to be remedied. The situation, the way it is analyzed, and the type of actions to be taken in response to it are so obvious that there is no need for the minister to justify why public action aimed at enabling trailing universities to catch up is legitimate.


The legitimacy enjoyed by the principles of equality and uniformity may also be seen in the influence they have on how new solutions—reforms, policies—are sought and designed. In sum, public action is defined and limited by this cognitive grid. Curriculum reform, for example, is systematically national, to be applied in universities throughout the nation. This seems “normal” to the French. It seems obvious that such reforms should apply everywhere and to all, to the point where it is extremely difficult to imagine tackling problems differently. Who would dream of proposing a reform that concerned only the universities of the ‘Centre’ region?6 Who would ever suggest a reform in doctoral thesis requirements that individual universities or their departments might adopt or reject? Another example concerns computerizing university administration. Here we see the same logic at work, though the ministry was not the decisionmaker. The task was given to a public, not-for-profit grouping called the GIGUE (Groupement pour l’Informatique de Gestion des Universités et des Etablissements), the concern being to respect university autonomy and enable different universities to cooperate in the experiment.7 But the real objective was to get as many institutions as possible to use the same three programs: Nabuco (Nouvelle approche budgétaire et comptable) for budget and accounting; Apogée (Application globale de gestion de la scolarité et des étudiants) to manage student enrollment and academic records; and Harpège (Harmonisation pour la Gestion des Personnels) to manage personnel. It is possible to change parameters with these different programs, and thus to handle local variations.8 But they don’t really allow for fine-tuning. The tighter the regulations a given administrative area is subject to, the more necessary it becomes to use the relevant parameters. In the case of Nabuco, a program that had to be approved by the national department of public accounting of the Economy and Finance Ministry, universities could only use it after extensive adjustments had been made. In fact, to use this program an institution must closely follow public accounting rules. Moreover, only highly integrated applications were developed. With Apogée the idea in the long run was not only to enroll students and keep academic records but also to set up exams and academic juries, assign classrooms, follow up on each entering class, and so on. Compared to the technical options offered by a German service comparable to the GIGUE, the Hochschul-Information-System (HIS), the standardization of the French system is striking. HIS offers as many applications as there are types of student records and other functions. Instead of an “all or nothing” system—and one that requires the same treatment for everyone and, if possible, everywhere—German institutions can decide to computerize management of student enrollment but not classroom assignment, for example.9 The cognitive framework imposed by the principles of uniformity and equality is clearly quite a limiting one. And it is extremely difficult to challenge it, for reasons either of conviction, interest, or blindness to the problem. The fact that those principles have been fully incorporated into rules and procedures makes it


all the more unlikely they will be challenged.10 That each and every holder of the baccalauréat degree is assured of university admission; that university studies (those leading to a national degree) are virtually free; that what are minimal enrollment fees will be identical from one institution to another; and that study program content will be determined at the national level cannot be considered merely formal arrangements. Such rules are indissociable from the principles of uniformity and equality on which their legitimacy rests. Indeed, their status is more one of norms than rules, and as such they define as much what may legitimately be done as what has to be done. The close link between rules and principles endows the former with great stability and protects them from change, since modifying them would imply denouncing the eminently legitimate principles upon which they are founded. And that legitimacy, together with the absence of any commonly recognized rival principles, have made it impossible, at least until now, to question the standardizing, egalitarian conception of university education. Attempts at abrogating or changing the rule of nonselective university admission or identical enrollment fees (for study programs leading to national degrees) have always failed.11 Lastly, the stability of these principles is ensured by the fact that they are part and parcel of the ministry’s intervention modes, particularly of the way ministry decision-making procedures are organized. Choices are made not through assessment of the intrinsic worth or interest of program projects submitted, but rather by comparison with all projects submitted on a given theme. Whether the issue at hand is procedures for creating academic posts or filling vacant ones, hiring academics, allocating research funding, funding operating budgets, or, until recently, accrediting new disciplinary specializations, the same synoptic approach is used. All decisions are taken at regular intervals— once a year for budgets, every four years for study programs and research funding—by decisionmakers in possession of all relevant applications or requests. Projects are ranked and ultimately chosen through comparison of all related applications. For example, all academic job openings are announced once a year, meaning that all candidates submit their applications at the same time and all higher education institutions examine applications simultaneously. All programs leading to the Diplôme d’Etudes Approfondies * (DEA) in nuclear physics, for instance, are submitted every four years for state reaccreditation so that the applications can all be reviewed at the same time.12 The aim of these procedures is to demonstrate clearly that all applications receive equal treatment and that the choices made are coherent, since all dossiers have been examined synchronically by the same persons. The principles of uniformity and equality are essential to understanding the present state of French university education. They have been at the heart of the university system as constructed over the last two centuries, and they remain profoundly present in how French universities are conceived, solutions to existing problems defined, policy implemented, and actions taken in this sector. But though many phenomena testify to their active presence, there are also signs


that these principles are weakening. Over the last decades, the in creasing heterogeneity of French universities has made centralized, standardizing management of university education significantly more complex. Increasingly Heterogeneous Universities Until the late 1950s French universities were highly homogeneous and showed an astounding ability to resist innovation. In four decades this situation has changed considerably (Dubois 1997a). There is a sharp contrast between the faculties of the 1950s, with their limited number of neatly formated curricula and their limited number of homogeneousprofile students (cf. for example, Bourdieu and Passeron 1964) with their tightly calibrated career prospects, and today’s universities, which offer a wide range of types of education to a now sharply heterogeneous student population.13 Innovation and diversity are therefore no longer exclusive to the nonuniversity higher education sector. Since the mid-1960s, universities have developed atypical study programs, that is, programs that do not correspond to their “traditional” vocation in terms of duration (short higher education programs, for example), type of studies (more directly utilitarian), career prospects (private sector), or access (selective admission). The first wave of massification in higher education (1958–1968) constituted more than the mechanical consequence of nonselective faculty admission. In fact, the nonuniversity sector “refused” to perform the new tasks that were expected of postsecondary education, “leaving” them to the university. Until the 1980s, the grandes écoles played the Malthusian card and kept their graduating classes small, both by increasing only slightly the number of student slots (admission to the grandes écoles was, of course, selective) and only belatedly opening up alternative admission paths—for students who already had a university degree, for example.14 The creation of new post-bac technicaltertiary degree courses given in lycées was not sufficient to satisfy demand or divide growth “fairly” between university and nonuniversity sectors. As mentioned the former grew by more than 300 percent from 1958 to 1968, compared to a “mere” 200 percent for the latter, mostly outside the grandes écoles. This was a major change from the traditional expansion mode of French higher education: “normally” the university sector kept to its traditional tasks while the nonuniversity sector successfully developed innovative programs. In the 1960s, “the University intruded into domains that had been reserved for the grandes écoles” (Magliulo 1982, 27), and universities began offering a wider range of educational programs. The result was that internal diversification took over from the mechanisms of external institutional differentiation. And the ministry played the role of initiator in this development. It launched measures encouraging study program diversification and development of curricula that would be better adapted to the labor market, accompanying them with incentives to universities in the form of


additional funding.15 This time, in contrast to what happened at the end of the nineteenth century, universities responded to these attentions. Three new types of university education were developed: short training programs; long study programs with selective admission; and university-specific, nonstate-accredited degree programs. Their weight in university education today is far from negligeable: out of 1,341,200 students enrolled in public universities in 1994–1995 (not including those in Instituts Universitaires de Technologie and the Ecoles Nationales Supérieures d’Ingénieurs), 63,183, or 4.7 percent, were enrolled in MSB, MIAGE, MSG, MSBM programs, magistères, and DESS* programs.16 With IUT and ENSI students, the figure is 185,033 out of 1,473,050, or 12.6 percent. The IUTs are an extremely interesting type of program. They were created in 1966, five years after a decree instituting the Diplômes d’Etudes Supérieures Techniques (DEST) degrees, a first attempt to introduce shorter study courses into science faculties (Schriewer 1972). Their rocky beginnings elicited particular interest.17 Several authors sought to explain the “failure” of the first years.18 What they did not point out was the peculiarity of integrating shortterm technological training programs into the French universities of the time. Given the dynamic of French higher education development then, it would have been more likely for IUTs either to constitute a new institutional niche in the nonuniversity sector, half way between the grandes écoles and the faculties, or to be attached to the lycées.19 Neither of these things happened. Instead IUTs made a place for themselves within universities, without being absorbed by them (this was later due to their exceptional institutional status as stipulated by Article 33 of the Loi Savary20). Integrating IUTs into the French university landscape represented a major change; such innovations had either been doomed to failure there or else had had to develop outside the university.21 Rhoades (1990) was thus incorrect in affirming that IUTs had fallen victim to university conservatism, that they had been recalibrated to fit the norms of the university sector and had therefore undergone a process of dedifferentiation that belied their purposes as conceived by the Commission des 18 and the Commission des Instituts de Formation Technique Supérieure.22 In fact, just the opposite process occurred. What was remarkable about the IUTs was that they remained within the universities while maintaining most of their original design characteristics: multidisciplinarity, short, technology-dominant programs; mainly secondary and tertiary sector employment training; specific teaching methods, including training periods in industries or companies; and selective admission. IUTs are both “separate” from universities—a fact which leads them at times to claim autonomy from “their university”23—and “within” them, since they offer a university degree. And if there has been any dissemination or “drift” it has been from IUTs to other types of university programs. A number of traditional programs now include training periods, and there is new attention to students’ employment prospects.


After the IUTs were launched, other programs were developed. In the 1970s, again on the ministry’s initiative, universities began offering selective-admission maîtrise* programs with clearer access to the job market: the MST, MSG, MIAGE, and MSBM (see n. 16). In 1985 the magistères were added (n. 16) and in 1990 university vocational institutes. Above maîtrise level there were also innovations. In 1973 the Diplôme d’Etudes Supérieures Spécialisées* was launched, a set of one-year programs open to maîtrise holders. Like the IUTs, these education programs have nothing in common with traditional ones; unlike them, they do not enjoy exceptional status and have simply been integrated into the relevant UFR (Unite de Formation et de Recherche*) like any other program. All these programs constitute both professional, employment-oriented training and full-fledged university education, and with the exception of the magistères, they lead to national degrees.24 University-specific degrees are the last innovation category. The idea was not new; as mentioned, it had been clearly announced in the late-nineteenth-century reforms. Though included in the Loi Faure, it had only limited effects (see chap. 3), and such programs still constitute only a very small part of university education. What prevents them from developing is that since they offer no national degree, they receive no public subsidies. This is also precisely what makes them special: their innovative potential lies in the fact that they are not constrained by the officially set national model and therefore have great pedagogical latitude. In some cases they are self-funding, as their enrollment fees are not subject to national regulation. These innovations are a reminder that the transformations that French university education underwent in the 1960s were qualitative as well as quantitative. University education supply began to be diversified then, and study programs that could have developed in the nonuniversity sector were implanted and acquired legitimacy within universities. Moreover, alongside disciplinary differentiation came diversification of curricula.25 The homogeneity of education supply, and of university graduates’ prospective employment, was no more. The direction taken by French universities may be observed in most university systems. In response to the clear trend of increasing demand for highly skilled workers, many countries sought to open up higher education to greater numbers of students and diversify study programs (see, for example, Kogan 1997 and Meek et al. 1996). This process is generally viewed favorably as being well adapted to student population heterogeneity, labor market demand, the coexistence of mass and elite education, and the fact of its innovative experimentation.26 Usually, diversifying education programs leads to broadening the spectrum of institutions, though most researchers observe a concurrent trend toward dedifferentiation, as new institutions tend to reduce the gap between their pedagogic norms and those of the most prestigious institutions, namely, universities, through a phenomenon known as academic drift.27 The French case bucks this trend in two ways. First, while there is a tendency for differences


to be reduced, and for borrowing between the two institutional sectors of French higher education, this does not occur through academic drift toward a dominant model considered superior, but rather through mechanisms of interpenetration between the “models” particular to each sector.28 Certain grandes écoles have now been accredited to confer university degrees (namely at the post-graduate level) and are trying to apply university norms to their professorial corps.29 As for universities, they are offering selective, professional programs. Internships in companies or industries, long considered a grande école specificity, are not unusual in university programs, even classical ones, and will most likely become general practice. In sum, features that were specific to one institutional sector are tending now to be taken up and integrated by others. Due to the work of interpenetration and diversification mechanisms, French universities are offering a much more diverse range of education programs, and in many cases a greater variety of programs than their foreign counterparts (namely, German). One of the consequences of this trend is the singularization of individual French universities. Each now offers its own education supply, specific in terms of ratio of selective to nonselective admission programs, traditional academic versus vocational programs, and so forth. This means differences among universities are greater. Education program diversification has thus brought about increased institutional variety. The Internal Contradictions of an Increasingly Diversified Mass University French higher education has thus been propelled in two opposite directions in recent years. The time-honored standardizing, egalitarian model is still operative; the higher education system still functions by means of national regulations, statuses, curricula and degrees, synoptic management of issues, sweeping reforms that apply to everybody everywhere—all aimed to guarantee equal treatment, strong homogeneity, and the maintenance of the national framework. Moreover, the overwhelming portion of state funding in university budgets gives the education ministry great leverage to redistribute, reduce inequalities, and provide incentives. The second, more recent direction corresponds, on the contrary, to a dynamic of interuniversity diversification. That French universities took this direction is due in part to the spectacular increases in student numbers in the 1960s and late 1980s: the ministry is today (2003) in charge of some 1,404,014 students, 84 universities, and 77,102 academics.30 It is also due to an internal differentiation trend whereby heterogeneity among university institutions has been accentuated. The ministry must therefore handle a university system that is both massive and diversified, and here its centralized, corporatist steering model runs into two types of constraint. The first is size, which translates directly into financial constraints. The funding of a nonselective, virtually free university sector com prising 1.4 million students represents a considerable proportion of the state


budget.31 The second is the accentuated contradiction between an increasingly heterogeneous reality and regulations and action modes that have remained standardizing and egalitarian. The financial constraint is the more visible of the two and attracts more media attention. The French state is having a hard time being the sole funding source for the education of 1.4 million students and all university research. Most universities have understood this and are seeking to diversify their funding sources and increase the percentage of university-raised funding in their operating budgets. My analysis here may seem representative of the general critique of the tout Etat [all-controlling, all funding state]. It might therefore be argued that it is a sign of the domination of classic liberal theses in favor of state disengagement. Perhaps. But it would be irresponsible to suggest that, realizable economies of scale notwithstanding, a budget for accomodating more than 202,000 students in 1959–1960 has anything in common with the one required to take in seven times that many today. The new surge of quantitative growth that French higher education experienced in the early 1990s, at a time when the state had committed itself to reducing deficits, only added to this pressure. Accommodating one and a half million students in exchange for absurdly low enrollment fees costs dearly in an economic context where state revenues are hard to come by.32 Universities’ financial difficulties are not virtual; they correspond to economic and budgetary realities.33 These contextual difficulties are compounded by the crisis of legitimacy that state intervention in general is in, and universities’ overall lack of credibility, which make any massive increase in public spending on universities unlikely, whatever the prospects for economic growth. Among potential solutions for easing budget constraints, two have been crossed off the political agenda for the time being: reducing student numbers through selective admission and switching from current enrollment fees to tuition fees that would be closer to real costs. Two others have the ministry’s favor: rationalizing management within university institutions (this will be examined in chaps. 6 and 7) and diversifying funding.34 Universities are being invited to develop, or further develop, relations with the private sector, and the ministry has increased and diversified the structures facilitating such relations (cf. the law of July 12,1999, promoting innovation and research within universities). While in the 1980s it was often considered suspect for universities to have relations with business, such relations are better accepted35 and more frequent today.36 Universities are also being encouraged to look more to continuing education programs as a source of funding, and to provide appropriate responses to current valorization of occupational skills and the specific education needs of different age groups. Lastly, local communities are being asked to help fund universities. Though the decentralization law of 1982 did not provide for any transfer of higher education responsibilities from state to local level, local communities were already making it clear in the mid-1980s that they were ready to take over this area. In dire economic straits, cities and towns sought to be selected by the ministry as sites for university extensions, and thereby to add further proof of their


dynamism to the businesses they were hoping to attract.37 Some communities even disregarded the principle of the carte universitaire and set up university extensions without ministry approval. Filâtre remarks that of the approximately fifty university extensions counted by the Comité National d’Evaluation des Universités (CNE) in 1989 (CNE 1990), thirty were sauvage, that is, known to but not recognized by the ministry, and that “all that existed between parent university and a town, or an associated group of towns, was a simple written agreement” (Filâtre 1993, 40). In the late 1980s, the ministry used this demonstrated appetite on the part of local communities in its Université 2000 plan (recently succeeded by the U3M [Université du Troisième Millennaire]), setting up a vast program for implanting universities or university extensions that would allow the régions (as well as départements and cities) to participate in decision making on developing the carte universitaire, and allow local communities to have an extension or to create a university if they could raise at least half of matching funds.38 Furthermore, regulatory decisions made in 1990 allowed local communities to obtain building contracts for the new infrastructure and, under certain conditions, collect VAT on them. The proportion of diversified-source funding in French university budgets (from local communities but also European Union programs and businesses) is still low if we consider total university budget, operating plus payroll. It cannot really be said that the state has financially disengaged. The shift is perceptible, however, and, more important, it too works to increase interuniversity heterogeneity, in terms of geographical implantation of institutions, amount of funding from nearby local communities, and local policies, which can be more or less favorable to universities. We might have expected that the recent decrease in student numbers and return to economic growth would have reduced incentives for funding diversification. But that would be to leave aside the other contradictions that centralized state steering has to grapple with. Up against the widening discrepancy between the principles of standardization and egalitarianism on the one hand, real university heterogeneity on the other, the ministry is obliged to “manage large-scale singularity.”39 This results in two types of difficulties for the state: it can no longer guarantee national homogeneity and it is having trouble containing institutions’ rule-bending. There is no dearth of examples to demonstrate that the ministry is having difficulty fulfilling its function of norm definer and guarantor of local-practice standardization through national rules. I shall present only two. First, the matter of determining and fixing academic workloads in such a way as to homogenize practices or at least attenuate differences from one institution to another. This task would not seem particularly difficult. Teacher workloads are calculated in terms of hours and type of course taught. There are three course types: cours magistraux or CM (lecture courses), travaux dirigés or TD (the rough equivalent of section meetings with teaching assistants), and travaux pratiques or TP (lab sections of various sorts—science, language lab—under teaching assistant


supervision). One hour of CM is equal to one and a half hours of TD and two hours of TP. Each teacher “owes” 192 hours of TD per year.40 In theory, then, the workload and cost involved in teaching each degree program should be fairly easy to calculate. In reality, the diversification of university programs has in turn diversified teaching tasks, creating tasks that were not provided for in the regulatory definition of service hours (follow-up of students on external training periods, tutor coordination, etc.) The notion of teaching load no longer corresponds to any national norm. Taking account of the new teaching activities sometimes means integrating them into existing workloads; meanwhile some universities are deducting them from compulsory teaching hours while others are counting them as supplementary hours, and so forth. The simplest—and most realistic—solution would surely be for each university to develop its own definition of teaching loads. The ministry could not possibly accept such an idea, however, since calculating teaching loads gives it a “universal” reference point for determining the number of supplementary hours to allot each university and evaluating adequacy of teacher-student ratios. Clearly it needs a national norm to justify its distribution criteria. The problem is that this also condemns it to dealing with widening discrepancies between figures (calculated with measuring unit varying from one universities to another) and the realities they refer to. The second example involves accrediting study programs leading to national degrees. Here again, the ministry is at a loss to guarantee equivalence among universities. As explained, degree programs are subject to national regulations called maquettes that define the minimum conditions for accrediting a program leading to the degree in question. Diversification of education supply has brought about an unprecedented increase in the number of national maquettes. In trying to manage this situation, the ministry has adopted two, alternating approaches. The first involves creating as many new national maquettes as there are new study programs.41 This ensures some degree of maquette standardization. However, since no limits have been placed on disciplinary specialization, it also requires the ministry to manage an increasing number of maquettes, call on increasing numbers of experts to examine accreditation applications, organize increasing numbers of accreditation procedures, and so forth. Taken to its logical extreme—a separate maquette for every study program offered—this dynamic could dilute the notion of national degree. The second approach is to define the maquettes broadly enough that modulation is possible under a single program title.42 In this case the number of maquettes remains reasonable, but the notion of national degree still loses meaning. In effect, one purpose of those maquettes is to guarantee—to prospective employers, among others—that there is strong qualification similarity between two holders of maîtrise degrees with the same specialization obtained in different universities. The broader the maquette and the more open it is to local variation, the weaker that guarantee. In both cases, maintaining national maquettes is incompatible with the increasing diversity of study programs and makes the guarantee of homogeneity among them across the national territory increasingly illusory.


Centralized management based on national procedures, regulations, and rules can therefore be maintained only at the cost of diminishing the capacity of such norms to apply to highly diverse real situations. The measuring units that were meant to create a common code for all partners, a unified language, and thus to guarantee stable equivalences, have become relative; the “standard meter” defined by the ministry no longer has the same value throughout the territory. This development has meant weakened obedience to national norms by individual universities in their local practices, as we can see if we look again at the example of national degrees. For academics themselves, the value of those degrees is highly relative. The first things Commission de Spécialistes members spontaneously do when reading a candidate’s application file is look to see who the candidate’s thesis director is, who was on his/her thesis jury, and to try to read between the lines of the thesis defense report. In other words, the actors most involved in, and directly responsible for, degree conferment do not themselves believe in the equivalency of national degrees. Moreover, attempts to circumvent national regulations are legion. Here we run into the well-known issue of creative rule interpretation, a widespread practice in French administration (Crozier 1964) and according to Dupuy and Thoenig (1983), a permanent source of local innovation. Academics, too, successfully engage in this exercise, as Potocki-Malicet (1997) has shown for course prerequisites and degree requirements, and the ministry does not have real control over such arrangements. It’s not that the ministry doesn’t know what’s going on. Everyone there can cite discrepancies between number of administratively enrolled students and number of students enrolled in and attending classes, for example. But no one can say what the real gap between these two figures is for each university. And what of the liberal interpretation of national maquettes once a university’s programs have been accredited? Knowing such practices exist is one thing; knowing how widespread they are and what regulations they infringe on is another. Then there is the matter of outright illicit practices, those that have led to lawsuits against particular universities. Nonselective university admission and fixed enrollment fees identical throughout France are examples of rules that get broken. The University of Paris IX-Dauphine is one university that openly selects students for admission to the premier cycle*—a practice regularly ex posed in the press.43 The second type of rule-breaking, less well known though it too draws media attention,44 involves the “abusive practice” of charging students “complementary fees.” Since universities cannot change enrollment fees, some have tried, surreptitiously, to require a lump-sum payment for specific student services such as application processing, course notes, sports activities, and so forth.45 In neither of these cases was the ministry the first to react. It only sanctioned universities that had used these procedures after lawsuits were filed against them by students or student unions. It was as if the central administration had given up on intervening itself, and as if everyone— administrators, politicians, academics—while continuing to defend the


legitimacy of uniformity and equality, nonetheless tolerated the flouting of these principles. The trend in university education over the last three decades thus points to increasing incompatibility between the reality of university institutions and the idea of maintaining the single, centralized model operative since the Imperial University. That model has been profoundly shaken by the combined pressure of higher education massification and internal diversification of the university sector (Girod de l’Ain, 1997). The overseeing education ministry is not having an easy time taking this development into account while remaining loyal to the principles of uniformity and equality. However, as we shall now see, it has itself transformed its intervention modes in the last ten years.

5 And the Ministry Recognized the Universities…

The second major change to occur in the last decade concerns the ministry’s piloting of university education. The discipline-focused approach gave way to action modes more focused on university institutions. This change is indissociable from a new policy for establishing contracts between the ministry and each university. More than any other measure, this policy gave rise to a major rehauling of central administration intervention modes and changes in its relations with the universities.1 The change was as profound as it was unexpected. A few months after François Mitterrand was reelected in May 1988, the central administration was still steering largely by faculty logic: Decisions were made in terms of a given discipline, considered throughout the territory, rather than by taking account of the particular situation of each university, and there was no reference to universities as institutions in ministry agents’ discourse, representations, or practices. The overseeing French education ministry had simply not taken into account the framework law of 1968 (the Loi Faure),2 not to mention the extremely controversial law of 1984 (the Loi Savary). The faculty-focused character of university education steering, which had taken root during the faculty republic, had been maintained after the faculties were abolished, and it hardly seemed under threat in 1987 when I co-conducted the first of several surveys within the ministry (Musselin and Brisset 1989; Friedberg and Musselin 1993). The 1988 presidential campaign gave no reason to expect changes. The platforms of candidates Chirac and Mitterrand did not contain any projects for higher education. In contrast to the 1981 presidential and 1986 legislative elections (the latter focused on abolishing the Loi Savary), in 1988 no one on either right or left was speaking of reform, new laws, or a general plan for the University. Immediately after the presidential elections, however, the newly appointed Socialist prime minister Michel Rocard declared that education would be a priority for his government. All waited to see what concrete measures would follow this announcement. But the press showed relatively little interest in national education minister Lionel Jospin’s September 1988 speech to university presidents announcing a policy for allocating a part of state funding on the basis of contracts. Nor was there any reaction from teachers or students. Applying


Garraud’s typology of ways that issues get put on the policy agenda, we can say that the ministry’s new contract policy followed models for “silent” inclusion, namely the archetypal “anticipation model” of voluntarist public action, “usually characterized by absence of conflict, public controversy, media or political exploitation, but also, in most cases, absence of explicit, defined social demand… [It] is in great measure a function of the ministries’ own capacity for expert evaluation” (1990, 37).3 This silent policy, which no one was calling for and which had been placed on the ministry’s institutional agenda without controversy (Cobb and Elder 1972),4 sparked a profound change in the French university system.5 In the space of one year, the ministry had thought out the basic design of the contracts and freed up budget funding. The central administration had been entirely reorganized to implement the new measure. New department directors were hired, and a directive was published in March 1989 specifying how to proceed. In December 1989 the first contracts were signed, and four years later, most universities had established their first four-year contract with the ministry. Above all, and contrary to all expectations, the policy put universities at the center of procedure, minimizing and marginalizing reference to the disciplines and overturning in a few months’ time the practices and principles that had characterized the ministry’s steering modes since Napoleon. How can this change be explained? Why was the contract idea accepted in the first place and how did it manage to become so strongly established and, for a time, to dominate? The answer has less to do with the use of contracts as policy instruments than with the way the directive was implemented within the ministry. The universities were able to take over power within the central administration because the policy was accompanied by a process of meaning production and legitimation. To support this explanation in terms of process I will show that (1) universityministry contracts were developed independently of experiments that preceded them; the change therefore cannot be understood as the last stage in dissemination of an already formed representation of public action in the area of higher education; (2) the success of the contracts had less to do with any intrinsic value of the “contract solution” than with the way in which that policy was implemented. Three Past Experiments and Their Nonrelevance As soon as one asks where the idea of strengthening the university level came from, it is sorely tempting to explain the 1988 contract policy as the continuation of a trend that had been underway for several years. Indeed, a quick review of the recent past reveals that just such an idea was already contained in prior policies. Still, we cannot affirm that those policies were the beginnings of a reorientation of state action in the area of university education. There were three experiments prior to 1989. All of them promoted the “individual institution”


component in university steering, and all failed to deflect the disciplinary focus of the ministry’s intervention modes. The first experiment involving ministry-university contracts for ministryallocated resources was set up in 1975, less than seven years after passage of the Loi Faure. The initiator was Jean-Louis Quermonne, director of the ministry’s department of higher education and research from 1974 to 1975 and an ardent supporter of university autonomy. The Conférence des Présidents d’Université (CPU) gave its support to the initiative at its 1975 colloquium in Villard-de-Lans. The experiment lasted only a few months. In 1976, Raymond Barre succeeded Jacques Chirac as prime minister, and when the new higher education minister, Alice Saunier-Seïté, arrived, replacing Jean-Pierre Soisson, the experiment was stopped and soon forgotten. Though the 1975 project can be credited with disseminating ideas favorable to university-central administration contracting,6 none of the actors who participated in the 1988 contract policy cited it as a reference for the idea they were implementing or even mentioned its existence. Nor is it evoked in the preparatory texts—“service”-level memoranda, meeting minutes, intermediate projects—that circulated within the ministry in the last years of the 1980s.7 The second initiative was the 1985 creation of the Comité National d’Evaluation des Universités (CNE). Its purpose was to evaluate universities, not disciplines8—a fact worth noting in a university system so strongly marked by disciplinary focus.9 But despite active mobilization in favor of evaluating university institutions, numerous methodology notes in support of a university approach, and the many university evaluation reports themselves, this initiative had no major repercussions on the ministry’s steering modes. From its creation the CNE displayed its independence from the ministry; indeed, in July 1989 it obtained the status of independent administrative authority. The corollary to this was the decision that CNE evaluations could not be used by the ministry to guide university funding allocation. The relation between the CNE and the ministry was thus one of mutual distrust rather than cooperation. Ministry agents saw the CNE as a structure that might well infringe on their own official powers, and CNE members did not want to be thought of as auxilliaries to the ministry. This reduced cooperation. Above all, the ministry tended to ignore the CNE: CNE reports were hardly used by the central administration. As a result, neither the approach developed by the CNE nor the representations and knowledge that informed its productions had any real influence on the ministry.10 The CNE’s commitment to the universities over the disciplines (each report systematically included a section on university governance) is noteworthy, but its constancy was costly: This body was kept—and kept itself—so far out on the margins that its approach was not disseminated. It had no impact over and beyond the committee itself, and it did not affect the central administration’s action principles or practices.


The third and last experiment, begun in 1983, most closely resembles the 1988 contract initiative in that it introduced contracts based on four-year funding-need projections—in this case, contracts for research. It is especially tempting to relate the two measures since some of the individual actors implicated in the 1988 policy frequently cite the 1983 policy, and, at first glance, the intentions behind the two look similar. Research contracts were a response to three related concerns: escaping the straitjacket of annual budget management; inducing universities to develop their own research policies; and allocating funding to research teams developed according to such policies rather than unconnected research groups. While the various research projects in such contracts continued to be examined by the relevant disciplinary experts, the policy stipulated that the four-year contract itself was to be negotiated with the individual university institutions. Early in the implementation process, however, the policy was deflected off the path to its initial goals. The focus on university institutions was abandoned, and negotiations fell once more under the domination of the disciplines. These fouryear research contracts failed to strengthen universities’ capacities to define and implement research policies. This may have been because funding for university research (i.e., made available by the ministry’s higher education departments) did not amount to much compared to funding for individual projects that had been proposed by national research organizations (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique or CNRS, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique or INRA, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale or INSERM, and so forth) independently of any university policy. It was difficult for an individual university to develop its own research policy when its research projects were in large degree a matter of isolated decisions made outside the university itself. In any case, the centralizing, interventionist impulses quickly regained the upper hand and universities were shunted off to the sidelines. They could no longer use as they saw fit the research funding they received after negotiation with the ministry; instead, funding was allotted to specified research teams. They continued to sign fouryear research contracts, but because they could no longer decide how to distribute the funding allocated them, each university could only put forward anything like a policy before the negotiation procedure, by choosing which research teams’ projects would be submitted to the ministry.11 Rather than strengthening the “university” echelon, these contracts ultimately weakened it once again, by favoring an approach to proposals in terms of individual project and discipline. The result was entirely contrary to the philosophy for action behind the initiative, and therefore to the later ministry-university contracts policy.12 There was, then, little resonance between the earlier initiatives and the 1988 policy. It is fair to say that the impact of these three experiments on the overseeing ministry was nil. The first experiment had been given no time; the second survived but in complete isolation; and the third lost its initial characteristics, with centralized discipline-based expert evaluation once again


taking precedence over university research policies. Still, the lack of direct impact is not in itself sufficient cause to affirm that the 1988 contract policy idea did not benefit from earlier experiments and that it was not the result of a cumulative learning process. We can only conclude this after determining whether or not the very existence of these attempts allowed arguments and lines of reasoning to be developed, stances to be taken, rhetoric to be forged in favor of a university “culture,” and made possible dissemination of such arguments, stances, and rhetoric among a larger public. There is no evidence of such a process. In the fifteen years preceding the contract policy, no increased interest was shown in arguments favoring university autonomy. Such arguments existed well before attempts to act on them;13 they continued to exist after those attempts; however, they were not strengthened by them. The three experiments were based on an understanding and approach that favored greater university autonomy, but they did not help disseminate that understanding or approach, nor did they bring about the formation of a group of mediators in Pierre Muller’s sense of the word (1995), committed to defending a new vision of the university world. Nor were the experiments used as a source of lessons that would enable policy implementers not to make the same mistakes. There was no critical analysis of the prior failures of these policies; no assessments were commissioned or written; no one tried to find out in 1988 if similar measures had been implemented in the past, either abroad, or in other sectors of the French administration, or to analyze what these might have produced. Lastly, we cannot support the idea of a link between these different experiments and the 1988 contract policy by referring to any permanent core of actors. The vast majority of crafters of the 1988 university contract policy had not participated in the earlier initiatives and had only limited knowledge of them. None had been involved in or knew of the brief contract policy venture of 1975. And though a few had been implicated in four-year research contracts and supported the idea of contracts, they were no more a driving force in defining the new contract policy than the others. It therefore seems difficult to claim that the success of this policy was due to the increased dissemination and power of a new way of conceiving ministry intervention modes, or that university contracts were legitimized and made successful by past experiments.14 The contract policy, then, should be considered a singular experiment, one with its own logic, a policy to be explained first and foremost in its own terms.15 More important, at the moment it was launched there was no reason to predict that its fate would differ from that of the earlier experiments; no reason to suppose it wouldn’t fail, be pulled off course, or, as was even more likely, get broken off with the first changeover of political power. Nor was there any reason to predict that it would be as significant as it was, that it would modify ministry steering modes and give universities the opportunity and will to become more


autonomous. Moreover, announcing the policy was nothing compared to the work of realizing and implementing it. Ministry-University Contracts: More a Viable Political Option than an Efficient Solution Another way of explaining the impact of the contract policy would be to show that it was a good solution, that is, that the mere introduction of contracts with universities sufficed to modify ministry practices. In fact, though it can be shown that the policy was a politically viable option, we cannot conclude from this that it was an intrinsically efficient solution.16 The decision to orient ministry policy toward contracting with universities was made in emergency conditions. Expected to show how “creative” they could be after Mitterrand’s second win, minister and cabinet were urgently seeking ideas and solutions. The new education minister had just taken up post and responsibilities—generally a propitious moment for launching new programs— and prime minister Rocard had just announced that education would be a priority for his government. Moreover, the expected increase in student numbers for the coming fall meant that the beginning of the academic year promised to be rough. For education minister Lionel Jospin and his cabinet, the pressure was on to announce “something” to university presidents before their institutions reopened in October. But what? Finding an answer to this question was delicate business given that policymakers already had to heed several no-entry signs. Classic solutions of the sort that had been applied several times in the past would not do. The time and energy spent drafting the Loi Savary and the immense difficulties encountered in implementing it between 1984 and 1986 had a highly dissuasive effect on any thoughts of proposing a new framework law; meanwhile, the failure of the proposed Loi Devaquet (see chap. 3) was there to dissuade ministry actors from making any changes that would affect university structures or statuses— no one wanted to reignite such conflicts in the university and student communities. Moreover, as this was a Socialist government, there was hardly a political or ideological motive for revising such national principles as nonselective admission, enrollment fees, or national degrees.17 Lastly, education ministry cabinet members knew of and/or shared Lionel Jospin’s hostility toward any plan for decentralizing higher education to the level of the régions. In August 1988, then, under mounting pressure to act, the ministry knew what it didn’t want to do but had no clear program of action. Jospin’s arrival at its head had not been planned very far in advance, and he was not known as an education specialist.18 This was not true of his cabinet members, but none of them had any well-developed approach to university education; none was a theorist of the University. There was neither a Keynes (Hall 1989) nor a Malraux (Urfalino 1996a) in the lot to develop a new theory or put forward one philosophy for action over another. The contract idea, then, was less an


ideological choice (in the noble sense of the term), or the translation of a new vision of the university world into modes of action than it was a satisfactory solution to the problem at hand (March and Simon 1958). To begin with, it could be put in place immediately. “Contractual solutions” in general were attracting new interest.19 and this undoubtedly influenced the former university president turned cabinet member Daniel Bancel, if only indirectly, when he wrote the memorandum that would win cabinet support in August 1988. Moreover, several-year commitments on the basis of projected budgets were not a new thing in university education, even though they were not always called “contracts.” Four-year procedures bringing together university research teams with national research organizations already existed, as did four-year decisions on accrediting study programs leading to national degrees and four-year research contracts of the sort presented above. In addition to length of time, these arrangements had in common with the proposed ministry-university contracts the fact that they were based on agreements reached more or less through negotiation and that tied funding allocation to requests backed by reasoned, demonstrative arguments. University contracts understood simply as instruments for allocating funding for several years at a stretch were thus not a novelty for universities. It should be added that contract practices were a politically satisfactory solution, or to use Hall’s expression, a “politically viable” one (Hall 1989, 374). They went down well with both public opinion and university academics: announcing that university autonomy would be increased and that the ministry was going to negotiate supplementary funding with universities would not bring anyone into the streets in protest. The solution was also acceptable for the government: The contract idea was particularly consistent with Rocardian ideas for state reform.20 More broadly, while the idea worked well with notions on how to bring about change then current in the CFDT and, for higher education, the SGEN-CFDT [see note 6], it was also consistent with Socialist Party understanding. It should be remembered, for example (though this may seem anecdotal), that in an interview published in Le Monde, April 23, 1981, presidential candidate Mitterrand had affirmed that it was “more efficient and satisfying in a democracy to change society by contract rather than decree.”21 And as the examples of four-year research contracts show, (introduced during Mitterrand’s first seven-year term), namely, explicit use of the notion of ‘contractualization’ in the 1984 Loi Savary (title III, article 20), state-with-région and state-with-medium-size-city contracts, and development of state-withindustry “environmental covenants” (Lascoumes 1994; Lascoumes and Valluy 1996), the contract instrument had already been mobilized on several occasions (Gaudin 1996,1999). A further advantage of the contract solution was that it would not provoke a negative reaction from the political opposition. Unlike nationalizations and privatizations, contracts did not divide along political lines but rather produced consensus, even though that consensus was more superficial than real and was due in part to the ambiguities of the notion (Favereau, Lascoumes,


Musselin, and Berrivin 1996). In effect, the contract notion may be used in two contradictory rhetorics of freedom. Contracts may be seen as either a means of delimiting mutual obligations or a space of negotiated security. Furthermore, the notion can be supported either for its “social” virtues—as when it is presented as an agreement-building instrument—or, on the contrary, for its “economic” virtues, as when it is understood almost as a market instrument, an intermediary level between the organization and the market (Williamson 1975; Laffont and Tirole 1993).22 The contract, then, was all the more politically acceptable and generally creditable a solution for being a rich conceptual jumble in which everyone could see what they chose. The policy’s political viability explains why it did not elicit controversy. It also explains why it was chosen. But this is not enough either to have guaranteed its success or to explain its impact. Adherence to a given reform principle does not guarantee success for the corresponding reform, as the example of the Third Republic reforms clearly illustrates. Might the impact of the contract policy be attributed instead to the fact that “contracts” are simultaneously a viable and efficient political solution; that is, they are an instrument that in itself brings about change? There are several reasons for doubting this claim. First, contracts were assigned an extremely wide range of goals. My analysis of internal ministry memoranda, official speeches, and directives from August 1988 to the end of 198923 shows that contract practices were presented not as a solution, but the solution, the one capable of curing all ills.24 The most frequent line of argument may be summed up thus: Higher education is facing a particular set of challenges—“an increasing number of bac-holders, a high level of required knowledge, training of cadres and executive managers, the European Union level in higher education, international research, playing a role in regional development”25—and the only way to respond successfully to them is to implement a contract policy. Contracts were considered an elixir, a miracle cure, and the patients were being asked to believe that that cure would fit the diagnosis of university education’s ills and the projected general developments. In fact, no one explained why contractual relations between the ministry and the universities would make it possible to respond effectively to the challenges identified. Contract policy was justified by the repeated but never demonstrated claim that there was a causal link between managing funding distribution through contracts and French universities’ chances of successfully meeting the announced challenges. Second, confidence in the effectiveness of contracts was based more on systematic adherence to the principle than empirical evidence. Can it be said that the ministry was right to bet on contracts because contracts are indeed a “uni versal panacea”? Post-implementation evaluations of several public-sector contract policies give ample reason for doubt.26 Whereas these various experiments had highly comparable goals—to facilitate the strengthening of intermediary levels and those responsible for “guiding” them, to modify the


content and nature of “center-periphery” relations,27 to revise funding distribution criteria28— the results were mixed, and in some cases contracting even produced results that were diametrically opposed to those sought, namely, hardening of “center-periphery” relations, rigidifying of funding allocation processes, and so forth.29 As we concluded then (Berrivin and Musselin 1996), contracting is not at all an automatically efficient solution. There are three reasons for this. First, contracting is a fragile procedure. Since it involves a rule-bound sequence of interdependent moves through time, it risks running out of steam; incentive must be renewed to keep the procedure going.30 Moreover, it is exposed to the overformalizing or standardizing moves that overseeing authorities are always tempted to use to stabilize it, and to dilution of the relations of mutual trust necessary to it, which are threatened by political inconstancy and not ensured by any third-party guarantor.31 Also, contracting demands a great deal from those who initiate the procedure. Transforming relations between overseeing authority and overseen units involves more than changing how the latter operate, it requires the authority to adapt to its instrument (develop new skills and functions, new modes of cooperation among departments that had been highly compartmentalized, and so forth). Contracting thus has a boomerang effect on central departments, one that they themselves had largely underestimated and that they were not always able to handle very well. Second, contract practices involve two contradictory steering modes: a centralizing, interventionist mode—overseeing authorities are the initiators of such policies, and as such they are hardly following a dynamic of state disengagement but instead aim to better control the situation; and a differentiating mode whereby the ministry starts taking account more effectively of localcontext diversity. Both these steering modes are operative, and there is tension between them. The issue raised by contracting practices is thus not so much how to steer public action “with or without the law”32 as what type or level of law (or rules) should be used so that diversity may be tolerated while a common, center-determined framework is maintained. Third, and consequent to the first two points, a contract is an “empty shell.” Its content and meaning depend above all on the way they are shaped and transformed into operating principles by those who implement them. This is why it is crucial to examine the process. It is not so much the instrument but how it is put to use that makes the difference. In other words, the question at this point is not why the ministry chose to use contracts but why this policy, in this particular case, brought about lasting changes in the ministry’s steering modes.33 Balance of Power and Production of Meaning Within the Ministry As mentioned, one of the major effects of the contract policy on university education was to introduce the “university” level into the ministry’s steering modes. This was facilitated by a voluntarist shift in the balance of power within


the central administration. From 1989 to 1991 the ministry’s discipline-focused department was moved aside and a new university-focused department brought forward. But as we shall see, this shift is not in itself enough to explain the impact of the contract policy. In August 1988, Lionel Jospin met with his cabinet in a brain-storming session known as a séminaire where Daniel Bancel’s idea for developing contract practices was approved. Claude Allègre, special adviser to the ministry, then took over the work of making ministry-with-university contracts reality. He first created a task force which in turn prepared a directive outlining the contract policy: every university was to analyze its existing situation (this was termed analyse de l’existant) and draw up a four-year development plan that would then be used as the basis for negotiations between the university president and the ministry. Meanwhile, Allègre initiated collective reflection on reorganizing the central administration around the creation of a new structure, a new department, that would realize the ministry’s new projects: university contracts, the Université 2000 plan, and a general pay raise. In May 1989, this preparation phase came to an end; the directive was published, the central administration was restructured. Allègre had fulfilled his role of policy entrepreneur (Padioleau 1982) and now left the ministry in charge. From that time onward, university contracts would be much more than a cabinet affair. The ministry reorganization profoundly changed the internal balance of power. The new department was called the Direction de la Programmation et du Développement Universitaire or DPDU. It was added to the three “classic” departments: the DESUP (Direction des Enseignements Supérieurs), the DPES (Direction des Personnels de l’Enseignement Supérieur), and the DRED (Direction de la Recherche et des Etudes Doctorales). The DPDU was put in charge of matters that had been the work of other departments, namely, budget, university premises construction, and the carte universitaire. It was also given tasks that had not existed before, namely the Université 2000 plan and ministryuniversity contracts. For the first time, a ministry department was devoted entirely to university steering.34 As a result, everything came to be structured explicitly around the DPDU, which, though it did not have the function or status of a head department (direction générale),35 did contain most vital functions and was therefore at the intersection of a number of different processes, which it was called upon to coordinate. The effect of this strong new department was to weaken the DESUP, which had been the heart of central administration of higher education. To its great displeasure, the DESUP was now dethroned, amputated of certain limbs:36 They had to overcome resistance, but…. All in all, énarques are good servants of the state,37 and they put that before their ideology. Still, this department [the DESUP] used to be powerful. It had the windows [distributed some specific budget funding on a discretionary basis], and that power now went to the DPDU. So it seemed to people…you could feel it in


the air. Altègre was aware of it. There were gaping wounds in this department, and Allègre knew it. (a DESUP director) The reorganization went together with thoroughgoing staff changes. Appointing new department directors is standard practice,38 as is changing the organization chart in a ministry as sensitive to political power changeovers as education.39 Nor need we dwell on the fact that, like most of their predecessors, the new department directors all came from academic or research backgrounds. Other institutional arrangements were more unusual and deserve greater attention.40 The creation of the DPDU and its new tasks was in fact an occasion for bringing in new blood. Of course some DPDU personnel came from dissolved mid-level DESUP bureaus, but the new functions also meant new hiring. Armand Frémont, the first DPDU director, called on persons he had already worked with or knew as rector of the Académie of Grenoble. By September 1989 the first team was in place and ready to steer the first wave of contracts. It was later expanded in the same way: those already at work called on persons they knew. New personnel were expected to believe in the new programs and share in the spirit behind them. From its inception, then, the DPDU was in a strong position. Its members quickly constituted a team, and they set themselves up as indefatigable proponents and spokespersons for the contract policy. Their cohesion had no equal in other departments. Moreover, the DPDU’s official powers put the DESUP in a dependent position. Vested with new, innovative programs, the DPDU was the hub, both look-out and pilot (as specified in personal notes on an internal seminar that took place a few days after the department was officially opened in May 1989), a fact that further irritated the other departments: The DPDU negotiated both the building concrete and the money. And they had the university advisers, who did the liaison, so the universities felt [the DPDU] was taking better care of them. Meanwhile, the DESUP’s role was to get in the way, to prevent things from rolling along smoothly by means of expert group and CNESER decision making [Conseil National de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche]. They [the universities] would propose a course portfolio and our answer was “No, it doesn’t have enough potential.” The DPDU had a clear will to hegemony over the other departments…. It was clearly the department that orchestrated everything, while the other departments had their own areas to manage and the advisers’ role was to be in the field.” (DESUP) The DPDU-DESUP power reshuffle caused a great deal of tension between the two departments.41 The redistributing of official powers between conseillers pédagogiques (academic experts grouped by discipline and charged with examining accreditation applications) and conseillers d’université (university advisers, also academics but organized by geographic zone and in charge of moving the contract process along) brought with it numerous


adjustments, all of which benefited the DPDU.42 The sharpest clashes between the two departments concerned the fit between discipline-based accreditation and university contracts. First, with regard to work organization, the disciplinefocused activity of expert evaluation for course accreditation had to be made to coincide with contract negotiation, which concerned universities as a whole. This raised more technical problems for the DESUP than the DPDU. It was required to follow a number of regulated procedures for accreditation: submitting proposals to technical committees that check norm compliance, getting CNESER approval, and so forth. No such constraints applied to DPDU contracting procedures, which were not as formalized or as dependent on a fixed regulatory framework. This was one source of tension: the DPDU dismissed the DESUP as punctilious; in contrast, it could focus more on content than form. Lastly, there was the problem of criteria ranking. As in the past, the DESUP was responsible for expert evaluation of the fundamental content of education—the task of its conseillers pédagogiques and experts—and its conformity to the national maquette, the task of department administrators. For the DPDU, on the other hand, a “good” contract was one that valorized the existence of a common project, a collective idea for and originating in the given university. An accreditation application might be rejected by the DESUP for not conforming to the national maquette but supported by the DPDU because it fit well into that university’s project or met a local need. Since the DPDU was signatory to the contract, it had the final say. This meant that it regularly managed to impose its position on the DESUP: The DESUP went completely overboard with its insubstantial norms. So I said, “Look, we don’t give a damn about your accreditation.” We set up a literature-and-languages licence degree because it was consistent with job openings and because the region needed junior high school teachers. And it’s in the contract, even though it goes against the maquette texts. We said it was an experimental project, and it passed—though it sat for three months at the DESUP. (a DPDU university adviser). Clearly the changed balance of power within the central administration, the transfer of official powers and resources from one department to another, or rather from one procedure (study program accreditation) to another (university contract negotiation) was what enabled the “university” level to penetrate ministerial practices. And thanks to the longevity of the Jospin-Allègre tandem— four years, nearly a record for the Ministère de l’Education Nationale—the university level established a firm foothold. Still, the DPDU’s victory over the DESUP cannot be reduced to one department taking over another’s power. It also has to do with the “doctrine” developed by promoters of the contract policy.43 During this period, the DESUP suffered not only from its dependent position and a funding deficit but from a deficit of ideas, sense of purpose, and legitimacy. There was a sharp normative


imbalance between the two departments. Members of the DESUP acted in a sort of conceptual void, merely continuing as they had before without trying to demonstrate the soundness of their practices or win legitimacy for them. Their efforts to oppose the DPDU therefore appear essentially utilitarian, aimed at tempering the grip of the DPDU and reconquering their lost position, and fueled primarily by self-interest. DPDU members criticized them for just this, accusing them of not caring about what would be advisable for universities. And the fact that there was no DESUP counterdiscourse made it particularly easy to see the motives of that department’s members as purely instrumental. Rather than developing a vision of university education contrary to the one taking shape within the DPDU, the DESUP resisted by mobilizing material, structural, and regulatory resources.44 The DPDU’s story during this period was of course entirely different. Here, too, department staff were engaged in defending their interests and new turf, and the behaviors they adopted were just as strategic as the DESUP’s. But at the same time they were intensely engaged in producing meaning, constructing referents, defining and legitimizing practices and procedures, and, more generally, elaborating new representations about the place of universities in the education system. The DPDU maintained its centrality by making a considerable investment in developing what its members called “the contractualization doctrine.” And on that ground there was no competition from other departments. The DPDU-DESUP turf war was heated, but it was never an ideological battle between, to put it roughly, partisans of the disciplines and partisans of the institutions. The DPDU was in a monopoly situation simply because no systematic counterarguments were being made.45 Two factors facilitated the development of a doctrine within the DPDU. First, the department had virtually virgin territory to work on—or rather, they had a vacant lot to construct on. The contract policy was not the product of any preexisting theory of university education; the “system of reference for action” here had yet to be invented. Second, when Claude Allègre handed over the reins of the new department to the administration in 1989, the system still needed to be constructed. The directive set only a very general schedule, and many questions remained open. What was a universitywide project? What did a good project consist in? What attitude should be adopted regarding universities that prepared “bad” projects? Should set issues or themes be taken up in contracts? To answer these questions, DPDU members had first to form an opinion, then specify to universities what was expected of them, lay down the rules of the game. The doctrine was thus highly pragmatic: procedures had to be established, schedules set, geographic zones drawn, responsibilities defined, and so forth. The work was not carried out in opposition to anything, but through an open-ended, trial-anderror, solution-seeking process that involved information dissemination and exchange.46 The DPDU took off from a few ideas, clarifying and developing them as it went along:


When set off we had just a compass. In our seminars we’d identified a few major directions. Modernizing university management was the first and most pressing problem; also taking account of the university as a whole and setting up a longer-term system, with commitment on number of jobs and funding for at least two years, maybe four. We had a few goals, and we had to get a projected estimate on our activity…. For the first wave and the universities of the north and west, we did it any old way. Total improvisation. The concern was for it to work and for the presidents to sign. (DPDU) The gradual work of developing policy practices gave rise to intermediate assessment, enabling ministry actors to find just the formula they wanted to use by capitalizing on acquired experience. Moreover, defining these practices went hand in hand with ensuring that they were consistent with each other and seeking legitimacy for them. For the very first contracts, the DPDU turned to former university presidents and vice-presidents to create a group of university advisers. This function had never before existed. Until that point, universities called upon to work with the ministry did so in the name of a discipline; they exercised their expertise by evaluating discipline-focused projects. This time advisers had to intervene in a given geographical zone, not a disciplinary sector, and they were called upon not to give an expert opinion on existing projects but rather to help universities prepare contracts. Their tasks were not defined at the outset, but gradually refined: University advisors regularly met to think out and reflect on their practices, exchange experiences, present innovations discovered in “their” universities, determine where they stood and the progress yet to be made:47 Once every two weeks we met for a day-long work session. This was excellent for understanding each institution, since we were all different, and we were all from different disciplines. This was very important. (university adviser) The purpose of these meetings was to define what was and was not “consistent” with the spirit of the contract policy, to specify university advisers’ “philosophy for action” and how they should behave when dealing with universities, and to circulate information and formalize procedures. Yet the contractualization doctrine cannot be reduced to the formalizing of operational arrangements and principles of action. It also led to wider-ranging reflection on contracting itself. Far from being just a means of distributing the greater part of funding on the basis of fixed criteria and allocating supplementary funding on the basis of negotiation and selection,48 contracts were invested by DPDU members with a vaster purpose, namely, making individual universities proceed in more collective, strategic fashion and with greater foresight. The process of conceiving, preparing, and negotiating contracts that was taking place in universities was always considered more important than the contract itself or


its content. There is significant evidence of this. First, the DPDU established contracts even with universities whose projects were not satisfactory according to its criteria; clearly it was more concerned with the learning aspect of the process. Second, relatively little emphasis was put on evaluating contract enactment: The first contracts contained no indication of how they would be followed up on or implemented. It was not that DPDU members had forgotten the matter of evaluation (indeed, it is regularly mentioned in service-level memoranda) but rather that this aspect seemed less important than promoting a collective dynamic within universities. For this reason it was necessary to avoid doing anything that might transform the contract into a mere management tool, at least during the first years. Lastly, not much attention was paid to framing contract content: The universities had great freedom in choosing the issues or themes their project would address.49 For the DPDU, the crucial point was to get a collective dynamic going within individual universities that would enable them to ‘analyze the existing situation,’ identify priorities, and successfully draft a common project that would not be the sum of university departments’ respective projects: When I arrived there were no indicators [to universities]. We tried once or twice, but fairly quickly we rationalized, saying it wasn’t worth it. We’ve been criticized for not checking that funds were in fact used for this or that projected action. But frankly, we didn’t care whether only 20,000 of the 50, 000 [francs] we allocated were used for this or that action. This may seem a shocking thing to say, but really, the contract didn’t matter much. What was uppermost—and the necessary condition for getting started—was establishing a relationship of trust between the ministry and the universities. (DPDU) There are thus several levels for apprehending the contract policy. It can be seen as a set of boxes that fit into rather than exclude each other, something like a Russian “matrioshka” doll. In its narrowest sense, it was a document that formalized the results of a negotiation between the central administration and an individual university. From a slightly broader perspective, it was an instrument for allocating supplementary funding to correct the mechanical effects of criteriabased allocation and rectify budgetary equilibrium among the various universities. But it was also a means of pushing the universities to engage in medium-term strategic thinking and introduce more foresight into university steering. Lastly, it was a driving force for strengthening the collective aspect of universities, moving them to use the degree of autonomy they had, and strengthening their identity. The DPDU team that developed around Armand Frémont thus transformed what was a procedure, a formal arrangement, into principles for action and, much more broadly, a high ambition for universities. The doctrine ultimately “overflowed” contract policy. Rather than just a philosophy for the action of


establishing ministry-university contracts, it became the vector of a new representation of universities, the idea that they should become self-developing actors, not only through the procedure of contract preparation but over the four years between contract signings. The extremely broad scope of the doctrine may be perceived in the DPDU’s extended activities; it began to propose “services” to universities that were no longer narrowly focused on contracts but on daily management, services that would help universities develop technical skills and encourage them to invest in matters they usually considered beyond their competence.50 Such actions called into question prevailing representations not only of universities but also of the overseeing ministry’s role. Rather than a means of transmitting the ministry’s “good word” they were focused on existing experiments being conducted by universities and presented by them in seminars. The ministry created these occasions for exchange and gave them the name mutualisation a word referring to the profitable sharing of useful experience. It did not dictate norms or solutions. In sum, contract policy implementation and the work of defining, formalizing, and legitimating that implementation gave rise to a new system of reference for action (Jobert and Muller 1987) that carried within it a new idea of the ministry’s role: more oriented toward negotiation and recognition of local norms, norms to be made consistent with each other rather than brought to conform to an existing national standard. The new system of reference also involved a new concept of the place and role of universities. Policies were to be defined within individual institutions; it was at this level that they were to be integrated and synthesized; they were no longer to be limited to education and research but also to pertain to budgets, personnel management, university buildings and grounds, and so forth. In other words, it was at the level of the individual institutions that certain goals would now be chosen over others and that the fit between ends and means would be ensured. The contract policy thus acquired a new dimension and weight. It was no longer merely a procedure negotiated between center and periphery; it now bore a new representation of balance between them, a shift from “national” to “local,” a transfer of synthesizing and integration capability from ministry to universities. Indeed, it attenuated the very notions of center and periphery, since what it brought to the fore were negotiated relations between the ministry and actors with recognized autonomy.51 After 1991: Adjustments within the Overseeing Ministry Combined with Dissemination and Extension of the “Doctrine” More than ten years later, university-level logic is still present within the ministry and the understanding and approach produced by the doctrine are alive and well, and shared by increasing numbers of actors. To return to the story,


however, the DPDU’s golden age started coming to a end in 1992, and the department itself disappeared in 1993. The “disciplines” took advantage of this situation to regain lost ground, but they have not been able to dislodge university logic. The DPDU began to weaken in November 1991, when DESUP and DPDU directors took their leave and central department tasks were redefined. Daniel Bloch replaced Frank Métras at the head of the DESUP; Armand Frémont was replaced by René Peylet at the head of the DPDU. Changes at the top provided the occasion to redistribute official powers and responsibilities. The DESUP once again became responsible for certain budgets and could once again insist on “pedagogical” choices that were not provided for in the contracts. Many of the battles took place around the Instituts Universitaires Professionalisés or IUPs, three-year, selective-admission programs aimed directly at the job market that took students after one year of post-bac study. This time the DPDU could not get the cabinet to arbitrate in its favor: One thing that shocked us was the IUPs and IUP funding. Without asking us our opinion, [the DESUP] created a special IUP funding window. Boom. There was one at [X]—not easy to set up, problems with the local Chamber of Commerce and Industry. But one day they looked down and there was manna at their feet, just like that! It distorted everything That was really a hard period. (university adviser) The DESUP could once again stand up to the DPDU, make decisions without getting approval from the rival department, make itself attractive to the universities through such “service windows.” Moreover, its new director became the spokesman for an academic policy that, while it did not have the scope of the DPDU doctrine, was in any case a counterweight to it. The subordination of accreditation to contracts began to diminish in late 1991. This continued during a new period of political cohabitation, 1993 to 1995, this time between Socialist president Mitterrrand and his Gaullist prime minister Edouard Balladur. The DPDU was abolished and replaced with a service for universities with reduced powers and responsibilities, part of the new Direction Générale des Enseignements Supérieurs or DGES. The disciplines began regaining broad swaths of lost ground. University department directors once again had access to the ministry (which had been reserved to university presidents after 1989 as a way of showing that priority was given to those institutions), and instead of a single ministry adviser for each university, several advisers were now assigned—to represent the different disciplinary sensibilities. Adjustments between services in charge of contracts and services in charge of accreditation were not the only changes. The contract policy itself had fallen on hard times. Starting in 1991, the economic context changed, the crisis deepened significantly, and ministry budgets became less favorable to universities than in the preceding years. This undermined the contract policy. University presidents


began to express concern about whether the state was going to fulfill its commitments. The situation worsened after the 1993 legislative elections, as the budgetary belt-tightening announced by the Balladur government and the dramatic slowdown in budget growth rate for higher education intensified fears that the ministry’s commitments would indeed be revised downward. Confidence in contracts was shaken, as could readily be sensed in surveys conducted in various universities in 1994 (Lipiansky and Musselin 1995). The prospect of budget-cutting was bitter. And then it happened: under pressure from the finance ministry, it was decided that contracts would no longer include four-year commitments on posts. Now only 5 percent of the operating budget could be negotiated, making the policy much less attractive for universities. Lastly, within the ministry, the contract policy lost a part of its essence. Qualitative goals became secondary, whereas the “management tool” feature of contracts was reinforced. The doctrine did not evolve in this period. After 1993, contracts no longer enjoyed the strong position of proposals to the ministry that they had had before. This led to a feeling, commonly expressed in 1994, that the second generation of contracts were more a standard administrative procedure; that contracts had become more a tool for budget negotiation than a means of promoting a collective university dynamic. The more standardized nature of ministry-to-university documents was cited. It would be a mistake to conclude from this, however, that the contract policy had undergone the same fate as the three experiments described above. It did lose ground, but it did not disappear. It was no longer central, but it was not marginalized; it evolved instead of going off track. That is, while it did not prevent the accreditation procedure from making a place for itself again within the ministry, it was not absorbed by that procedure. Disciplinary logic and university institution logic now had to coexist, and this was a real change from the pre-1988 situation. In fact, the scope of contracts has increased. Now up to 15 percent of operating budget is open to negotiation, and four-year research and university contracts are no longer managed separately but negotiated together in a single contract—this has been the case since the mid-1990s. Regularly, the various aspects of life in a university—teaching approaches and methods, research, management, running the institution—are worked out in a set of simultaneous negotiations. Contract preparation is of course still based on discipline-focused evaluations for accrediting this or that course of study or research project, but those evaluations are combined with other demands that take into account overall consistency within the university in question. The fact that this policy has been maintained in one form or another for fifteen years, through many ups and downs, and a recent move to relaunch a strong version of it,52 attest to the institutionalization of the practice. But not only has this setup, at first glance innocuous, unspectacular, with nothing in it to attract media attention, become implanted in the ministry; it has also fueled a profound change in the French university system and dealt a decisive


blow to faculty-dominant conceptions. The contract policy did not, of course, entirely supplant those ideas; we therefore cannot speak of a revolution. But the change is undeniable. At the end of the 1990s the overseeing ministry is not the antithesis of what it was in 1988, but it is not the same ministry. Discourse and representations, which until that time had remained outside central administration doors, have increased in legitimacy and been incorporated, even if current steering modes reflect the fact that the balance is forever renegotiated between actions based on disciplinary criteria and actions that take account of more strictly institutional needs and demands. The story and history of the contract policy are thus one of an internal struggle. Held in check for more than three years, from 1988 through most of 1991, disciplinary logic did regain ground afterward, but it has never recovered its former monopoly position. In the struggle between the “disciplines” and “university institutions” two conceptions are opposed. One, disciplinary and synoptic, aims to guarantee the primacy of national degrees throughout the land and maintain them as the basis for allocating funds to universities; the other is more sensitive to university specificities and promotes a kind of management that is not as dependent on national norms while tying funding distribution less directly to state degrees. One remains loyal to the principles of uniformity and equality; the other recognizes diversity and accepts differences.53 Moreover, the trend toward recognition of the “university” level is indissociable from the shake-up of the centralized model. The contract policy benefited from that shake-up. Introduced during the second wave of higher education massification, it readily appeared an alternative instrument, better able to register and respond to the changes under way. And contracting in turn worked to undermine the centralized, standardizing model, by pushing universities to put forward their specificities, develop their own policies, and define original four-year projects. Universities did not have extensive maneuvering room; they had to fit themselves into the general policy framework defined and legitimized by the ministry. But state steering too evolved, moving from a bureaucratic, rule-fixated regulation mode based on national norms and rules to a goal-based regulation mode, where the ministry sets primary goals that determine general directions and principles but leaves it up to universities to determine secondary goals and establish priorities among them. University heterogeneity has been recognized, and is even appreciated, despite the fact that the overseeing ministry also works to limit the spectrum of that heterogeneity by setting endpoints to it. This development was possible because the idea ripened within the DPDU that universities should become more important actors, that it was at university level that coherent policies and particularizing strategies should be defined and translated into action. This idea became embedded in that ministry department, but it also spread beyond it, which explains why it did not fade out with the elimination of the DPDU. In fact, as the idea was relayed by other groups, it overflowed the contract policy and came to cover the whole set of initiatives referred to by the term “university modernization.” The Délégation à la


Modernisation et à la Déconcentration became one of the most active vectors for spreading the conception within the ministry during the difficult period of the mid-1990s. Contracts began regaining firmer footing in 1997. But approaches very close to the DPDU’s were also supported and spread outside the ministry— in the GIGUE, for example (see chap. 4). Created by former members of the DPDU team (among them Josette Soulas and Alain Abecassis54), the GIGUE’s purpose was to get universities throughout France to start using computer management programs, but it functioned according to logic similar to the DPDU’s: the GIGUE simultaneously conceived its computer systems as a technical instrument and a means of facilitating bigger, more ambitious changes within universities.55 Over the same period, and starting with Bernard Dizambourg’s election to a two-year term as first vice-president in 1993,56 the Conference des Présidents d’Université (CPU) became a support group for the new system of reference. Forging ahead on the path his predecessors had laid out, Dizambourg managed to get the CPU to switch from a “reactive” to a more “proactive” role and to make it a relevant interlocutor for the ministry, one more concerned to argue in favor of university proposals. The CPU also projected an image of the university president as more willing to play an attacking position, more a “director” than a primus inter pares. This transformation of the CPU’s role (expanded ministry lobbying tasks, increased activities in favor of individual universities) explains in part why the new Agence de Modernisation des Universités was attached to the CPU.57 The creation of this agency, which in turn expanded the GIGUE’s tasks, was fully in line with the doctrine that had developed out of the contract policy: the idea behind the agency was dear to and energetically defended by former members of the DPDU, and its tasks strengthened universities. The agency was designed to offer services to universities that would enable them to develop selfmanagement capabilities and to develop and implement university policies. Moreover, its actions were perfectly consistent with centerperiphery relations as they had been redefined by contract policy implementation. Its job was to facilitate the emergence of norms based on practices developed by the universities; that is, to get university initiatives known—to “mutualize” them, agency members would say—rather than impose norms and practices. The agency’s vocation was thus consistent with the “doctrine” that had developed out of contracting, while intensifying promotion of university education based on stronger, more autonomous universities. The examples just cited show that the elimination of the DPDU did not prevent dissemination of the general understanding, ideas, and approaches the DPDU had supported. Those ideas, and approaches bounced back—in many forms, in other places. In the way the contract policy was developed, but above all in its impact, it was therefore very different from the three experiments that preceded it. Whereas before 1989, when the ministry-university contract policy was launched, there was no trace of a firmly constituted system of reference or group of disseminating mediators, after 1993 we can, on the contrary, identify new


conceptions that took on consistency within the ministry and would be disseminated beyond it. We can also identify the actors who propelled those conceptions and who, after the DPDU was abolished and they themselves had left the ministry, continued to bear, disseminate and transform them into other forms of action. This policy approach was able to spread and expand not only because it modified the overseeing ministry’s steering modes but because it came to be disseminated well beyond the ministerial framework, mobilizing the central administration and coming to pervade the universities themselves—as we shall now see.

6 French Universities Emerge

Not only has the contract policy modified ministry steering modes but it has also initiated and fueled a new dynamic within universities, whereby each now develops its own policy, defines its own project, with the institution’s actors collectively determining its particular directions and priorities. However, introducing the “university” component into ministry steering modes did not mechanically strengthen French university governance. The success and longevity of the contract policy are also due to universities’ reactiveness, their readiness to seize the opportunity offered them.1 Ten years later, the effects are clearly visible. A study conducted in 1998 in four universities (interview excerpts marked “University governance survey”2), and a study done three years earlier on contract preparation and negotiation in three other universities (excerpts marked “Contractualization evaluation survey”3), produced convergent results showing two clear, related trends: rationalization and professionalization of university management on the one hand, stronger governance modes on the other. The results indicate only overall trends, of course. But they are the fruit of detailed studies conducted in several universities, and thus have a more solid, sound empirical basis than most published statements, opinions, and general stances on French universities.4 shall not discuss observable variations among universities here. Such differences reflect the increased, complex heterogeneity that characterizes university operating and governance modes, heterogeneity that cannot be explained by traditional dependent variables such as size, geographic location, disciplines present, teacher-student ratio, and so forth. But beyond this diversity we do find convergent trends for the different universities studied in the two surveys mentioned above, and again in studies I have been co-conducting on academic hiring in ten universities.5 What characterizes the organizational development process in which French universities (most of them) are currently engaged? Universities Take up the Work of Self-management In an early 1960s work, Gusdorf wrote:


The university is a luxury, surely one of the most legitimate of all forms of luxury…. [It] has no particular use or purpose, but is there instead to serve its own purposes, and however mediocre may be the persons who make it function, it calls man back to the order of man. (Gusdorf 1964, 83) Those words might set some people dreaming—those who like to imagine a largely mythical time when the university was accountable to no one. The contemporary reality of universities is quite different. With the development of mass university education, universities became active in training skilled workers for the economic sector, and, as actors, universities are less and less in a position to be indifferent to their “products” or the needs of society. It may be deemed unfair or illegitimate to demand that universities be accountable for what they do, but it cannot be denied that the pressure on them to be so has increased, and university academics and administrators have not remained indifferent to criticism. On this point, there is a striking difference between the early 1980s and today. French universities are increasingly asking themselves such questions as “What do we produce?” and “What are we supposed to do and how?” Specifically, universities are beginning to move into two areas that used to be ministry responsibilities. The first of these is production of data and indicators. Universities have always had to provide such information, but the main purpose up until now was to inform the central administration, rather than generate consistent data and increase university self-knowledge.6 Second, universities have been engaging in in-house thinking about how best to use their financial resources, whereas that question used to be put in terms of external bookchecking, either by the education ministry, a representative of the finance ministry (accountant), or another state oversight service (the revenue court [French equivalent of U.S. General Accounting Office] or the IGAEN [Inspection Générale de l’Administration de l’Education Nationale]). External pressure on universities to be more accountable does not in itself explain their efforts over the last decade to produce reliable information on themselves. Here contractualization has played a key role. In preparing their first contracts, most universities discovered that they lacked the rudimentary data needed to conduct the analyse de l’existant on which the next stage, that is, setting directions and priorities, depends. They had no clear, immediately available answers to apparently simple questions such as exact surface area, how nonacademic staff were distributed among university components (academic departments, shared facilities), administrative and course enrollments, and so forth. Contract preparation thus gave rise to a long labor of collecting and aggregating information: We hadn’t inventoried our material patrimony for ages. It took a year and a half to do so, and since then we’ve put labels on everything. That’s important. As the accountant explained, it enables us to calculate what


obsolete equipment needs to be replaced (a UFR director, Contract evaluation survey). As they became aware of how little information they had on themselves, the lack of data on which to base either retrospective evaluations or future projections, universities moved to develop internal indicators, introduce management oversight methods, develop data bases (in part through student surveys conducted by campus research centers called Observatoires de la Vie étudiante), etc. In some cases, they hired project leaders to collect information and define indicators. This exercise also pointed up the difficulty of aggregating and comparing existing data. Everyone had defined their own categories and used their own calculation instruments, thus creating a certain opacity—either deliberately or simply through practice diversity. Serious efforts were made to rationalize and harmonize procedures and technical instruments. This was in large part what motivated universities to acquire the computer management programs developed and sold by the GIGUE and later by the Agence de Modernisation (now Agence de Mutualisation), particularly Nabuco, for accounting and budget management, and Apogée, for student management. These actions had three consequences. The first was increased harmony for practices and instruments. Departments and research laboratories often had their own methods for monitoring funding and expenses; Nabuco was designed to replace them, and generate more numerous and precise data more quickly. This program could also aggregate data of various sorts and produce standardized, consolidated, comparable information. Second, all were obliged to make their practices more transparent. For example, for Apogée to generate a model for calculating student grades, the modalities for testing student knowledge had to be reviewed clearly and defined. This new computer program thus required formalizing information that up until then had been informal and variable. The Nabuco program strictly follows public accounting rules, and certain operations cannot be registered by it unless a whole series of information has been entered. The program can be run only if everyone follows the same rules, a constraint that precludes the type of in-group arrangements used before. Lastly, requiring all university components to follow the same calculation rules limits the discrepancies caused by use of diverse calculation methods—methods that can be defined to show, or hide, whatever the calculator wants. As may be expected, not everyone in universities supports harmonization and greater transparency. How these initiatives are received depends on whether actors expect them to have positive or negative effects for them (Gueissaz 1999). The Apogée program may stand as an example here: administrators and academics sharply differed in their reaction to it. Administrators in the universities we observed spoke very favorably of the program, actively participated in getting it running, and saw it as a means of facilitating their work


and improving their relations with students. Teachers, on the other hand, spoke critically of it, for not taking into account the specificities of each disciplinary specialization, for fixing and rigidifying procedures,7 thereby increasing teacher workloads,8 and for making teacher surveillance possible (by keeping track of whether teaching hour requirements were being met). Such resistance is not surprising. In universities as in other organizations, collecting data and introducing computer instruments requires people to reach agreement on a minimum number of common practices and surrender a degree of opacity. Actors perceive these demands as threatening, and they develop various types of opposition in response: keeping parallel books, either by hand or with a separate computer program; incompletely filling out information tables;9 underusing computer programs.10 Still, university actors have come to accept establishing common practices and using identical calculation rules and similar calculation instruments. This technical and “cultural” change is extremely important because it obliges actors to think of themselves as constituting a larger whole. The new ways required by computerization will always encounter and have to overcome resistance, but they have helped and are helping to improve university “selfknowledge” and keep track of budgets, funding and costs, and they have enabled universities to produce information that up until now was simply not available. On balance, respondents deem that the introduction and generalization of computerization has been useful. The third consequence of this change involves how the new data is used. It is far too early to measure the power of these efforts to change in-house attitudes and behaviors. But clearly they have had an impact on criteria for distributing financial resources within universities. The comprehensive review of existing data brought to light differences among UFRs, and this has changed the arguments on the basis of which university policy is determined (Merrien and Musselin 1999). Making discrepancies within a single university visible, translating them into hard figures, has in many cases affected how priorities are defined in contract preparation. Moreover, explicit use is made of this information in later decisions: Contract policy required a comprehensive review of many things and enabled us to gain knowledge of our components in an unbiased way. We now know that there are components with deficits: law, and us. So for every academic post created, it’s either law or us. And the contract required us to do this, and publish it. (a UFR director, Contractualization evaluation survey, 1994) These actions go hand in hand with efforts to use resources “better.” Again, before contracts, university were preoccupied only with external verification of funding use. Verification was the exclusive business of the central administration, which allocated budget funding and checked its use afterward. But for some years now, universities have taken over this work in their own ways. Questions


may now be asked, studies done, and actions taken on subjects that used to be considered taboo. It is no longer sacrilege to say that universities might be better managed, or to acknowledge that resources have not always been used in the best possible way. A number of university actors with responsibilities at various levels have come to believe it is up to them to intervene on such issues, not the ministry. On this point, academics’ and administrators’ discourses have changed considerably. Academics have moved away from the complacent or resigned attitude they adopted in the early 1980s, when they claimed that in cases of abuse no one intervened. In the four universities studied in 1998, UFR directors were checking that their teachers met teaching hour requirements, and no one found this scandalous or intolerable. Moreover, measures for controlling and keeping track of overtime teaching hours were being applied in all four universities. The results do not always meet expectations, but progress has been made. Above all, the ideas that overtime hours should be kept track of, that funding requests for overtime hours must be backed up with demonstrations of need, and that exceeding the limited number of hours must be justified are now nearly unanimously accepted. These conclusions confirm observations made in the 1994 survey on contract negotiation in three universities: The contract has brought about considerable changes in managing the university and its components. Having a single budget for the whole institution forces us to pay close attention to overtime. This amounts to a small cultural revolution. It’s a completely different way of thinking about budget funding and running the institution. (a vice president, Contractualization evaluation survey, 1994) Broadly speaking, people in universities have become more sensitive to costs and more aware of possibilities for meeting new spending needs. University decisionmaking bodies now often take this aspect into account when examining new study program accreditation requests. The intrinsic quality of a project is no longer enough to win it CEVU approval [Conseil des Etudes et de la Vie Universitaire*; Council for Studies and University Life]. Project proposers must also show, in advance, that the necessary funds are already available, that the project requires no increased funding or that complementary funding has been found, and so forth. The most interesting aspect of this development is that university personnel have taken on university management problems; they no longer leave them entirely up to the ministry. Some UFR directors call in teachers who have not fulfilled their workloads or a department member who has exceeded the department’s allotted budget. Likewise, cost has become a decision-making criterion in the CEVU. A process of internalizing constraints and oversight is under way, whereas before these concerns and function were pushed “outside” (to the ministry, the university administration, etc.)


Lastly, not only do such rationalization efforts lead to “healthier” management, that is, concern to make the best possible use of resources; they also work to strengthen the university level. Collecting data, computerizing, reflecting on how best or better to distribute and use funding is harmonizing behaviors: Norms are emerging out of university practices. The various resistances developed in response to rationalization operations are proof of this: Resisters tend to argue in terms that underscore and valorize the specificity of the discipline, field, or UFR in question, expressing regret that such specificity is being neglected in favor of practices common to the institution as a whole. Stronger Self-governing Capabilities It is important not to overestimate the practical impact of this new preoccupation with management or conclude that universities have become shining examples of good public enterprise management. Still, the contrast between how things used to be done—or not done—and how they are done now is enough in itself to justify my optimistic view. The same is true of French university government. The distance traveled from the situation I described for universities in the 1980s to their situation today deserves to be underscored, and sharp contrasts on specific points noted. The first of these involves the university dynamic created by contract policy: Components of the same university think of themselves as constituting a whole and decide together on directions and priorities for the following four years. Contracts have thus encouraged and legitimized the development of collective projects, or rather they have catalyzed this development, causing university actors to mobilize the potential for autonomy latent in each institution.11 The collective dynamic is strengthened by the fact that individual projects are officially registered in the contracts. While such projects represent circumscribed initiatives, in the sense that they can be realized only by the small group of actors who conceive them, the fact that they are registered in the contract drawn up for the university as a whole, itself a collective document, has changed their status. They are explicitly recognized as priorities for the institution; they are “university projects,” and actors involved in them can refer to them as such. Moreover, most contracts include transversal goals involving several components. Examples are improving student reception, reducing failure or dropout levels among first-cycle students, and building a student center. Devising and working to implement projects common to the university as a whole tends to establish strong ties among parts, accentuating their cohesion. Furthermore, preparing contracts has enabled universities to strengthen their respective identities, display their differences, and put forward their specificity.12 It is not insignificant that several universities have departed recently from the anonymity of the standard formula “city name+number,” adopting instead the name of a renowned scientist or scholar, or a name that underscores their regional


location. More and more universities are using a logo to designate and identify the institution. These are visible symbols of a new reality. The emergence of the collective dimension is also visible in the almost paradoxical transformation of the role of university councils. The Loi Savary required the establishment of an additional university council, the Conseil des Etudes et de la Vie Universitaire—and was promptly criticized on the grounds that this new body, and the size of universities councils overall, would make council work even more inefficient than it already was. This did not happen. More than ten years after complete application of the law, we observe instead that the councils are functioning more professionally, and that their decisionmaking capability has increased. The most striking example of this change is the annual exercise of ranking post creation requests in order of priority. It will be recalled that in the 1980s, universities transmitted lists to the ministry without ranking their needs. Now requests are ranked, and the exercise is taken quite seriously, especially since the ministry usually follows university preferences. Some object that the rankings are timid, don’t change disciplinary balances significantly, that they are, in sum, a dissimulated, more subtle way of not making decisions, involving mere turn-taking and reproduction of past disciplinary balances. Still, our surveys on academic hiring suggest these claims are not accurate. First, all respondents emphasized the fact that post creation requests must now be legitimized by demonstrating need. The “each in turn” rule cannot be relied on to get a strong ranking. Respondents also underlined the “political” nature of the ranking process—the fact that negotiations involve managing conflictual, contradictory interests—and the importance of having good spokespersons on the university councils. No one thinks the game is won in advance, or that the same groups always get more, or that all they have to do is wait their turn. The game they describe is much more open. At the outset, all is yet to be won or lost; to win, players must show much greater tactical skill; and while having won in the past is a strong point, it is not a guarantee of success. University bodies’ newfound capacity for making decisions on posts is very real, and members of disciplinary commissions such as those on CNU sections interviewed in 1996 all note that the 1990s were marked by a strengthening of the universities’ role in these matters, even by increased intervention from university councils (and presidential teams). Councils do not hesitate to differ with UFRs on UFR-indicated priorities, and several components have had the experience of having their wishes modified, with posts they put at the top being placed below those they listed last. The order of post requests on the list sent to the ministry is thus more the choice of universities than the UFRs. This highly sensitive issue is not the only evidence of the change. We also see stronger involvement of university governments in decisions on study program projects sent on to the ministry (Simmonet 1999) and funding distribution. Here again, university bodies function less anomically than a decade ago, and the councils’ decision-making capabilities, their capacity to choose, reject, and request changes, is much greater than before.


Meanwhile, university councils have become professionalized. In the universities studied, decision making in plenary sessions of the Conseil d’Administration*, the Conseil Scientifique*, and the Conseil des Etudes et de la Vie Universitaire is always prepared for in advance by small work groups and/or preliminary negotiations, and in the vast majority of cases, projects that made it to plenary sessions had been fully prepared beforehand and could be worked on directly. Predecision activity involves delegating the work of expert evaluation (Urfalino and Vilkas 1995) to limited groups of persons whose evaluation generally pertains more to form than content. Select committees in charge of accreditation preliminaries do not debate the scientific or pedagogical value of a project, trusting the department or UFR council to have ensured that before passing it on to them. What they are interested in is whether projects conform to national maquettes, projected teaching hours and how to pay for them, and the material requirements of the new degree program (namely, physical premises and equipment): When we examine proposals for creating new degree programs, we take into account financial means, and fairly rigid constraints like teaching hours. (professor and elected CEVU member, Governance survey of four universities, 1998) But the preliminary process also involves, and is sometimes exclusively based on, a series of consultations, discussions, and negotiations, that occur either at the very beginning of the process, when project initiators are looking to know whether their request has a chance of being well received and how to present it so it will be, or before the project is examined in plenary session, to anticipate and iron out problems. The preparation group, like the persons who lead the consulting process, need not be elected members of the relevant body. In the universities studied, select committees doing preliminary work for Conseil d’Administration decision making rarely contain members of that council because this job is generally left to the responsibility of the university executive office. When university councils involve this kind of transfer from deliberative bodies to the executive, it may bring about a feeling of dispossession. Members of bodies not actively participating in the preliminary work often feel doubly dispossessed: they are not on the select committee, and they feel forced to vote in favor of what the select committee proposes because they haven’t had a chance to propose an alternative. Delegating expert evaluation to a preliminary work group, “entrusting” that work to them, can thus also amount to delegating judgment.13 Must we conclude from this that the new decision-making capacity of university bodies in fact hides the fact that they have been weakened, shunted off to the sidelines? I do not believe so. First, not all respondents felt dispossessed. This point greatly depends on the implicit content of the mandate agreed with


select committee members. When criteria for preparing dossiers are clear, ex plicit, known in advance and “approved” by plenary committee members,14 members’ commitment and sense of participation is not adversely affected, even for those who acknowledge that they follow select committee recommendations to the letter. They maintain and may even mobilize their judgment capacity by means of the plenary session, where they check that the select committee has followed its mandate and the terms on which expert evaluation rights were delegated to it. Council members question the select committee reporter, request complementary information from the person submitting the project, and the like. The plenary session thus works to ensure that the preliminary work group has followed the rules of the game. In cases where there is a feeling of dispossession, elected university council members are not completely passive. If what the select committee proposes seems entirely unacceptable, they react with a blocking vote, which can lead in turn to reviewing select committee composition or procedure.15 Behind this relation between university councils and preliminary work groups it is of course the functioning of university democracy and democracy’s different faces that are at issue. I have deliberately avoided giving details of the mechanisms reviewed above, for though greater decision-making capability, professionalization of university council work, and the guarantor role played by plenary sessions are common to all universities studied, they operate very differently from one university to another (in terms of select committee composition, delegation of expert evaluation versus consultation, elected members’ sense of dispossession versus sense of commitment, and so forth). Many arrangements are possible, ranging from presidential team’s tight management of university councils, which are in turn confined to rubberstamping executive office directional choices, to council members doing the preliminary work themselves, defining the rules, and being the primary locus of choice formulation and validation. But over and beyond the variety of local arrangements, the conclusion remains the same: Avoidance of decision making is no longer university councils’ preferred option. A further commonly acknowledged change observed within French universities has to do with the exercise of leadership, above all through the role of president. First, the content of the office has changed: It has become distinctly more professional. A president can no longer be merely an enlightened amateur who knows how to reconcile diverse internal interests. As certain responsibility areas have been “deconcentrated” out of the ministry into the universities, the president’s tasks have become vaster and more diverse—a trend that should get stronger if patrimony and post management become the work of universities. The job has also expanded because major new tasks have developed within the university: contract preparation, developing relations with local communities, and so forth. A president is now expected to have more and different skills. It is not enough to be a good manager (or to have a team that can ensure this aspect


of the office). President and team must now know how to realize projects, and elicit, design, and implement policies.16 Indeed, another major government change to occur over the past decade is the strengthening of the presidential office. Contract policy was critical in this change: The president became the favored interlocutor of the ministry and legitimate representative of his/her university. Clearly, current university presidents no longer consider themselves mere primus inter pares, recipients and proponents of requests originating in the UFRs. They now consider it legitimate to have their own projects, and to make choices, even nonconsensual ones—in sum, to be interventionist. President-initiated policies and actions in the universities studied confirm that this understanding goes beyond declarations made in speeches. Presidents take measures that strengthen the “university” level and impose rules on components that apply to all. One president negotiated a way of harmonizing nonacademic staff work-hour and paid vacation time practices. Another, concerned to allocate academic positions more effectively, required from the UFRs that every academic post appointment be subject to approval from the president”s office. In other universities this same rule applies to all vacant IATOS [Ingénieurs, Administratifs, Techniciens, et Ouvriers de Service; i.e, nonacademic] posts. Yet another president has insisted on grouping individual research laboratories together into larger, coherent institutes, and there are other examples. In most cases these are not disconnected measures, but integral parts of a broader policy vision—a research policy approach, a personnel management or budget policy. It is clear that executives are new at formulating such measures, and implementing them is not without its difficulties. They don’t always succeed, and I could cite cases of strong resistance. But once again, a table of successes and failures is less to the point than the simple observation that there are now actions to be noted on such a table. University presidents have become significantly involved in making policy for their institutions. In fact, it is more accurate to speak of “presidents’ teams,” while acknowledging that the meaning of that term can vary; it refers to at least the president and vice-president, and it can include administrators, UFR directors, and project leaders. The team notion, denoting a more collective governing mode, where responsibilities are taken on by and shared out in a group, is a recent one in French universities. The trend toward stronger university leadership does not go beyond the president’s team. There has been no like transformation of the role and place of UFR directors, the vast majority of whom remain first and foremost representatives of their components rather than “head managers” or, to use a word with less entrepreneurial connotations, steerers. Many accept to survey teaching hours more closely, but often express their unease at having to intervene with a teacher who hasn’t taught the required number of hours or decide how to proceed when the overtime hours budget has been exceeded. Most say they have no role to play or maneuvering room with regard to research activities within


their component. In sum, the UFR director’s function is experienced as a delicate, time-consuming, and not particularly status-enhancing exercise. No one covets it or really seeks election to the job. While UFR directors adopt rather passive behavior within their component (merely accepting their situation and doing what is expected of them by their electors), they often express the feeling that they cannot really participate in university government and criticize the president’s team. There are even acts of symbolic rebellion: the term “dean” (doyen) has reappeared in UFRs in place of the statutory term directeur d’UFR, a fairly clear sign of resistance and strategy for defending disciplinary territory against the emergence of a firmer university echelon. UFR directors often have a hard time finding a role for themselves in running the university. They are not members of decision-making bodies unless elected to them (not often the case); they can attend plenary sessions but have no say in what happens at them, especially since, in most cases, they are not on select committees. Moreover, they rarely have a place in the president’s office. Indeed, two different types of meetings are held by the president’s office: weekly meetings with office staff to expedite current business and monthly informative and/or consultative meetings with UFR directors, where no decisions are made. It would be wrong to suggest there is one, identifiable type of relation between university president and UFR directors in French universities. Relations vary considerably, even from one UFR to another in the same university.17 It does seem crystal clear, however, that there is a major discrepancy between presidents and UFR directors, the former often more sensitive to the “managerial” aspects of their function, the latter still in favor of the primus inter pares idea within their component while not feeling sufficiently included in university government. University presidents’ leadership has thus grown stronger, while not much has changed in the ways of UFR directors, who continue to run their components with a light hand, in some cases even timorously. This situation can be quite conflictual, and reminds us that one of the difficulties of French university governance is the coexistence within universities of two types of legitimacy: one is, for lack of a better term, ‘hierarchical’ and emphasizes the “subordination/ cooperation” ties among different elected officers (department heads, UFR directors, presidents); the other is “representative,” the idea being that decisionmaking bodies can and should make choices in the name of the whole community. From this perspective it is clear that the increased decision-making capacity acquired by university councils has not made UFR directors’ work any easier, as it places them in the delicate position of having to manage relations between university executive and legislative “branches.” From the University Idea to the Emergence of Universities If we compare most French universities today with the French universities I studied in the 1980s, it is clear that two major changes have occurred. First, their


heterogeneity and complexity have increased. Their student populations are highly diversified; they offer a much more diverse range of curricula than before; they have imported pedagogical principles from the nonuniversity sector while generally maintaining traditional study programs; and they have, each in their own way, cultivated their local identities. Each university is thus more internally differentiated than fifteen years ago, and this of course accentuates diversification of the university sector as a whole. Second, over the same period universities have gained institutional substance and weight. The development of projects of more collective character, university councils’ greater decisionmaking capability, and the strengthening of presidential leadership attest in convergent fashion to the fact that in the last decade an intermediary level has made itself felt between the overseeing ministry and the academic corporation.18 As I have sought to show, the collective space of French universities has been strengthened in primarily two ways. On the one hand, due to increased use of technology in universities there is increased cohesion among the different parts of each institution. In the 1960s, the president of an American university joked that universities were composed of individuals linked to each other by the same central heating system. We can now bring his world-famous remark up to date: academics in the same university are also linked by the computer system, harmonization of procedures among components, and one and the same Internet site. This is the equivalent of what Dodier (1995) showed for business companies—the development of technical networks and “technical solidarity.” The major difference is that in universities it doesn’t lead to dilution of the organization, but rather the development of points of concentration, high-density loci where ties among individuals intersect and those same individuals develop the institution-specific rules of the game. On the other hand, universities’ greater cohesion has involved constructing minimal agreements on distribution modes, selection criteria, points to be submitted for expert evaluation, and so forth, without which elected council members and university executives could not make and legimate decisions. These agreements lead to arbitration among scholarly-scientific and pedagogyrelated options; however, they are not based on scientific or pedagogic evaluation of requests. In other words, decision-making bodies are rarely places for applying “professional” norms, but rather for translating external constraints into “objective university norms.” When university councils require that accreditation applications indicate what job opportunities a given degree program can offer, or how to pay for new study programs, they are taking into account what they perceive to be ministry expectations of them. These two processes, which increase university cohesion, clearly call into question traditional explanations for the weakness of French universities, explanations that often were accompanied with statements of the necessary con ditions of French universities’ emergence. The nonexistence of French university institutions has generally been attributed to the absence of a shared model, idea, or approach that would unify and integrate universities around the


same undertakings, principles, stabilized relations among the various types of knowledge. In fact, universities have emerged at a time when it is particularly difficult to identify any idea of the University. Is there a contemporary equivalent to the scientistic ideal (or positivism) that spurred nineteenthcentury republican reformers, or the more pragmatic approach of the Loi Faure, based on multidisciplinarity and participation? The answer is no. On the contrary, there seems to be great confusion about the University’s purposes. In my analysis of the failure of Third Republic reforms, I showed that despite the quality of debates and thinking developed by those reformers, having a University idea was not a sufficient condition for the emergence of universities. I can now add that it is not a necessary condition. Universities can develop, take on substance, without any preexisting agreement on what idea of the University should be realized. I would go further. Not only do the recent changes just presented show that the emergence of universities as a phenomenon is independent of the existence of any renewed idea of the University shared by the university community and in harmony with an active project for the development of French society but also that any such idea is an illusion. All current developments conspire to make universities more complex and heterogeneous, and the dynamics of increasing disciplinary diversification and specialization are intensifying the diversity of the “university community.” The debate that Alain Renaut calls for at the end of his 1995 work, suggesting that a commission of major figures should be organized, similar to the one called upon in 1987 to reflect on the French code de la nationalité; or the ARESER’s call for the constitution of a “parliament of universities” (1997),19 seem to me as chimerical as they are unlikely to happen.20 Universities and the University are objects of unending controversy. Among the things that make them so are the cohabitation in them of disciplines with extremely different practices and paradigms; the multiple purposes and tasks universities can pursue; the contradictory complementarities characterizing ties between teaching and research; universities’ complex relations with the state and society at large—to name a few. The University question is inherently riddled with contradictions, antagonisms, divergences. This is a fundamental characteristic of the university sector, one which sharply differentiates it from other sectors of activities, and which takes the form of multiple bodies, associations, and loci of representation that make the expression of different opinions, approaches, and preferences possible.21 Given that there can be no single University idea, is the emergence of universities with stronger institutional identities and governance, universities that function more autonomously, going to produce several ideas of the University? Are universities going to be able to accomplish “local” syntheses, develop types of integration that will enable them to overcome their heterogeneity, find an approach for guiding their actions and development, give rise and shape to what B.R.Clark (1972) called “organizational sagas”? It is surely too early to answer this question. The transformations underway in French universities are long-term ones. This is, however, precisely the challenge


that has been thrown down to French universities, and for the first time in postRevolutionary history, they now have the opportunity and the means to meet it.

III From One University Configuration to Another The history of French universities since their refounding by Napoleon after the Revolution through the late twentieth century attests to remarkable stability, even though the last decade proves that that stability can be called into question. The many successive reforms of the French university system from the creation of the Imperial University until very recently did not actually change its fundamental characteristics. Those characteristics are by now familiar: (1) the concomitant existence of state and corporatist centers, with, on one hand the education ministry, whose steering modes are centralized, aimed at standardization of university education, and guided by criteria that give priority to disciplinary preferences, and, on the other, the academic profession, organized into vertical, hierarchical, centralized disciplinary fields; (2) close relations between these two centers, which led to joint management of the system as a whole; (3) institutional weakness of universities, due to the perfect fit between organizational and “professional” structures; that is, the faculties and the disciplines, respectively. The particular structure of French university education as just described is characterized by remarkable stability of internal operating modes in the overseeing ministry, universities, and the profession; meanwhile, interaction among these three poles is characterized by highly institutionalized policy logic. This means that French university history cannot be examined and analyzed in terms of universities alone; attention must be paid to developments in ministry intervention modes, the university profession, and the kinds of relations obtaining among them. The dependence of university institutions with regard to such exogenous mechanisms is precisely what Erhard Friedberg and I observed in comparative studies of contemporary French and German universities (Musselin 1987; Friedberg and Musselin 1989). Specifically, we concluded that operating modes, decision-making processes, and types of governance in a university cannot be explained solely by endogenous regulations, that is, by an understanding of the contingent “local order” (Friedberg 1993) produced by actors through their interactions. Two exogenous explanatory factors play a crucial role namely, state intervention modes and interactions between the university and the academic profession. Our synchronic comparisons of contemporary universities in different countries, together with the present longitudinal study of the French


system, clearly show that universities cannot be apprehended without understanding the more general framework within which they develop, that is, the interdependences that, in a given national territory, link universities to an overseeing body and to the academic profession. Bringing to light such a framework, which I call a university configuration, is important precisely because such frameworks are highly stable, as is shown by the French case. The many attempts to reform the French system over the past two centuries were all aimed at changing universities by strengthening them—and all failed, because, though each and every reform summoned universities to exist, the contemporaneous ministry steering modes, ways of managing the university corporation, and joint relations between state and profession were all themselves contradictory to the development of strong universities, and these modes and ways remained unchanged. The problem of how to bring to light stable university configurations and their effects on the possibilities of change in system components requires elucidation, and this is the purpose of Part III. It is unusual to focus on interdependences among universities, academics, and oversight structures. As will be seen, most studies of university systems have divided them into three heterogeneous, autonomous, and disconnected worlds. I would like to demonstrate, therefore, that thinking in terms of university configurations and making such configurations an object of research in their own right will enable us to renew our theoretical and methodological approaches to university systems (chapter 7). Once the notion of “university configuration” has been explored and its analytic properties defined, I look into what “university configuration” stability is due to, as well as what makes change in such configurations possible (chapter 8). I then draw a few conclusions on the basis of the changes that have recently occurred in the French system.

7 From Universities to University Configurations

What is a “university configuration,” and what is to be gained by using an approach in these terms? What questions can the concept help answer and what justifies its use as an analytic and methodological instrument? To answer these questions, I shall first present the three “worlds” that have been explored and constructed, separately, in research on higher education, then try to understand how they fit and function together. Academics, Universities, and National Models At the first level of analysis, we discover the working world of academics, or more exactly, university researchers, since most studies concern researchers’ rather than teachers’ activities.1 In the very numerous studies of this world, two opposed conceptions dominate and clash: on the one hand that of Mertonian sociologists of science or those working in this tradition; on the other the “strong program in the sociology of science” and related approaches.2 The first conception is structured around fields or disciplines that themselves correspond to cognitive, epistemological, and social “territories” (Becher 1989); that is, what are understood at a given moment to be the disciplines or the specialized fields composing the disciplines. Each of these may be associated with particular research practices, professional norms, relational networks, and each has its own relation to knowledge. These fields, composed of research areas, are not fixed; their contours are continually being called into question through the dynamics of “invisible college” development (Crane 1972) and constant differentiation (B.R.Clark 1997b), which cause each field to divide up and form others. At first the dominant idea was that a unified scientific community (Hagstrom 1965) transcended this fragmentation by means of a common ethos, whose function was to preserve the autonomy of science and protect it from the danger of becoming “the handmaiden of theology or economy or state” (Merton 1962b, 543).3 This founding conception, focused on a single community sharing the same ethos (Merton 1962a), was gradually amended to a representation of science that emphasized the aggregation or juxtaposition of several communities (or “tribes” or “clusters”4) who were still all understood to share two essential


characteristics. First, they exist above and beyond institutional boundaries. Sociologists working in this current did refer to the existence of universities or research centers, but they believed these structures did not and should not have any autonomy with regard to professional norms.5 Second, such communities exist above and beyond territorial borders. Phenomena pertaining to the nation were discussed only as examples of structures—social, political, or economic—that hinder the development of “pure” science.6 This first conception of the academic world was very close to the notion of a cellular body. Over the 1970s, this conception was successfully combated by the “strong program,” as developed essentially by Barnes (1974) and Bloor (1976),7 and its “descendants…brothers, sisters, and close relatives,” to use Lynch’s expresssion (1993) that is, the relativist program, observation of laboratories at work, and ethnomethodological studies of scientific work. These works called into question the idea that there was any community or communities that carried out the twofold function of socialization and social control, and focused instead on knowledge production processes. The social construction of scientific facts became a special object of study, and observation of scientific work was used to “[demonstrate] unambiguously the social determination of all scientific content, however technical” (Lynch 1993, 91). Now scientists were seen to be interpreting scientific facts. Karin Knorr-Cetina’s fine 1996 article, with its comparative “ethnographie de l’empirie,” is a perfect illustration of this approach. It shows the profound differences between the experimental work of high energy physicists on the one hand and molecular biologists on the other. The objects studied by the first group are signs: [Particles] move in a world of objects that are separate from the environment, a world that has been entirely reconstructed from within a defined field by means of a technology of representation…. A detector is the ultimate viewing instrument, a sort of microscope that furnishes the first level of these representations. The representations themselves bear all the ambiguities that characterize worlds made up of signs. (1996, 313) In molecular biology, by contrast, scientists are in close contact with their objects and have a completely different relation to theory, one which favors the use of analogy and a “trial and error” strategy. These “translator-interpreter” scientists were also described as network constructors (Callon 1989)—the representation of scientists’ and therefore academics’ world shifted from cellular to reticulate. Rather than closing themselves away in ivory towers to protect themselves from society, researchers were now seen to strive to enlist political, administrative, and economic actors in support of their work, to look for allies that would enable them to mobilize and stabilize resources while disseminating the scientific facts they constructed, with the aim of transforming them into so many uncontested statements.8 Despite the many points of contrast between these scientists “in action” (Latour 1989) and


Mertonian scientists, they have in common the fact that they ignore national, insti tutional, and even temporal boundaries.9 Sociotechnical networks get woven and extend beyond all organizational or territorial constraints or limits. If we now zoom backward from scientific work and the actors who perform it in “laboratory life” (Latour and Woolgar 1979), we discover a completely different landscape. We see that our academics are parts of the organizations within which they practice their activities, namely, universities. Studies of this intermediate level have generally apprehended it in terms of decision-making and governance modes. We have moved from the world of the sciences to a world of organization and management. Works on university functioning began to be published in the United States in the early 1960s.10 Up until the mid-1970s, the battle raged around four models (see Table 7.1), each one claiming to characterize the university decision-making process. The first works (Goodman 1962; Millett 1962), which concluded that universities followed a collegial model of decision making, gave rise to competing models developed by other researchers. Some emphasized the bureaucratic character of university functioning (Blau 1973) while others affirmed that decisions were the result of political processes (Baldridge 1971). Cohen, March, and Olsen (1972) rejected these competing claims, affirming instead that universities were instances of organized anarchy and seats of decision making that followed what they called the “garbage can” model. In the mid- 1970s, specialists of university organization abandoned the idea of finding a universal model, turning instead in two different directions. Some argued that universities could follow any and all of the four models, and they sought to qualify the university institutions they studied by means of this typology, gradually refining and complexifying it.11 Others, keeping their distance from an approach in terms of individual institutions, focused on decision-making processes themselves, showing that whether they were collegial, bureaucratic-rational, political, or anarchic depended primarily on the area considered (funding, teaching, research, etc.). In this scheme, several models coexist within each university, depending on the question studied.12 Lastly, and more recently, in an approach that tries to assess trends in university governance modes over time and their dynamics, some authors (e.g., Braun and Merrien 1999) have suggested a gradual change pattern in which the first stage is characterized by collegiality, the second by bureaucracy, and the next two, distinct from both the political and “garbage can” models, are the corporation and the enterprise. Clearly, in organizational studies of universities (see Table 7.1) the university “world” is understood as a grouping of autonomous entities. Universities are of course shown as part of an environment with which they interact, but their decision-making processes and governing modes are always described as endogenous mechanisms resulting from the structure of internal interaction and accountable for by that structure. Morever, these mechanisms do not seem much affected by either the cellular or the reticulate character of the academic


Table 7.1 Four organizational models and how they were further developed The collegial model In this model, as the name suggests, decision making is concentrated in the hands of peers (academics), but the term refers above all to the idea that shared values and norms make consensual decision making possible (Goodman 1962; Millett 1962). General agreement on purposes, goals, and priorities is what makes it possible to reach specific agreements, above and beyond the many diverse interests of discipline and field, individual preferences, and antagonisms between or among academics. B.R.Clark later developed the notion of “organizational saga” (1971, 1972), which was used to show the importance of each university’s institutional history in constituting common, shared references (Satow 1975). Clark thus broadened the notion of collegiality, underscoring that this kind of consensus went beyond general agreement among peers to reflect the existence of shared beliefs and values among different types of members of a given university (academics, administrators, president, students, alumni, and so forth). This in turn led to a shift in the 1980s from the collegial model to the idea of individual university “cultures’ (Chaffee 1984; Tierney 1988). The bureaucratic model In contrast to the other three, this model does not so much describe a unique characteristic of universities as show that universities also have bureaucratic features. The first study based on this understanding was done by Stroup (1966), but it was Blau’s 1973 survey that demonstrated beyond a doubt that universities are a decentralized type of bureaucracy and that these characteristics are more relevant to the organization of teaching than research. The conception of universities as organizations that combine “academic” and “bureaucratic” features was later taken up by Mintzberg (1979), who referred to them as examples of “professional bureaucracies.” He emphasized the standardizing of skills and procedures in academic work, the existence of preestablished programs for dealing with identified situations, and the fact that the “pigeon holes” that academics find themselves in, while managed by the disciplines, also correspond to sets of standardized procedures (see Hardy 1990, 21, 22). The political model This model, first developed by Baldridge (1971), directly refutes what appears to the author as the misguided idyllism of the collegial model and its idea that particular, antagonistic interests could be fused and shared consensus reached through common norms and values. Universities are also run through with conflict and oppositions, namely, because multiple goals are pursued in them. The conception of universities as “political” was adopted by Pfeffer and Salancik in their studies of the importance of power in resource allocation processes, conducted in the framework of “resource dependence” theory (Pfeffer and Salancik 1974; Salancik and Pfeffer 1974). Organized anarchy and the “garbage can” model This model identifies three features that distinguish universities from most other organizations and characterize them as instances of “organized anarchy”: multiple goals, unclear technology, fluid participation. It also describes the type of decision making characteristic of such organizations. Rejecting rational and political models, Cohen, March, and Olsen (1972; see also Cohen and March 1974) proposed they be replaced by the “garbage can” model, wherein decision making results from the intersection of four “streams”: “participants, problems, choice opportunities and solutions.” This contradicts the rational model, in which participants identify problems, look for solutions and make decisions which address the problems, for here solutions may exist before problems, they may not respond directly to problems, and so forth.*


*For a discussion of this model see Musselin (1996, 1997c) and Friedberg (1993).

world as described above, in the sense that they are not produced by these properties and cannot be explained by them. The more closely and frequently universities are studied, the more they are presented as complex organizations displaying an extraordinary variety of operating modes (Friedberg and Musselin 1992; Dubois 1997b).13 This leads us further and further away from the idea or conviction that universities represent a specific, exceptional type of organization. The “exceptionality” notion seems never to have been as strong in the United States as in France, judging from the ease with which models developed from empirical studies of universities were generalized in American studies to all other organized situations.14 But the positive-normative conceptions associated with collegial models (where universities are presented as spaces for the production of shared values and consensual functioning), and the less reverential notions of “organized anarchy” (Cohen, March, and Olsen 1972) or “loosely coupled system” (Weick 1976), clearly—intentionally?—conferred specificity on universities and gave credence to the idea that they are not ordinary organizations. More recent approaches, however, seem to be explicitly calling into question the particularity of universities, as underscored by increasing references to the entrepreneurial model (B.R.Clark 1998), on the one hand, and on the other the fact that certain American studies make the mistake of analyzing universities almost exclusively in terms of leadership and management theories, ultimately leaving aside the originality of university systems of production, modes for exercising authority, and hierarchical arrangements.15 If we now take another backward zoom away from these heterogeneous, dispersed intermediate structures, we discover the third level—the national system. We see that universities are part of a bigger system, a system of macrostructures whose purpose is to steer the higher education system as a whole. The landscape this time is strictly national, and all studies from this perspective, whether comparative, as most are, or case studies of individual countries, emphasize convergences and divergences between and among countries. The number of works using this approach is considerable (cf. Altbach et al. 1979 and Altbach et al. 1989). Of these we may cite Eurich 1981, Clark and Neave 1992, and Altbach 1998. Comparative analysis of national structuration of higher education systems has focused on three dimensions. The first of these is the state’s role in system steering (see for example Premfors 1980). Countries in which the state has extensive prerogatives can be called interventionist and stand in contrast to those in which the state plays a secondary role. Ministry steering modes are also categorized, with centralized systems (France) distinguished from decentralized federal and national systems, and systems with “buffer bodies’ (Great Britain, with its University Grants Committee, for example, replaced in the late 1980s by


the University Funding Council, then by the Higher Education Funding Council) from those that function under direct oversight. More recently, the focus has shifted somewhat from state policy structure to state intervention ‘style’; that is, rational planning versus self-regulation; a priori control versus a posteriori evaluation and how it has evolved over the last decades, namely, in European countries (van Vught 1989, 1995; Neave and van Vught 1991, 1994; Fussel and Neave 1996; Braun and Merrien 1999). The second area of focus is the organization of higher education into different institutional sectors. Here the point is to assess the relative weight and respective powers of universities compared to other postsecondary institutions, and to specify by country which purposes and activities are considered to characterize and belong to “universities” and which are not.16 These studies are concerned above all with developments in the content of higher education supply and in what sectors new supply is being developed in or attached to, a question which was put on the research agenda as the number of students acceding to higher education increased. The point here is to assess the capacity of postsecondary systems to adapt to the inflow of student populations that are both denser and more heterogeneous than before, and to meet the needs of the labor market by developing more diversified and flexible education and training supply.17 The third area being explored is organization of the academic profession (cf. Van de Graaf et al. 1978; B.R.Clark 1987; Boyer et al. 1994; Altbach 1996; and others). These studies, which are often highly descriptive, compare unionization processes and union roles, hiring and promotion procedures, chair systems when they exist, teaching obligations, mobility incentives, and so forth.18 While these works do make us aware of the variety of national systems, they often do not fulfill their comparative purpose. Many are superficial, often going no further than comparison of formal structures. As is often the case in synchronic studies of a number of countries, real practices and their meanings are often neglected. France, for example, is invariably presented as a centralized system, but these studies do not explore the effective reality or properties of French centralization. Moreover, not enough attention is given to the specifically national meaning of terms that look similar from one language or system to another.19 Above all, these works are not really analytical. They cannot explain the variety of country situations because they do not shed sufficient light on the dynamics specific to each country, namely, the forms of interdependence that exist among a given national system, the universities in that system, and its academics. By failing to be analytical they bolster what is in fact a conception of university education as being disjointed and fragmented, and they give credence to the idea that the three worlds are as separate as they are different. Actually, the division into three worlds, which is also a division into three disciplinary fields— sociology or anthropology for the study of academics, organization and decisionmaking studies for universities, and comparative higher education for the study of national systems—amounts to cutting apart three facettes of the same shared reality, and neglecting how each fits with the others, neglecting to inquire into


their parallel development or to analyze the coherence of how they work together. The first author to become interested in these questions and to pose them in this way was Burton R.Clark, in a 1983 work whose fifth chapter is devoted to the regulation modes that structure coordination between the three different levels in each country: Yet in each case, some order emerges in various parts: disciplines link members from far and wide, universities symbolically tie together their many specialists, bureaucratic structures, local and national, provide uniform codes and regulations. And the bureaucratic, political, and oligarchical forms of national authority contribute to the integration of the whole. (1983, 136) After adding that the order observable in relations within a given higher education system may be due to market-type interactions, Clark has all he needs to construct his renowned “triangle of coordination” (143). Each of the three vertexes represents an ideal type of integration: state authority, which can be either political or bureaucratic; academic oligarchy, and the market. He can then situate each country within the triangle according to how close or far it is to each ideal type. He situates France halfway between state authority and academic oligarchy, and as far away as possible from the market. Twenty years later, Clark’s triangle is still the uncontested reference in works seeking to account for the “systemic” aspect of national models of higher education, that is, their integration mechanisms and internal dynamics. There has not been much debate around the model, though other typologies have been proposed (cf. Becher and Kogan 1992; McDaniel 1996; and Clark 1997a). It seems to me that Clark’s coordination triangle is based on a representation of the three “worlds” that is (1) overly hierarchical and (2) too narrow. First, the macro level, which the author calls the “top” of academic systems, is his highest principle and is understood to organize the intermediate level, university institutions. This means that the coordination modes represented by the triangle also structure the “organizational” level: when a system is integrated by the market, its universities are autonomous and competitive; when it is integrated by the professional oligarchy, its universities are merely the reflection of that oligarchy and have no institutional existence; and when the state does the integrating, universities are mere bureaucratic appendages of the central administration. Second, the triangle cannot account for the effects of the top of the academic system on the base-level world of “academics.” That world can be regulated by state coordination of one type or another (as when promotion modalities and the mechanisms of scholarship recognition are political or bureaucratic), or, on the contrary, it can follow essentially professional, and therefore discipline-related, criteria, or it can follow market laws (teacher value can be a function of teacher scarcity or teacher social utility, for example).


Clark’s model does not enable us to account for the fact that the princi ples integrating the intermediate level (universities) are not necessarily the same as those integrating the base level (academics). We might draw two triangles, one for each intervention level, but how could they be synthesized? While Clark’s triangle enables us to overcome separations between the three worlds, it does not make it possible to grasp the impact that coordination modalities may have on each of them. The model posits the existence of ties between the different levels but does not permit us to examine and analyze the empirical reality of those ties. We therefore have yet to explore how each type of integration acts on and limits the other modes. University Configurations I propose that the stabilized interdependences that circumscribe and characterize ties between and among the three different levels or worlds, and affect the coordination modes specific to each within a coordinated territory, be understood to form a university configuration.20 It should be clarified immediately that while the interdependences that make up a university configuration have a framing function, they do not constitute a determinist structure that closely controls individual actors’ behavior or their cognitive and normative frameworks. Moreover, speaking of a university configuration in no way implies any assumptions about the substantive content of interdependences. That content varies from country to country and must be discovered in each. “University configuration,” then, designates a frame within which the type of governance developed by universities, the steering style of the overseeing ministry, and the internal regulation modes of the disciplines are inscribed, make sense, and relate to each other. In other words, the term is a means of describing how three types of collective action—those of universities, the overseeing authorities, and the academic profession—fit and function together. This definition reflects the incompleteness of those three types of collective action taken separately, and it recalls that none can be analyzed independently of the others. Neither universities, the ministry, nor the academic profession are spaces of autonomous interaction. Each constitutes an “incomplete local order” that makes sense only in the wider framework of the interdependences by which the three are connected. The definition also suggests that these interdependences can be seen in both the way the three poles are linked—when one is modified, the other two are in turn affected—and the consistencies or compatibilities among the types of collective action particular to each pole. Correspondences exist among university governance styles, ministry operating modes, and the organization and management principles of the academic profession. Lastly, it should be clarified that in describing and characterizing the ties between the three poles that constitute a university configuration, I am not making any claims about the specific nature of relations obtaining between or


among the individual actors associated with the different poles (a ministry di rector and a university president, for example), but rather trying to identify the logic of action that “frames” such relations between or among individuals (the prevalence of discipline-focused logic over university-focused logic in the same example). Consequently, university configurations are not a simplified representation of the “map” of actors involved in this sector and their interactions;21 they are not concrete systems of action as defined by Crozier and Friedberg (1980).22 They do not account for the diverse, multiple actors involved in the three constitutive poles. The interdependences that link those three poles are not simplified representations of power relations among actors; and the triangle formed by interactions between the three poles is not the modeled reflection of “a diagram of power relations,” as was, for example, the model of “intersecting regulation” representing the local political-administrative system in France before the decentralization law (Crozier and Thoenig 1975; Grémion 1976). In other words, the notion of university configuration is valid and relevant only if we understand it as a frame within which interpersonal interactions, different systems of concrete actions, and various local orders develop—all of which are particular situations, though they share the feature of being compatible with that particular frame. The notion accounts for the existence of a general arrangement that does indeed impose constraints, produce meaning, and delimit the possible, but that also tolerates a certain flexibility, autonomy, and variety, that is, that does not determine actors’ behavior or impose a standard cognitive framework on them. A configuration defines no more than the limits within which implicated individual and collective actors determine their behaviors and construct relations. It establishes a frame of all that is possible, a frame, then, for multiple, if not unlimited possibilities. A configuration can therefore include the fact or development of functioning that varies from one university, one discipline, even one “incarnation” of the overseeing ministry, to another. Its existence does not standardize forms of collective action. Some universities can have governance modes that are more collegial than others, or on the contrary more conflictual than others. But the range of possibility remains limited because the styles of university government that can develop must be compatible with the types of interdependence ties existing between the ministry and universities. The interdependences that structure and define a configuration therefore never completely determine actors’ behaviors, but they are strong enough that their influence is felt above and beyond disciplinary differences or the heterogeneous characteristics of individual universities and stable enough not to be “mechanically” modified when actors, rules, laws, and/or political approaches change.23 These features are indissociable from the way a university configuration may be reconstructed. Methodologically, bringing to light the consistent, regulated set of interdependences in a given country, and knowing about its particular “properties,” involves a process of moving gradually from individual interactions


toward broader-scope regulation modes. With a configuration we cannot move in the opposite direction; that is, we cannot use knowledge of university configuration characteristics to predict the content, nature, properties of interpersonal relations at the micro level. The framing that a university configuration does, does not function as a mechanism for determining individual behaviors. While circumscribing the range of actors” possible behaviors, it does not prescribe those behaviors.24 We cannot deduce from configuration properties the concrete modalities and arrangements around which each “local order will be structured. Knowledge of the frame does not mean we don’t need to explore the contingency of organized situations that develop within it. What I have just said about actors’ behaviors and their (relative) autonomy with regard to the university configuration applies equally to their perceptions, representations, beliefs, and values. Specifically, knowing about the characteristics of a given university configuration means knowing the principles that are made legitimate by it, the values and beliefs it runs on and uses (equality and uniformity in France, for example), the ‘University’ idea it may bear, and so forth. A university configuration is thus a space for producing meaning, meaning that may be associated with a cognitive and normative framework that impacts on actors’ perceptions, representations, and principles.25 The fact that a configuration “produces” meaning does not imply that such meaning is explicit for individual actors, or that they adhere to a given cognitive and normative framework and thus all share one and the same vision of things, apprehend and construct problems in the same ways, and agree on how to solve them. On the contrary, a university configuration tolerates—or is subject to!—strongly heterogeneous discourses on the role of the University, its purposes, the role the state should play, academics’ functions and tasks, and so forth.26 It is only exceptionally a homogeneous field in which individuals engage in identical practices supported by uniform representations, cognitive frameworks, values, and norms. In this property, university configurations are different from what Meyer and his coauthors called the institutional environment of the educational field,27 because the educational field so conceived requires perfect, holistic consistency among practices, attitudes, and modes of action, and a stable set of beliefs, values, norms, and symbols. This is also how they differ from what Hall and Taylor (1996, 1997) have called “historical neo-institutionalism.” Economic, political, and social organizations as analyzed by American historical neoinstitutionalists are granted too much ability to shape individuals’ behaviors, make visible to them certain problems and obscure others, provide models for interpreting the world, define how they will understand such problems, how significant they will deem them, and the range of solutions they will envisage. What I am referring to as a configuration is not as narrow or constraining as this, has a much more moderate effect, and is generally much more compatible with actor autonomy.28 In other words, the interdependences that make up a university configuration are not inscribed in the actors. They do not allow us to predict the way


individual actors (in this case, academics), at their different levels, will construct their disciplinary and institutional memberships and their relations to the ministry —in sum, the particular way each individual actor will construct his or her professional identity. The notion of configuration reconciles structuration and autonomy, crystallization and flexibility. The nature and content of the interdependences by which the state, universities, and the academic profession are linked constitute the deep structure within which university education develops in a given country, but granting this does not require us to hypothesize that actors’ behaviors and cognitive frames are wholly subjected to, dependent on, enslaved to this structure. In methodological terms, then, university configurations are objects of research. They do not correspond to a model that describes state-universityacademic profession relations substantively as if they were always and everywhere the same. To speak in terms of configuration is simply to postulate the existence and importance of interdependences between and among three poles — the state, universities, the academic profession—and the structuring role these interdependences play with regard to the collective action and regulation modes internal to each pole. In each case these actions and modes, and the nature, quality, and content of these interdependences, remain to be explored, examined, and defined, together with the underlying principles of legitimation. Describing and qualifying university configuration interdependences is a full-fledged research project in itself, because such interdependences are not spontaneously perceptible or apprehendable; on the contrary, they have to be reconstructed by integrating the different interaction levels.29 With this instrument, defining and constructing the relevant collective actors also becomes a research project. In the configurations I have studied (those of France and Germany) or studied by Brisset (public universities in the United States30), the state, universities, and the academic profession were clearly the indispensable and sufficient actors. It was they and they alone who brought public intervention modes, university governance, and professional regulation together and made them work in particular ways. However, I do not exclude the possibility of other poles emerging and being integrated into the analysis.31 Methodologically, then, reasoning in terms of university configuration presupposes that this frame is discovered through empirical reconstitution of the active ties and relations between the local arrangements produced by individual interactions and a more general “order.” In other words, the characteristics of the interdependences within a configuration are never already given and cannot be constructed before empirical study. We cannot begin with a predetermined national model; we have instead to gradually “unveil” it, to reconstitute it as the analysis of local interactions advances.32 Nor is it a matter of choosing a general interpretive model within which to rank and order facts, behaviors, and relations,


relating them to a preestablished analytic framework. A configuration is, on the contrary, a structure of interdependences whose nature and content are yet to be discovered.

8 University Configurations and Change

Bringing to light the particular characteristics of the French university configuration involves observing that its constitutive elements were established by the Napoleonic reforms and that they remained nearly unaltered until the last quarter of the twentieth century. This longevity, which can also be called stability, requires explanation. On the other hand, recent developments show that change is indeed possible, in this case changes that amount to no less than a move from one configuration to another; changes that called into question, without eradicating, the policy logic underlying ministry steering modes until then. Considering these changes in light of Silvestre’s three categories of change, we can say that they are structural, that is, that they “[engender] new types of behavior and social relations,” and thus that they are greater than a “mechanical response molded on to the existing structure”1 or an “organic response, through which the structure [changes] but in a way compatible with the basic principles governing its operations”2 (Silvestre 1998).3 In this chapter I will look at why it was possible for options that seem incompatible with the ministry’s traditional operating modes to be introduced into the administration and acquire legitimacy. Following Kingdon on how public problems get put on the policy agenda (1984), I will try to explain not where the seed came from but what made the soil fertile, examining first the stability of university configurations, so as to better identify the particular conditions that enabled the contract policy to survive; then making a few more general comments on processes of structural change. Why Are Configurations Stable? It would seem on the one hand likely that attempts will be made to move from one university configuration to another, on the other, unlikely that such attempts will succeed. The chances of success are low because a university configuration is composed of three interdependent parts; any change in one is likely to be limited by inertia in the other two. The weak impact of the “little revolution” effected by the Loi Faure in creating autonomous universities is a clear illustration of this. The law affected only a small part of the whole and did not modify the factors that would have had to be modified for university governance


to be strengthened; that is, it did not touch ministry steering modes, which remained focused on the disciplines, or the centralized joint management by which ministry and corporation were linked, or the fact that universities were excluded from playing a role in personnel management. The university configuration that preexisted the Loi Faure was therefore able to remain in place several years after it. However, because configurations are “moderate” institutional arrangements, there are also frequent opportunities for change. As explained in the preceding chapter, configurations “delimit” behaviors but do not determine them; they produce meaning and give legitimacy to certain principles over others, but they do not impose any one cognitive framework, or values, or shared norms recognized by all. There have always been proponents of the idea of strengthening university autonomy; that idea arose long before the late 1980s. Latenineteenth-century liberal republicans had already pushed it forcefully in calling for universities that would be responsible for funding, personnel, and study programs. In sum, we did not have to wait until the end of the second millennium for “a new image of the university world” to appear. We could of course show that nineteenth-century liberals” notion of autonomy does not correspond exactly to what we mean when we use the term today; Simoulin (1997, 1999) has elegantly demonstrated how ideas, representations, and concepts are themselves reformulated, changed, integrated. We can, however, acknowledge the proximity among the conceptions advocated successively by Third Republic republicans, Maurice Caullery in his 1920 report, participants to the Colloques de Caen, Edgar Faure in 1968 speeches in support of his law, Philippe Lucas in L’Université Captive (1987), and so forth. Contrary to claims made in works that underscore the heavy weight of institutional mechanisms on actors’ cognitive frameworks, or actors’ incapacity—in anything other than periods of paradigm crisis (Jobert 1992; Hall 1993; Surel 1995)—to reformulate problems and inaptitude for inventing new types and categories of solutions, the “university solution” has always been close to hand, and it has always been visible because openly debated and closely covered by the media. Moreover, education ministry doors were repeatedly opened to proponents of autonomous universities; some such proponents even served as directors of the central administration: Louis Liard, of course, but also Gaston Berger, who was close to the Colloque de Caen organizers (Bourricaud 1982, 40, 41), and JeanLouis Quermonne. The stability of the pre-1980s French university configuration thus cannot be explained by an absence of competing visions or alternative propositions, or by institutional arrangements of a sort that prevented people with new ideas from acceding to important positions. Discipline-focused logic was thus not deep or resonant enough to prevent the development of innovations that didn’t follow it. This is due to the fact that while such logic did of course constitute a “dominant system of reference,” such a system is, in my view, and contrary to Muller’s use of the notion (1995), more a product of action than a guide to it. Rather than first and foremost defining and


legitimating sets of institutionalized practices, systems of refer ence would seem to emerge from such practices, which, it should be remembered, are interdependent and come together to produce meaning. The disconnect between action and meaning caused by aggregation of distinct actions explains why we may see strong consistency and coherence after the fact, but also why such coherence need not mean that actors firmly adhered to the system when they acted, or that the system had a marked influence on their cognitive and normative frameworks, or that there was controversy when other actors denigrated the system. This means that the ability of university actors, administrators, and politicians to imagine “innovative” solutions (that is, solutions that do not fit into the range of solutions considered legitimate) or to develop divergent arguments has always been strong in the area of French university education. The examples cited in chapter 5 of projects conceived and developed outside the model of discipline-focused ministry steering, projects that promoted university-focused logic instead—the 1975 contract policy, the Comité National d’Evaluation des Universités, and four-year research contracts—are proof of actors’ cognitive autonomy with regard to the “dominant” configuration. Still, despite this potential for change, university configurations have shown themselves to be extremely robust, and this confirms neoinstitutionalist claims about the resistance of institutional frameworks. How can the discrepancy between numerous opportunities for change and the weak impact of those opportunities be explained? My analysis of the three failed experiments that preceded the successful contract policy suggests that in each case these were fragile processes threatened by multiple and ultimately mortal “dangers.” The first attempt at contractualization was swept away by a ministerial changeover, with Alice Saunier-Seïté succeeding Jean-Pierre Soisson. The four-year research contract experiment was reshaped in the classical terms of discipline-focused centralizing policy and targeted immature, insubstantial universities. As for the CNE, it was left to pursue its purpose and goal, but it did not have the expected impact—or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it was able to continue precisely because it had no impact. The life cycle of such innovations is generally short; most are quickly “buried.” And when they are not snuffed out, they are deflected, reformulated, or absorbed by “legitimate” action logic, or else they continue to function but are marginalized. The obstacles that these innovations meet are either organizational (“learning” difficulties, resistance to power redistributions, etc.) or due to timing (political changeover, for example). However, the limited impact of the three cases mentioned, like that of the late-nineteenth-century reforms or the Loi Faure, can in no way be imputed to opposition to their content or ideological conflict around their conception of university education. In this case, then, practices seem stronger than ideas. That the 1989 ministry-university contractualization policy did not end up on the list of failed innovations is due to the fact that it was not exposed to


the dangers that threaten this type of attempt. On the contrary, it benefited from an exceptional set of favorable circumstances. In contrast to the 1975 contractualization experiment, this innovation was buoyed by four years without political changeover, four years during which the project’s policy entrepreneur, Claude Allègre, remained on the job and continued to promote contractualization, though also moving into other areas. In contrast to the CNE, university contracts directly affected the universities, and involved one of the central administration’s main functions: allocating budget funds, specifically supplementary resources. When contracts were launched they bore on only 5 percent of the operating budget, but that 5 percent was in a way more important than the other ninety-five, because it represented the portion on which there was some maneuvering room. Lastly, in contrast to research contracts, university contracts benefited from a reorganization of ministry services in their favor. The contract policy thus benefited from the fact that it was conceived soon after the arrival of Lionel Jospin at the ministry and that it affected the traditional exercise of reorganizing the central administration and renewing cadres that most education ministers engage in after a political changeover. These three features of the situation enabled the contract policy to escape the fate of the three earlier experiments. But there were other favorable circumstances: the priority given to education by the Rocard government and a bright economic context. It is always easier to negotiate how to allocate surplus resources and supplementary posts than budget cuts. Moreover, the contract policy benefited from the fact that it seemed like nothing more than a modification of internal procedures for allocating a residual part of university operating budgets. It could be established by means of a mere ministry directive. It did not at all modify the framework law, did not affect civil service rules, and had no constitutional implications; it could be put into effect without going through parliament, and was not in danger of being annulled by the Conseil d’Etat, which checks legislative consistency, or the Conseil Constitutionnel, which checks constitutionality. This explains how the “doctrine” could be defined and developed within the ministry and why it was not fueled by, or opposed by, political or public debate. It also explains why there was no threat of legal recourse against the contractualization policy and how it escaped the institutional oversight instruments of the Fifth Republic.4 All these conditions were favorable to the introduction and integration of this innovation into ministry practices. Rethinking the Influence of Ideas on Change The contract policy was not merely an innovation that “took.” It was also the origin of changes that affected the whole of the French university configuration. I have shown that in order to understand the breadth of this change, university contracts must be understood as more than a particular arrangement for handling a feature of university budgets. They are indeed the origin of the gradual


construction of a completely new system of references for policy action. Not only did they make possible the shift from one university configuration to another, but in this case the shift also corresponded to a structural change process that does not follow the model developed by authors studying this type of change, whether they qualify it as paradigm change, as B.Jobert (1992), P.Hall (1993) or Y.Surel (1995), or a switch from one system of reference to another (Muller 1995). The model proposed by these authors is generally based on three postulates: a tight link between practices and “ideas” (Bleich 1998);5 the idea that changes in ideas are a prerequisite condition for changes in practice, action, and procedure (Hall 1989; Jobert and Muller 1987; Muller and Surel 1998); and change through revolution, with the shift from one paradigm or system of reference to another occurring in a crisis situation that leads actors to abandon the operative framework and replace it with another. Though we cannot deny the importance of ideas for the changes in French higher education, this case nonetheless is far from confirming those three postulates (Musselin 2000). I have discussed the first of them in several other places. But it is useful to discuss the second and third in more detail. The preceding analysis of the development and implementation of the contract policy calls into question the primacy of “idea” change for it shows that the “university modernization” system of reference was not at the origin of contractualization. Instead, that system of reference was clarified, developed, and formalized after the contract policy had been implemented, through a repeated back-and-forth process between practices and practice meaning that became increasingly broad in scope. The introduction of new practices preceded dissemination of a discourse on those practices, but actors playing the contractualization game took hold of both practices and discourse. This iterative process led to a gradual broadening of the scope of both the doctrine and the contract procedure that in turn led to a renewed conception of the role of universities and their relation to the overseeing ministry. The notion of autonomous individual universities gradually became associated with those of modernization and management rationalization, active leadership, and development of budget and education supply policies. University contract implementation was the starting point for an iterative process in which practices and practice meaning mutually enriched each other, and this process gradually grew, overflowing the framework of the contract policy and becoming the foundation for a conception of university education based on more autonomous universities where university-specific policies could be developed and integrated. The mechanism of enlargement and reinforcement that contract policy underwent closely resembles that presented in the definition of path dependency that is the focus of Pierson’s recent work (2000). Whereas this notion is generally used to account for the impact of past events, existing institutions, and history in general on the possibility of change in the present, Pierson here suggests using it to analyze the cumulative effects of taking one


path over another.6 He identifies the characteristics of situations favorable to cumulative mechanisms thus: In settings in which increasing returns or path dependence processes are at work, political life is likely to be marked by four features: 1) Multiple equilibria. Under a set of initial conditions conducive to increasing returns, a number of outcomes…are generally possible; 2) Contingency. Relatively small events, if they occur at the right moment, can have large and enduring consequences; 3) A critical role for timing and sequencing…; 4) Inertia. Once an increasing returns process is established, positive feedback may lead to a single equilibrium. This equilibrium will in turn be resistant to change. (263) The contract policy would seem to meet all these different conditions: (1) other solutions could have emerged; (2) the policy had greater effects than might have been expected from the “mere” introduction of a new procedure; (3) it occurred at a favorable moment; (4) once the movement had begun, it accelerated and spread, making a return to the preceding balance less likely. Once it had been launched, the contract policy indicated a new path, and the way traced by the first contracts was gradually lengthened, enlarged, arranged, and consolidated, while being taken by increasing numbers of “users.” It should be added, however, that this cumulative process was not produced solely by a growing number of identical behaviors, along the lines of what occurs when a given technological development is adopted by users who then improve its performance and thus move increasing numbers of other users to opt for it over another. It owed much to the labor of argument, justification, and legitimation which went hand in hand with the contract policy and brought about “adherence” to it, enabling contracts to become part of the panoply of steering instruments used by the ministry. The formal development of ‘the doctrine’ meant that actors came to adhere to the contract policy more quickly, and it became stronger faster, than it would have without the doctrine. Through the development of this body of normative guidelines and the conception of universities and the ministry that it carried within it, the “university contract” could become a legitimate practice within the central administration and beyond, that is, a practice understood to serve a useful purpose, respond to problems, provide solutions. In sum, it was not solely a tool; it became itself a “project,” took on meaning, and became institutionalized (Selznick 1957; Powell and DiMaggio 1991). Contract policy is thus both an instrument whose developing use legitimated new practices, new representations, and a new philosophy of public action in the area of higher education, and, simultaneously, the instrument that made it possible to reach or advance toward those goals. Through its implementation, a competing cognitive matrix was formulated and promoted. That matrix came into existence after in novative practices were introduced, but it also played a decisive role in the institutionalization of those practices.


The structural change process observable in the contract policy calls into question not only the causal link between “ideas” and action but also the model traditionally associated with such fundamental change—revolution. In the case of French universities the new matrix did not replace the preceding one, but it was added to it. “Universities” did not vanquish “the disciplines”; instead, they relativized the weight of the disciplines and became a supplementary component in French higher education steering. There was, therefore, no paradigm revolution in the sense of one system of reference being replaced during a crisis situation by a new and totally different one. Instead, there was aggregation (Lascoumes 1994); a new system was grafted onto the preceding one. The occasionally conflictual combination of the two worked to orient French universities in a new direction and modified the terms in which the ministry oversees and steers. This does not mean the change was incremental (Lindblom 1959; Marsh and Rhodes 1992, 261) or a path-shifting process (Pierson 1996; Palier 1999); transformation of the overall picture did not occur through a succession of small touches or strokes. Introducing university contracts was a forceful act, and even though it took several years for that act to take full effect, it did indeed constitute a break, a shift from state A to state B. But in the case of French universities, state B is not totally different from state A. And in this the French case runs contrary to the notion of paradigm shift operative in analyses of other changes: for farming, a large farming population working small areas of land, followed by change, represented by rural exodus, then extensive farming by a small number (Muller 1984); the switch from arsenal to market logic in civil aviation (Muller 1989); or the shift from neoclassical economics to Keynesian theory (Hall 1989). My analysis of the contract policy thus brings new material to the ongoing inquiry into institutional framework stability and the possibility of institutional framework change. It brings to light not only both the role of innovations and their fragility but also the importance of ideas in the institutionalization of innovations. Rather than suggesting that actors are locked up in normative and cognitive spaces from which they act blindly, it pushes us to recognize their autonomy, their capacity to think differently and promote new or different representations, while pointing up the various dangers—contextual (political reordering) or structural (due to structural rigidities)—that threaten innovations. Rather than limit the possibilities of institutional framework change to the development of new systems of reference, new theories, or new ideas, my analysis emphasizes the important role of such systems, theories, or ideas in institutionalizing new practices, and shows that major change may occur through aggregation rather than revolution.


French press articles and special newspaper and magazine reports on universities have proffered the same diagnosis since the 1960s: Universities are in crisis and must be reformed. Significantly, little has changed in this assessment since the mid-1980s. Taken all together, press coverage of the issue almost suggests that crisis is the permanent, natural state of French university education. There is of course cause for criticism. Student drop-out rates (Yahou and Raulin 1997), degree-holder unemployment (Vergnies 1997; Sigot and Vergnies 1998), students’ sense of disorientation and disenchantment in a world whose rules they do not understand (Lapeyronnie and Marie 1992), overcrowded classes and their detrimental effect on teachers, and the many ineffective reforms can hardly leave observers indifferent. However, these real problems should not hide the equally real, profound changes that have occurred, if only because they contradict the oftrepeated discourse on university inertia in general, the inertia of French universities in particular, and the impossibility of reforming the university system. Simple diachronic comparison between my 1980s studies of French universities and studies being done today show that major changes have occurred, changes that have once more given universities a place in French higher education. Toward a New Configuration The shift to more autonomous, strongly governed institutions is only the visible side of a much greater change that affects the French university configuration in its entirety; that is, the way relations among the ministry, universities, and the academic profession fit and work together and the relative weight of these three collective actors. The last ten years constitute a decisive turning point, as they have profoundly shaken up the relations by which these three entities were linked since the Napoleonic reforms. By strengthening state centralization and the standardization of university education, re-creating the faculties and refusing and preventing the development of individual university institutions, and instituting a national, centralized corporation, the Imperial University of the early nineteenth century laid the foundations for a configuration structured around three axes: concomitant existence of two centers, one state, the other corporatist; joint


management relations between them; the disappearance of universities and resulting strength of the faculties. This combination led to the development of extremely standardized university education, built around disciplinary difference but based on principles of equality, uniformity, and the national territory as the only relevant reference. None of the reforms introduced in the following one hundred and fifty years managed to modify this configuration, not even the ambitious efforts of the Third Republic republican-spirited reformers, because while these gave universities an administrative status, they actually reinforced both state and corporatist centers and the relations between them, and made the monodisciplinary faculties the pillars of the system. It was not until 1968 and the Loi Faure that the faculties were abolished and the French university system endowed with universities with the potential for creating an intermediary level between the overseeing ministry and academics and for detaching organizational from academic career management structures. Still, this law did not affect the system’s twofold centralization or state-corporatist joint management, and the new universities remained the system’s weak link for the next twenty years. Faced at first with politicization of their decision-making bodies, they later were able to make effective use of what little autonomy the central administration left them, an administration that had meanwhile changed nothing in its steering modes. This time, however, the discipline component was itself in a weakened position and could not take advantage of universities’ difficulties to move into what little space they had. Before 1968, collegial functioning among peers and the figure of the dean had given the former faculty structures a certain self-organizing and steering capacity; those structures represented coherent entities that academics identified with and within which a strong feeling of membership developed. After 1968, UERs rarely managed to re-create the cohesion characteristic of the faculties, and UER directors, elected by different colleagues, were extremely unlikely to stand as scientific and moral authority figures in the way deans had. The two decades that followed on the Loi Faure were characterized by weakened “professional” (i.e. discipline-based) and “institutional” (i.e., university) regulation modes, and this allowed for greater individual university autonomy. The effects could at times be undesirable, for example, toleration of excessive laissez-faire, which did occur, since there was virtually no means of counteracting it. They could also be beneficial, as when universities used their individual autonomy to develop projects. The success of selective professional degree programs; the increased links with the CNRS, INSERM, INRA, and so forth (and the resultant complex, close connections between research organizations and universities); the development in some cases of direct ties between universities and businesses or local communities were largely due to the capacity of some universities to make and maintain contacts, present competitive research bids, respond effectively to ministerial incentives, and so forth. The weakening of the faculty straitjacket left more room to individual initiatives, but


also weakened university governance and accentuated both internal fragmentation and external differentiation. The introduction of university contracts in the late 1980s profoundly affected this situation, and it changed the French university configuration by establishing a new equilibrium, itself produced through two developments. The first of these was a sliding from national to local levels, from the state center to the individual university institutions. Contractualization not only involved introducing a more negotiative procedure but also modified the overseeing ministry’s role. Moreover, it presupposed universities’ taking up questions that up until then had been “the ministry’s affair,” and becoming a level at which their own-policies were defined and made consistent with each other. The second was a weakening of the corporatist center. The clearest manifestation of this is the end of the monopoly of discipline-focused logic in the ministry. Such logic now had to “accommodate” university-focused logic. The collapse of faculty-fixated thinking in the ministry went hand in hand with a weakening of the central career management body, the CNU. This development was brought about directly by 1992 decrees restricting the role of the CNU to candidate qualification and leaving final hiring decisions up to local specialist commissions and university bodies. These changes cannot be directly linked to the contract policy since the measures were not taken with the purpose of strengthening universities or consolidating contracts by giving universities more autonomy in academic hiring. Nonetheless, those were precisely the effects they had, as shown by our studies of four national CNU sections and ten local hiring committees (Blanchet and Musselin 1996; Hanin 1996; Blangy and Musselin 1996; de Oliveira 1998). The new configuration that has resulted from these changes is thus much more balanced. Its universities are stronger, better able to engage in collective action, have impact in two-against-one alliance games (Caplow 1968), and further weaken the role of the disciplines. Whither the French University? Should we be glad of these changes, or worried by them? What type of University are they going to “produce”? In seeking to answer these questions it is tempting to look at the experience of other countries. Many specialists have observed that higher education in European countries is currently undergoing two changes1: the move from university as “cultural institution” (also called the collegial or research university model) to university as “public service” (also called the managerial and even entrepreneurial model);2 and the transition from state intervention based on ex ante regulation and oversight toward an overseeing body that regulates and evaluates ex post. The path taken by France seems congruent with that followed by neighboring nations. The vocabulary used by contract policy actors in France, the notion of “modernization,” the investment in computerized management programs, the will to strengthen university presidents’ teams, the devolution of new tasks to the university level, the


delegation of “local” policy development to the individual universities, together with the work of making such policies consistent with one another—these developments taken together would seem to suggest that France is moving in this direction. And since France began changing late in the day relative to neighboring countries, it seems logical to use their experience to assess possible good and ill effects of the new directions in France. Still, we must be extremely careful about affirming that what is happening in France does indeed correspond to any new “European model” and before assessing possible effects in France on the basis of longer experience elsewhere. I am reluctant to proceed that way because of what I see as intrinsic weaknesses in the model of a shift from “collegial university+interventionist state” to “managerial university+regulator state.”3 First, this model assumes the existence of a past ideal-typical European university—an idea that does not hold up to historical analysis. Above all, the paired characteristics understood to describe the past seem incompatible with each other: a collegial university and a closely overseeing interventionist state simply do not go together; “professionally”controlled university governance is by definition contradictory to that type of ministry. Close state oversight and strong state intervention can characterize only two situations: no professional regulation+purely bureaucratic or state-controlled steering (similar to the situation in the former Eastern-bloc countries), or the type of bureaucratic-oligarchic collusion I described for France, which coincided with absent universities. If the collegial model was indeed the model of the past, it necessarily went together with regulatory intervention by the state, intervention that could be either corrective or protective.4 As for the managerial model, which supposedly represents the present and near future, on close examination it does not seem to me any more convincing.5 The paired characteristics that make up this model are ill-assorted and incomplete. A managerial-type university, more attentive to its “clients” and in competition with other institutions, can be associated not only with a corrector-regulator state, but also with state withdrawal, since interuniversity regulation could be accomplished mainly by market adjustment mechanisms. In sum, the managerial model can function with more or less intense state regulatory action. The possible combinations are therefore much more numerous than the simple pair proposed in these studies. To account for real past and present changes, a less simplistic, looser analytic framework is needed. I would also point out that this “model” creates a false impression of convergence in an area in which distinctions are still sharp and reform processes are still marked by national institution constraints. We should not hastily conclude that universities are following a clearly laid out path that inevitably leads to one and the same model—for one thing because this could lead us to consider real, tangible differences among university systems to be negligeable variables. The developments underway today in France are first and foremost those of France’s university system. The path those developments take, the solutions proposed, the consequences produced may resonate with paths and


policies followed elsewhere, but this should not mask the internal cohesion of the French university configuration or of change in that configuration. These comments should not be read as nationalist sentiment; rather, they amount to the simple observation that no European University model exists, that any such University is yet to be constructed, and that European Union university systems are still first and foremost national. Even though the directions being taken in France do not seem incompatible with those being taken elsewhere, they are leading to a result that, because it is being constructed in a different institutional framework from those in other countries, remains for the moment distinct, specific, national. There is surely no one way to qualify current developments. It can be said, however, that all of them strengthen university governance. This may be observed in France and in other European countries, and it means that today more than yesterday, universities are having to manage at their level the issue of striking a balance between “science for science’s sake” and “a university for society” imperatives. We are not in a position to say how they will manage that issue, where they will situate themselves on the imaginary line between those two extreme positions. The tension between the two positions is not new; on the contrary, it is inherent in each and every university system. However, it can be handled at different levels. Until recently, in the French case, it was managed in two ways: at the national level, by the ministry working jointly with the corporation and functioning as mediator, reformulating society’s demands and pushing universities to integrate them;6 and at the level of the individual actor, through relations developed by each academic with his or her environment. The recent changes are pushing universities to become the locus of this synthesis and management. And in the future much more than in the past it will be up to universities to determine how far they will support a given “professional” direction, that is, purely scientific or pedagogic; how fully they will integrate external demands; how they will translate those demands for use. We cannot entirely rule out the possibility of French universities becoming education or training “businesses” that follow no law but the market. That risk seems to me more imaginary than real, however. First—and regardless of whether this is deplored or applauded—French universities’ stronger autonomy and strengthened governance have not brought them much closer to what is an ideal for some, a diabolic threat for others, namely, private American universities;7 i.e., those institutions often presented as the archetype of the managerial university (though they are hardly education “businesses”).8 Second, the changes in the ministry’s role in France amount not so much to “less state” as “state in a different way.” The shift from national to local has not been accompanied by any disappearance of the state center, but by a change in its powers and practices. Increasingly, state practices are becoming a matter of evening out, realigning, finding balances, avoiding excess, preventing undesirable veering, or drifting off the road.


Third, changes in French state intervention in the direction of modes that are less national and centralized in character, and more focused on evaluation than oversight, are compatible with more than one model of university governance. It seems to me that, despite the rationalizations it has given rise to, the change that has occurred in France is to be met with satisfaction, because it consists above all in granting French universities more responsibility for managing the balance between the disciplines’ purely “professional” exigencies and external demands and expectations. Until now, this work belonged to the ministry, and was jointly managed with representatives of the corporation who had access to the center. The size and heterogeneity of French universities make it highly relevant to shift this responsibility from the center toward the universities and their academics. Change will now depend as much on them as on the ministry. Is this such a bad thing? Future Challenges The path taken by French university education over the last decade should therefore be pursued, but there is still a long way to go before the process is accomplished. The changes are new, and they presuppose both organizational and technical learning, which in turn requires modifying behaviors and attitudes and disseminating and consolidating new representations. These are long-term developments. What are some of the difficulties that will have to be overcome in the future? It seems to me that the emergence of French universities and their transformation into more autonomous institutions brings organizational mechanisms into play that directly affect their internal functioning and governance, presenting them with three major challenges. The first challenge is to integrate UFR directors into university governance. Presidents’ teams need their support if chosen policies are to be successfully implemented. At present, UFR directors are not fulfilling this function: either they refuse to play the role of go-between, or they are willing to do so but do not have the legitimacy or the means (in terms of time, abilities, or leverage for action). Their situation is especially uncomfortable because they are asked to implement decisions they did not help make and that, while they may well satisfy executive office demands, risk alienating members of their own UFRs. One way of improving this delicate situation would be to strengthen UFR directors’ position by rethinking how to distribute powers between them and the university directorate, and inventing governance modes that would allow them a more active role. Integrating UFR directors in decision-making processes, broadening presidents’ teams, more systematically including UFR directors on decisionmaking bodies would surely give them a greater governing role. But this presupposes modifying their function. It seems to me that the job of UFR director needs to become a full-time, more professional activity, to be exercised for longer periods (making holders of that position less dependent on their


electors). Indeed, if universities are to become yet stronger institutions, this process seems inevitable.9 The second challenge facing universities concerns their position with regard to education supply. Study programs are much more diversified in French universities than in most foreign universities. It does not seem possible to both maintain this level of heterogeneity and develop policies consistent with minimal national norms and requirements. A single policy cannot cover all these differences at once. Universities may therefore be expected to announce more clearly their own particular pedagogic and scientific approaches. This is already perceptible in some universities, and development projects prepared in the framework of the Université du Illè Millénaire confirm the trend.10 Every regional university or set of universities is ready to pursue priorities that will distinguish it from the others. But actually implementing this approach, the internal redistribution it presupposes in terms of budget and posts, the implications it has for academic hiring, together with the problem of managing tension among the different goals—all these are new exercises for French universities, which, while they have learned to “speak” have not necessarily learned how to “do” because for so many years they left the responsibility of “doing” to the ministry, which, far from refusing to make such choices, willingly grasped the opportunity to impose its views. The last challenge, and it is no small one, involves an area that in France is not usually included in university autonomy, though it is a fundamental condition for it: administrative and academic personnel management. Presidents’ teams and university councils should become more involved in hiring decisions. How can university-specific policies be implemented if the university does not have personnel willing and able to do this? How can a policy for improving student reception be developed without ensuring that academics are hired who are not only strong in their field but also have strong teaching skills, appreciate and valorize their relations with students, and are willing to invest some of their time in such a reception policy? Likewise, how can a research pole be created without incentives for attracting high quality candidates? Universities’ current reluctance to interfere in specialist commission rankings should not be superceded by president’s discretionary choice, but between the two extremes there is room for more careful examination by university officers or bodies, and this would limit the danger of making questionable choices that will commit the University for many years down the line. There is also room for collectively developing internal rules of the game that would prevent universities from implementing illconsidered policies or veering off track.11 Nearly all the academics we interviewed see the CNU as playing a role of scientific guarantor, and this explains in large part why they are so attached to maintaining this central body. But that role too could be transferred from the national to the local level.12 The most radical means of facilitating this change would of course be to abolish the CNU. It must be acknowledged that at present such a reform would not be accepted. Nonetheless, it would relieve the central administration of the


enormous quantity of work involved in organizing section meetings, handling and distributing massive candidate files, organizing elections, and so forth—and regularly devising new procedures for circumventing the perverse effects produced by the rules of the game. Surely the ministry has better things to do. Indeed, above and beyond the issue of individual universities’ internal functioning, the emergence of more diversified universities is testing the ministry’s ability to define a new role for itself, develop new practices, invent different ways of keeping the system consistent than the regulatory apparatus and national norms it has used in the past (and continues to apply). Up until now, the ministry had to ensure that situations were comparable. Now, university diversity and the particular, situated identity that each university will be trying to define for itself, will force the ministry to modify its action and policies. The famous transformation of the ‘mammoth’;13 that is, the central administration, is going to have to be more qualitative than quantitative. The ministry can only change if ministry personnel’s tasks and skills change.14 New operating modes will also have to be developed that will make it possible to resolve the growing contradiction between national, egalitarian principles on the one hand, diversification of the university system as a whole on the other. Moving out of the role of rule-generator and rule-application overseer will not be easy. Lastly, transforming the ministry’s role will have to include redefining of the place and role of expert evaluation in it. I am confident in the high quality of experts’ work. Writing of his recent experience at the ministry, the sociologist François Dubet (1999) pointed up strong convergence in expert recommendations —a clear indication of their impartiality and scientific rigor. And I would agree that partial or partisan behavior is the exception rather than the rule among experts. The problem lies not so much in the intrinsic quality of expert evaluation as the perverse effects it creates, which include the following: a few experts chosen by the central administration jointly managing university affairs with it; administrators with little or no independence with regard to expert opinions; the verticality and centralization of discipline management caused thereby; the lack of a sense of responsiblity in universities themselves. Unlike Dubet, I think these functioning modes must be called into question and changed. Expert evaluation is necessary, but it should not be practiced within the ministry and in close interaction with the central administration. And that evaluation should no longer take the form of a “committee of the wise” commissioned to produce a report for the minister. At present, members of such commissions are called upon to assemble reports in record time on data that doesn’t exist; they have no other way of performing this feat than calling in and hearing relevant actors, designating other experts, agreeing on a synthesis of the hearings and a series of propositions which in turn must be circulated to the press before the report is submitted to the ministry if the experts are to get any publicity for conclusions that will surely be buried unless they are what the minister was waiting for in the first place or if he deems they could roil the waves of public opinion. The proliferation of such commissions and reports for the higher education sector;


their weak impact, however interesting report content may be; the limited legitimacy accorded them, whatever the quality of the experts on the commission, show the limited effectiveness of this method. New modalities must be conceived, so that expert evaluation may be more independent of the overseeing ministry and the minister freer from experts. Whatever the modalities chosen— and they may range from a buffer body such as the former British University Grants Committee to specialized agencies of the type highly valued in Sweden— the point is to further upset vertical management by and of the disciplines, precisely that kind of management that the history of the French University has shown to be a natural and structural factor for inertia. This partial (in both senses of the term) overview of the project areas to be tackled in the future is not, despite appearances, a list of disconnected items. Indeed, the main difficulty of the undertaking is not so much dealing with each of the points mentioned as controlling their collective dynamic. The interdependences by which ministry, universities, and academic corporation are linked mean that a late start in one will slow down attempts to move forward in the others. French universities need still more time to distance themselves definitively from the Napoleonic system. But this time the French University has truly moved onto that path.


academic personnel: The general term is enseignant-chercheur: teacherresearcher. All teacher-researchers are national civil servants. There are currently two main, hierarchically ordered groups: maîtres de conferences and professeurs (full professors). Maîtres de conferences are required to have a doctoral degree; full professors have passed either the accreditation procedure called habilitation à diriger des recherches, or, in certain disciplines, the agrégation du supérieur. Nearly all teacher-researchers are qualified by the Conseil National des Universités. académie. education district. There are 36 académies, each headed by a recteur, the local representative of the state in the domain of education, necessarily of full professor status. Each académie is responsible for overseeing and managing implementation of national government policy for primary, secondary, and university education. The role of académies in higher education has always been limited. agrégation du supérieur. highly competitive national examination by which doctorate holders, primarily maîtres de conférences, in the disciplines of law, political science, economics, business administration, and medicine attain the status of professeur. The number of successful agrégation candidates is identical to, or lower than, the number of new professorships open in the discipline throughout the country for the year the exam is held. Successful candidates choose from among available posts according to their rank, the highest-ranking candidate choosing first, and so forth. agrégation du secondaire. the more selective and prestigious of two national competitive examinations for attaining the status of permanent secondary school teacher in most letters and sciences disciplines. There are agrégations for most lycée subjects, (foreign languages, social sciences, history, philosophy, the natural sciences, etc.). baccalauréat (bac): national high school leaving degree conferred after passing the examination of the same name; uniform throughout French national territory. The baccalauréat is officially the first university degree; as such it gives automatic access to university studies. carte scolaire: instrument used since 1963 for planning and managing primary and secondary schooling supply and facilities throughout France (carte: map). Decisions regarding creation or extension of schools and distribution of personnel and resources are made on the basis of the carte scolaire. carte universitaire: instrument similar to the carte scolaire for determining the geographic distribution of university education supply and facilities. Since 1965, it has been one of the ministry’s official tasks to ensure that university education supply and corresponding facilities are efficiently and fairly distributed throughout France.


commissions de spécialistes: academic commissions internal to universities, one for each discipline or subdiscipline, elected for four years and composed half of full professors or assimilated, half of maîtres de conferences or assimilated (who make decisions only on issues concerning maîtres de conferences). Commissions make hiring and some promotion decisions for their respective disciplines or subdisciplines on the basis of CNU-qualified candidate lists. CNU, Conseil National des Universités: national council made up of fifty-five sections, each corresponding to a discipline or subdiscipline, whose main role is to determine whether candidates for the two groups of academic personnel are “qualified,” that is, to verify that they have met the minimum statutory requirements (see academic personnel) and determine whether their scientific or scholarly activity is qualitatively and quantitatively satisfactory. Each CNU section is made up of eighteen professors and eighteen maîtres de conferences, two-thirds elected by their respective groups, the other third appointed by the ministry. Members serve for four years. conseil d’administration, see university councils conseil des études et de la vie étudiante, CEVU, see university councils conseil scientifique, see university councils DEA, Diplôme d’Etudes Approfondies see organization of university studies DESS, Diplôme d’Etudes Supérieures Spécialisées see organization of university studies DEUG, Diplôme d’Etudes Universitaires Générales, see organization of university studies grandes écoles: public or private higher education institutions distinct from universities, characterized by highly selective admission procedures and awarding degrees after five or six years of post-baccalauréat study in engineering, business administration, and other specializations. Examples of grandes écoles are the Ecole Polytechnique, the Ecole Normale Supérieure, which trains an elite of teachers and researchers in the letters and sciences, and the Ecole Nationale d’Administration, which trains senior administrative civil servants. Grandes écoles have their own accreditation system and educational projects, and in general enjoy great autonomy. They are usually small-scale establishments, with 300 yearly graduates at most. habilitation à diriger des recherches: accreditation to supervise research, required for attaining the status of full professor in all letters and science disciplines where there is no agrégation du supérieur and requisite for taking the agrégation du supérieur in other disciplines. Candidates for the habilitation write an extensive report of their research and defend it to a jury of professors or research directors. Comparable to the German Habilitationschrift. IUTs, Instituts Universitaires de Technologie. Technical institutes within universities offering professional training and degree (Diplôme Universitaire de Technologie) after two years of post-baccalauréat study. IUT directors are appointed by the ministry rather than elected like UFR directors. licence, see organization of university studies lycée: high school conferring the baccalauréat degree after a three-year study cycle and leaving examination. maître de conferences, see academic personnel maîtrise, see organization of university studies


Mission Scientifique: generic term referring to the group of academics requested by the ministry to evaluate accreditation applications for graduate study programs and give expert opinions on scientific projects submitted in the framework of negotiation of the “research” section of four-year contracts or to assist universities in preparing the “development” section of the contract. organization of university studies: At present, university studies have been organized into three cycles. The premier cycle, two years of study, culminates in obtention of a DEUG (Diplôme d’Etudes Universitaires Générales) or DEUST (Diplôme d’Etudes Universitaires Scientifiques et Techniques) or a Diplôme d’IUT. Theoretically, the DEUST and the DIUT are final degrees, whereas the DEUG provides access to the second cycle, two years of study, the first leading to the licence degree and the second to the maîtrise. The second cycle includes a selective professional branch leading to such degrees as the Licence Professionnelle (bac+3 years of study) and maîtrises in applied subjects, such as the Maîtrise des Sciences et Techniques or MST, the Maîtrise des Sciences de Gestion [management science] or MSG, and so forth. The troisième cycle is accessible to all maîtrise holders. It consists either in a professional program leading to the Diplôme d’Etudes Supérieures Spécialisées or DESS (bac+5 years) or a yearlong pre-doctoral program of training “by and for research,” leading to the Diplôme d’Etudes Approfondies or DEA. DEA holders may then prepare a doctoral thesis. However, in the framework of the European Union higher education process known as the Bologna process, this system is now being reorganized. All university degrees will now fit into a three-level system: Licence (bac+3 years), Masters, either professional or in research (bac+5) and Doctorate (bac+8). personnalités extérieures: see university councils premier cycle, see organization of university studies professeurs, see academic personnel second cycle, see organization of university studies troisième cycle, see organization of university studies UER, Unité d’Enseignement et de Recherche, see UFR UFR, Unité de Formation et de Recherche: “Education and research unit.” From the Loi Faure of 1968 to the Loi Savary of 1984, the term was Unité d’Enseignement et de Recherche, UER: Teaching and research unit. UFRs are the basic structural academic component of universities. A UFR can be monodisciplinary, as history may be, or bring together several related disciplines, as is often the case for the sciences (the science UFR is made up of the departments of physics, chemistry, mathematics). Each UFR has a director, elected by the UFR council for a five-year term. Some institutions have recently started using the former faculty term “dean” to designate this position. university councils. Since the 1984 Loi Savary, there have been three deliberative councils: the Conseil Scientifique, which makes proposals regarding research and budget; the Conseil des Etudes de la Vie Universitaire or CEVU, focused on curricula and student life on campus, and the Conseil d’Administration, which makes decisions on the basis of proposals and recommenda tions from the other two while concerned primarily with resource issues such as budget and post allocation. Each council is composed of elected representatives of academics, students, administrative staff. The Conseil d’Administration also


includes personnalités extérieures, such as local elected officials and prominent business persons, understood to represent the society at large. Each council elects a leader whose title is university vice-president.


Introduction 1. Terms followed by an asterisk are defined in the Glossary. 2. Figures for academics are from information memo 98.33 of the Direction d’Evaluation et de la Prospective (DEP). Figures for nonacademic personnel are from the Education Ministry website and break down thus: 30,180 ITARFs (engineers and technical and administrative personnel), 3,482 library and museum workers, 242 head administrative assistants and accountants, 21,275 ATOS (administrative, technical, and manual service personnel). 3. Figures are from decree 98–1282 of December 1998, published in the Journal Officiel of December 31. 4. Figure is for the “Operating subsidies” expenditures category and does not include “Equipment and service operation” (47,600,000 FF or € 7,256,098) or “Miscellaneous expenditures” (51,674,511 FF or €7,877,212). 5. University with a capital u’ refers to the notion or idea. 6. In the interest of simplicity, faculty will hereafter replace faculté. It should be remembered, however, that in the French context the term refers to an institutionalized academic discipline or order of disciplines, as well as to the corresponding local single-discipline institutions and their academic personnel. It does not refer to all academic personnel of a given university. The facultés were legislatively abolished in 1968. 7. Play on words: “en quête de” is looking for; “enquête de”: survey of. 8. I insist on this point because French universities are rarely made an object of research; they are much more likely to be the subject of essays, open letters, and critical diagnoses, all based more on personal experience than research studies. Indeed, researchers at times seem ill at ease themselves examining universities with “scientific instruments.” We need only think of Pierre Bourdieu’s long chapter in Homo Academicus (1984) specifying the methodological precautions he followed in order to feel he could produce a valid study of academics; he only published the results nineteen years after the surveys were done! Is there really any reason to believe that the risk of being too close to one’s object is greater for an academic studying his or her colleagues than an academic studying the middle classes (to which he or she just as fully belongs) or a woman sociologist studying the situation of working women?


9. While historical studies are numerous, and rich in detail and analysis, taken together they cover some periods fully (the Third Republic, for example), others not at all. Furthermore, there are extremely few studies on the history of university institutions (with the exception of the Sorbonne, but these are mostly concerned with the Medieval period; cf. Guénée 1978). Indeed, French historical studies tend to reflect the “faculty” slant of French university education; that is, its structuration around the disciplines rather than multidisciplinary universities. It is to be hoped that university history will become an object of study, in the same way business firm history is (Chandler 1962; Fridenson 1972).

Chapter 1 1. Toward the end of the Middle Ages, for example, French universities turned to the public authorities for protection against the Roman Catholic Church. The philosopher Alain Renaut (1995) views this moment as one of the first “revolutions” in the history of the French University. Contesting Minot’s conclusions (1991) as well as analyses by Gusdorf (1964) and, more recently, Allègre (1993), he affirms that the history of university institutions in France is not that of an enduring, continuous model, first developed in Paris at the end of the thirteenth century, but rather a series of “revolutions,” and that the modern French university is decidedly no longer comparable to its medieval ancestor. 2. See also Filâtre 1993. 3. Charles VII sought to limit university privileges to “real students,” but also to exclude students from decision-making bodies and reinforce hierarchical structures (Verger and Vulliez 1986,124). 4. Louis XI intervened directly in matters of course content, namely to prohibit nominalist teachings (Verger and Vulliez, 1986). 5. The Imperial University comprised all institutions of secondary and higher education; it thus did not correspond either in spirit or in composition to what is today called a university. 6. The Consulate had ‘painstakingly’ determined “rules for examinations and how they were to be given, down to the smallest details,” and engaged in “state centralization and standardization of education throughout the country: in the name of equality, all examinations everywhere had to be of equal difficulty” (Schriewer 1972, 42–43). 7. Degree conferment was an extremely heavy task for the faculties. According to Charle, participation in the baccalauréat jury occupied all professors’ time. He cites the following 1928 declaration by Dean Brunot of the Paris faculty of letters: “The baccalauréat alone takes up all faculty members from June on, and the whole of its administrative staff from as early as April” (Charle 1994, 403). 8. Because the baccalauréat is the first university degree, every baccalauréat holder can accede to university education. Blangy has shown how the baccalauréat changed from a degree whose value “to society was approximately what gold is to the currency market: an uncontested standard whose strength and legitimacy are due to its scarcity” to “a piece of parchment that seemed to be losing its ‘intrinsic’ value and legitimacy” (Blangy 1994, 2 and 3).


9. According to Eicher, the proportion of students with a general studies baccalauréat who enroll in higher education remained for a long time at 80 percent. It began rising in 1970, reaching 96.8 percent in 1985–1986 and nearly 100 percent in 2001, according to the National Education Ministry’s Direction de l’Evaluation et de la Perspective department. For technical studies baccalauréat holders, the proportion was under 60 percent before 1960, 76 percent in 1985, and 83 percent in 1994. Only 10 percent of vocational baccalauréat holders pursue higher education (Eicher 1997, 192). 10. I say theoretically, because while students’ results on state examinations were valid throughout the nation, education and certifying procedure supply were not equitably distributed. “Nearly all fixed university programs of study were actually taught in lycées…the remaining academic degrees were conferred by the Ecole Normale Supérieure. This meant that the Ecole in the rue d’Ulm [the Ecole Normale Supérieure] had disproportionate functional weight… Not only was it the only place (other than the Grandes Ecoles) where highest level university programs were taught, it also directly prepared students for the agrégation… For most of the nineteenth century, then, university elites were not only trained but also certified outside university faculties’ (Karady 1985, 31). 11. This situation subsisted until 1836. The ordinance of August 9 of that year cleared up the legal confusion between secondary and higher education (Karady 1986a, 272). 12. Teachers were supposed to have themselves obtained the degrees corresponding to their functions, but as the profession had serious hiring difficulties due to its poor reputation in the society at large and the austere living conditions of its practitioners —members of the teaching corps were advised to remain unmarried and obliged to live in collective housing—this regulation was often disregarded (Gerbod 1965). 13. It may seem inappropriate to compare Napoleon’s Conseil d’Instruction Civique with the present-day Conseil National des Universités : two-thirds of CNU members are elected by their academic colleagues (the other third are appointed by the state); members have relatively narrow prerogatives and much looser ties to the central state; they have no hierarchical function. However, today’s central academic management body is clearly by nature a corporatist center. 14. This title was soon changed to Ministre de l’Instruction Publique. 15. “The corporations of the ancien regime were spontaneous creations formed at the base. They were an effect of social necessity, not the result of a regulation generated by a constituant authority. On the contrary, with the Napoleonic text, the [academic] corporation was constituted at the national scale through a decision made at the very top” (Chevallier, Grosperrin, and Maillet 1968,46 and 47). 16. “From the mid-seventeenth century there had been unbelievable scandals. The faculty of canon law in Paris no longer had a single professor: to hold on to its revenues, it had refused to take on colleagues” (Liard 1888, 70–71). 17. The name of this committee was modified several times over the nineteenth century, as was its makeup. In the interests of clarity I have chosen to call all versions of this body “Conseil de l’Instruction Publique.” 18. In the disciplines of law, economics, management, and political science, the main and most prestigious way of acceding to the professorial corps is to pass the highly selective agrégation du supérieur competitive examination. In letters and sciences, on the other hand, this exam does not exist at the higher education supérieur level,


19. 20.


22. 23.


25. 26.




and candidates for the title of professor much first obtain a special accreditation to supervise research called the habilitation à diriger des recherches, then be qualified by the relevant section of the Conseil National des Universités, only then can they apply for a vacant professorship. A candidate for the habilitation writes up an extensive summary of his/her research, explaining how it holds together and fits into the field; this is then defended before a jury of professors or research directors. Following Nerrien’s terms (1994). Weisz (1977) points out that of the twenty-four founding members of the Société de l’Enseignement Supérieur, created in 1878, seventeen were members of the Institut de France or the Académie Française. Louis Liard, minister of public instruction from 1884 to 1902 and theorist and implementer of the 1896 reform, was “one of the most promising French philosophers of his generation” (Renaut 1995, 159). Weisz (1977) also indicates the active role played after 1860 by intellectual reviews such as the Revue des Deux Mondes, the Revue Bleue, and the Revue Scientifique in circulating ideas of reform within educated public opinion. French academics also envied their German counterparts’ social position and material conditions. Charle (1983, 55) analyzed texts written by Charles Seignobos, Maxime Collignon, Gabriel Séailles, Camille Jullian, Georges Blondel, Emile Durkheim, Abel Lefranc, Maurice Caullery, Célestin Bouglé, Emmanuel De Martonne, and Jean Brunhes after spending time in German universities. Kant (1798) distinguished the higher faculties—law, medicine, and theology—from the lower one—philosophy. But as Renaut has remarked (1995), this vocabulary is deceptive, since in Kant’s scheme, letters, as the lower faculty, was independent of the state and could therefore pursue truth, which actually put it in a higher position than the other three. Data provided by Prost (1968, 243) from the Annuaire Statistique retrospective, vol. 55, 1939. Paris was already imposing its full weight on the French university system. More than half of faculty students were enrolled in Paris, and “three-quarters of all doctors of medicine, sciences, and letters were trained in Paris, as were half of all licencies of law and science” (Weisz 1983, 23). This is also Renaut’s interpretation (1995). Analyzing the dispute around the new Sorbonne, he claims that the scientistic ideal did not win out because it ran into structured, active opposition from actors who did not share it. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) was created in 1915, on the initiative of the American Sociology Association, the American Economics Association, and the American Political Science Association. At first it was badly received by American academics, who saw it as a kind of union, but it acquired legitimacy by its defense of academic freedom and recommendation that the practice of tenure be generalized (Lucas 1994). Johns Hopkins University, founded in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1876, symbolizes the development of American research universities. According to Daniel Coit Gilman, the first president of Johns Hopkins, the institution’s main purpose was “the acquisition, conservation, refinement, and distribution of knowledge” (quoted in Lucas 1996, 172).


30. The law of July 1896 made it legal to develop university-specific degrees, and this right began to be used at the turn of the century, notably in the sciences. However, such degrees have never offered any real competition to national degrees. 31. The state and French academics found themselves objective allies. On the one hand, national degrees enabled the political and administrative powers to oversee educational content and knowledge-testing modes. On the other, it was in academics’ interest to develop national degrees since faculty funding was distributed mainly on the basis of student enrollments and students more readily enrolled in study programs leading to state examinations. 32. At the time, professors received fixed salaries which could only be supplemented with examination fees. 33. My presentation of Charle’s conclusion is much more cynical than his own. He put it thus: “The Republic wanted science, but also democracy. Its scholars wanted to ameliorate their status, as their German colleagues had, but to do so collectively, not by increasing already existing gaps among them and reinforcing the strongest” (Charle 1994, 59). 34. According to Weisz, the oldest university professors were reluctant to agree to not requiring a long period of secondary school teaching before accession to university posts, and, in the fields of law and medicine, any moves to abolish their right to practice their profession while teaching (1983, p. 80). 35. I say inadvertently because in Renaut’s view, the development of German universities was fueled by ideas and debate rather than the concrete proposals these gave rise to. 36. Renaut’s interpretation stands in contrast to Passeron’s affirmation that the university created by “the saving law of 1896” was “first and foremost university ideology made institution” (Antoine and Passeron 1966, 152–153; Passeron’s emphasis). 37. The liberal camp favored importing the German model virtually unchanged. 38. “The desire to introduce a certain degree of competition coexisted with a desire to put an end to the existing rivalry and regroup professors into vast, powerful corporatist organizations. The beauty and seductive power of the university notion lay precisely in its capacity to incorporate these contradictory purposes” (Weisz 1977, 226). 39. Like Prost (1986), Weisz (1983) speaks of Albert Dumont and Louis Liard using “tactics” or “strategies” to implement the reform. 40. In 1885 there was a series of decrees, including one making faculties into legal entities. The year 1896 was the crowning year of reform, with the law of July 10. 41. This body was in charge of managing enrollment and study fees. 42. This held back the development of research centers that might have competed with Paris’s scientific institutions. 43. These fears were clearly expressed during a comprehensive faculty survey in 1887, commissioned by Jules Ferry. Weisz explains that while forty-four faculties declared themselves in favor of developing universities, those that responded “took care to ensure that the new university organs would remain rubber-stamps for faculty decision” (1983, 140). 44. Weisz (1983) cites efforts to encourage contacts and cooperation between faculties in the same city.


45. This suggests that the real innovation of the 1896 law lay in decrees for its implementation that permitted universities to collect tuition fees directly from students (state examination fees excepted) and the law’s incentives to look for nonstate funding, which increased the proportion of independent resources (Weisz [1983] estimates the proportion of such resources in university budgets at 25 percent in 1900). These incentives strangely resemble the instructions being given to French universities today.

Chapter2 1. Aside from the creation of university institutes in July 1920 (Schriewer 1972), there were no important reforms of French higher education between 1896 and 1968 (Ewert and Lullies 1985). Chevallier, Grosperrin, and Maillet (1968) point out, however, that following the July 1920 text, the notion of University expanded to include not only the faculties but also libraries, institutes, laboratories, and so forth. 2. Cf. Weisz 1983, chap. 9. On the founding of these associations cf. Charle 1994, 76 and 77. 3. Differentiated management of French academic careers by discipline, still the rule today, stands in strong contrast to the uniform career advancement current in other countries, namely, Germany, where modes of access to the professorial corps are strictly identical for all institutions and disciplines. 4. To have a chance at a university post in history, for example, it is practically indispensable to have passed the agrégation du secondaire exam, and having taught in secondary school when applying for a higher education post is often considered an asset (Blangy and Musselin 1996). 5. Still, as Charle (1994) has shown, the relation between Paris and outside Paris cannot be understood if we do not take into account the particular nature of that relation for each major family of disciplines. In letters, Paris was preeminent; a professor at a provincial university who applied directly for a post at the Sorbonne simply had no chance of being chosen. It was in letters that the system of patrons and clusters described by Terry Clark (1971, 1973) was most effective. The pull of Paris was not as strong in the sciences. A number of provincial universities acquired good reputations by investing in applied research, and the career game was not as exclusively Parisian. 6. By 1961, when the distinction between departmental and Paris faculties was formally abolished, Paris’s dominant position in career management had already begun to weaken. Paris academics were already less likely to make up the majority in the disciplinary sections of the Conseil National des Universités (CNU), and efforts had been made to spread the student population more evenly over French territory and avoid concentrating research centers in the Paris region. 7. In letters, most assistants were secondary school level agrégés on temporary assignment in universities; they were permanent civil servants but did not have a permanent function at the higher education level. 8. The 1981 Quermonne report on higher education academics clearly underlined this diversity.


9. Charle attributes the state’s disengagement on matters involving individuals to the specialization and increasing professionalization of university academics. 10. This system is quite similar to the one used today except that whereas a person could remain on the aptitude list for an indeterminate amount of time (depending on number of positions available each year), now one remains “qualified” only for four years. 11. Gusdorf thought that it was an abuse of power for the rector even to be present at the deans’ assembly (1964,160). “The rector as agent of the supreme authority was clearly an obstacle to the existence of a full-fledged university under Napoleon” (ibid., 150). 12. Collégial may have two meanings. One is objective, and designates any structure where colleagues of the same rank make decisions collectively, in contrast to hierarchical situations. The other meaning is more normative; it refers to the quality of the decision-making process. That process is called collegial when decisions are made by consensus and/or compromise reached through discussion regardless of whether the actors involved are status peers. For Taylor (1983, p. 18), collegial describes a “community of individuals and groups all of whom may have different roles and special ties but who share common goals and objectives for the organization” (1983, 18). There the word “collegial” stands in contrast to “political.” Here I am concerned with the first meaning, which does not exclude conflict or the play of influence or presuppose that actors share the same values.

Chapter 3 1. This type of higher education expansion is observable in many other countries. In Germany higher education comprises Universitäten, Fachhochschulen, and specialized schools of music, architecture, and so forth. In the United States it includes both research universities and establishments that do not offer doctoral programs, not to mention community and land grant colleges, and so forth. In England it made sense prior to 1992 to distinguish between universities and polytechnics. The specificity of the French case resides in the fact that the differentiation process concerns both education and research—research in France is the province of specific institutions (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique or CNRS, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale or INSERM, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique or INRA, etc.)—and has led to the development of the grandes écoles sector, whereas in other countries, the institutions that developed outside the university institution have never attained the same level of prestige as universities, which remain the model of reference and excellence. In these countries, other institutions were not created to make up for university deficiencies but rather to meet needs that it is not universities’ purpose to satisfy (cf., for example, American community colleges as presented in Brint and Karabel 1991). 2. Incomplete in contrast to “complete” universities with programs in all the major disciplines, on the model of German universities or American research universities. 3. These two colloquia were the initiative of several renowned French scholars and brought together political as well as academic figures to reflect on a desirable



5. 6.





11. 12. 13. 14.


future for education and research. Participants’ recommendations were published (cf. Colloque de Caen 1966). The mission of the new universities as conceived by Gusdorf (1964), for example, has little in common with the the ideas of the Colloques de Caen organizers, but all were united in decrying the fragmentation of universities into faculties and the nonexistence of a French University. The system by which the education ministry managed professorships, linking each post to a specific discipline and person. While recommending the creation of a university assembly made up of all academics and students, the 1966 Caen colloquium also called for a decisionmaking body to be called the university “senate” made up exclusively of academics. The cited accounts pertain to highly particular establishments, however. The University of Parix X-Nanterre, created in the early 1960s in a suburb just west of Paris, was where the events of May began. The University of Paris VIII-Vincennes was founded late in 1968 as an experimental project and installed initially in the Bois de Vincennes. The idea was to open up the university to society and transform student-teacher relations and how people related to knowledge. In the 1970s it was a well-known place of protest. For a more detailed presentation, see my 1987 work and Friedberg and Musselin 1989. It should be specified that these empirical studies were conducted in 1984 and 1985, respectively, before effective implementation of the Loi Savary. In the mid-1970s, the ministry decided to make the process of allocating budgeted funds among the different universities more transparent. A set of distribution criteria were developed called GARACES (with reference to the Groupe d’Analyse et de Recherche sur les Activités et les Coûts des Enseignements Supérieurs [Group for analysis and research on higher education activities and costs]). Universities were under no obligation to adopt the same criteria in distributing funds among their UERs, but most of them did. Cohabitation refers to periods when the political camps of the parliamentary majority and president are not the same. In this case the president is obliged to choose a prime minister and constitute a government that is politically opposed to him. From 1986 to the presidential elections of 1988, the Socialist president Mitterrand governed (‘cohabited’) with the Gaullist prime minister Chirac. On December 6,1986, during demonstrations against the proposed Loi Devaquet, a young student, Malik Oussekine, died after he was beaten up by police. Figures calculated from National Education Ministry SEIS (Service des Etudes Informa tiques et Statistiques) documents and Millot and Orivel 1976. Even if this measure had not been scrapped, it would have arrived “after the battle”: the number of university students had already increased dramatically. “It must first of all be made clear that each university shall have the right to create its own degrees (i.e., not accredited by the ministry) and to organize them as it sees fit, as long as they are not national degrees giving access to certain careers or affecting nationwide competitive career entrance examinations” (Faure 1969,92). In 1965 the Service de Plan Scolaire et Universitaire [Service for school and university planning] was created; this was the first occurrence of the notion of carte universitaire in the administrative directory.


16. This task area had been developed later than the other three; it was only in 1968 that a bureau for university research was created. 17. From 1994 to 1997 the central administration was organized into a number of overarching departments known as directions générales. The Direction Générale des Enseignements Supérieurs (DGS) was in charge of study programs and institutions (four-year contracts between the ministry and individual universities, and building construction). The Direction Générale de l’Administration des Ressources Humaines et des Affaires Financières (DAG) was in charge of personnel and budgetary means. The education ministry had been put in charge of all public research, so university research was integrated into the Direction Générale de la Recherche et de la Technologie (DGRT). 18. This state of affairs was made particularly clear by the similar study I was conducting at the same time at the German ministry of education, where I discovered the existence of Hochschul-referente and the crucial interfacing role this type of actor played between “his/her” university and ministerial colleagues. For a more detailed presentation of survey results see Friedberg and Musselin 1993. 19. In deciding whether or not to allocate funds to a university research team, for example, it was not necessary to be familiar with operating budgets; conversely, allocating funding for a research team had no effect on the overall sum allotted for the operating budget. 20. I insist here on the absence of criteria relative to the situation of the universities offering these study programs. It should be added that career opportunities presented by these programs were not a discriminating factor. 21. In fact, central administration directors were often themselves academics. This was already common in the late nineteenth century: “After several unsuccessful candidacies for academic posts, their career advancement blocked, certain professors from the provinces sought openings in the higher echelons of the Instruction Publique.… This explains at least in part the inordinate proportion of former higher education literature teachers (essentially from faculties outside Paris) within the higher administration of that institution. Most higher and secondary education directors, even some primary school directors, came from this pool” (Charle 1994, 237). Karady demonstrated another type of joint management, explaining that after the departure of Jules Ferry [minister for civic instruction from 1879 to 1883], “the administration regularly consulted teachers by means of commissions and even surveys, which made it possible to include them in all important decisions affecting them” (1986b, 331). The corporation’s pervasive influence on the state was also stressed by Girod de l’Ain (1989). 22. The various research scholarship posts (for doctoral students) and ATER positions (Attaches Temporaires d’Enseignement et de Recherche, mainly for doctoral students in the last year of thesis writing and young PhDs) are now temporary and only renewable once. This clause introduced in France the “up or out” situation that characterizes American and German junior academic job markets. On “up or out,” see Kahn and Huberman 1988; O’Flaherty and Siow 1995; and Siow 1995. 23. During this period, the only area in which universities and their presidents intervened significantly was negotiations on opening positions. When university councils refused (or couldn’t manage) to provide a priority ranking of post creation




26. 27.

requests, the president could indicate his or her own preferences during annual negotiations with the ministry. After long and impassioned debate, the proposal to create a single body made up of permanent teachers of all statuses was abandoned. Since 1984, then, the profession has been composed of two corps, maîtres de conferences and professeurs. A third, assistants, is dying out. Candidate applications for all vacant posts were sent to the national-level council, which then established a list of three candidates and sent it to the university-level Commission de Spécialistes, which could then choose from among the three. Local commissions therefore had a kind of “limited autonomy.” This term refers to hiring practices that favor “in-house” candidates over external ones. It should be noted that elected members (particularly maîtres de conférences) were not—and are still not—mandated on purely academic bases either. Elections to the CNU are conducted on a platform basis (not “research and publications”) or on the basis of teachers’ union lists. This creates ambiguities about the nature of CNU members’ mandates, a characteristic that has also been pointed up for members of CNRS national commissions (Vilkas, 1996).

Chapter 4 1. This phenomenon occurred in many countries. Windolf (1997) presents three different types of explanation: a functionalist one, based on the concept of human capital; individual strategies for acquiring improved socio-occupational status (Boudon 1973), and competition for social mobility. 2. Salmon (1982) estimated there were 586,466 students enrolled in university in 1968–1969. The education ministry’s DEP (Direction de l’Evaluation et de la Prospective) figure for 1985–1986 was 967,778, including engineering and IUT students (department information 3. memorandum 97.39). For an assessment of growth effects see Fave-Bonnet 1997. University enrollment (engi neering and IUT programs included but not Instituts Universitaires de Formation des Maîtres) increased by slightly more than half in 1985–1986 and 1995–1996, from 967,778 to 1,485,583. Starting in 1994–1995, the annual growth rate decreased again to 2 to 3 percent. Since 1996–1997, enrollment rates have decreased by about 1 percent a year, despite the increase in number of baccalauréat holders (DEP information memoranda 97.39 and 99.02) 4. It should be noted, for example, that of 1,048 French university academics surveyed in 1991, 67.2 percent said they were in favor of a policy of concentrating funding in institutions that have clearly demonstrated excellence (Crespo, FaveBonnet, von Kopp, and Weiss 1999). This does not, however, allow us to infer that actually implementing such a policy would not elicit a strong negative reaction. 5. In 1993, when then higher education and research minister François Fillon proposed a law authorizing universities to organize themselves autonomously (going against the 1984 Loi Savary), not only did he encounter internal resistance but also the proposed law was declared unconstitutional by the Conseil Constitutionnel in July of that year, after Socialist MPs submitted it for judgment (Merrien and Monsigny 1996; Merrien and Musselin 1999).


6. The largest French administrative unit. Since 1964 France has been divided into 22 régions, each made up of départements, the units instituted under the Revolution. 7. In June 1997 the GIGUE became the Agence de Modernisation des Universités. Universities contract with the agency on a strictly voluntary basis—all have done so —and may choose not to use its programs. 8. It could rightly be objected that giving universities the means to enroll and follow their students as they see fit does not amount to granting them autonomy. But it is something. And why not consider using a variety of technical tools to process information on the same object, for example, students? Universities in the United States do not all use the same enrollment and record-keeping programs; nonetheless, federal statistics are available. 9. It is possible to use Apogée only to enroll students, but that would not be a costeffective use of the program. 10. It is, moreover, unlikely that it will be felt necessary to change this conceptual framework, since, as everyone knows, general principles get adapted, reformulated, and adjusted in various ways when applied. 11. We need only consider de Gaulle’s attempts to do so or the doomed Loi Devaquet (see chap. 3). 12. Procedures for accrediting troisième cycle graduate programs have recently been modified. They are now approved at the same time the contract between the state and individual university is negotiated. 13. Contemporary university students are heterogeneous in social background, practices, initial education, and attitudes toward education (see Lapeyronnie and Marie 1992; Dubet 1994; Galland 1995; Erlich 1998). 14. It is now often possible to enter a grande école at a point other than at the beginning of a given degree program or study cycle, and by other admission paths than the traditional ones of year-long preparatory classes and standardized competitive entrance exams. Many grandes écoles have their own procedures. 15. It should be clarified that there was no explicit ministry policy behind these measures; the ministry did not “choose” to develop education supply within universities rather than count on institutional creation outside them. The new types of study programs all aimed to make university “products” that would be better adapted to labor market demands, but each of them has its own history and dynamic. The word “policy,” if it should be used at all, should not be understood as a program but rather an “emerging strategy” (Mintzberg and MacHugh 1985). 16. Figures calculated on the basis of data in Eicher 1997. MSB: Maîtrise de Sciences et Techniques [Masters in sciences and technology]; MIAGE: Maîtrise d’Informatique Appliquée à la Gestion des Entreprises [computer technology applied to business administration]; MSG: Maîtrise de Sciences de Gestion [management sciences]; MSBM: Maîtrise de Sciences Biologiques et Médicales. Magistères are professional training degrees (bac+5 years). 17. At first, the Instituts Universitaires de Technologie ou IUTs attracted few students, and not the type they were designed for. In the 1980s this situation was spectacularly reversed; the number of applicants for admission took off and IUTs became of major interest for local development; many towns volunteered to set up one. Decisions on this point were not always free from political maneuvering. For analyses of IUTs see among others Quermonne 1973; Van de Graaf 1976; Boudon 1979, Cerych and Sabatier 1986; and Rhoades 1990.


18. Raymond Boudon (1979) showed that the students that short IUT programs were designed to reach in fact reckoned on succeeding in long university education programs. 19. The Brevet du Technicien du Supérieur or BTS (Higher education technical certification), created in 1959, is obtained in lycées. 20. Institutes and schools situated within universities have a different status from UFRs. The Loi Savary stipulated that IUT directors were to be appointed rather than elected and could make their own hiring decisions, and that the ministry could grant university funding and positions directly to IUTs, which were to be financially autonomous. 21. A number of Instituts d’Administration des Entreprises (Business administration institutes) did develop within the university sector. They initially had the status of “faculty institutes” (see Actes de Colloque 1997). 22. The Commission des 18 developed in the mid 1960s within the ministry’s higher education department. It drafted proposals for the creation of IUTs and a reform of premier et deuxième cycles in letters and sciences faculties. 23. When the system of four-year contracts between the ministry and the universities was being set up in 1998, there was clear disagreement between IUTs that wanted to establish the contract in their own names and proponents of a single contract for all components of a given university. 24. In 1999 vocational licences and masters were introduced (the latter a level rather than a degree), but they are too recent to have been included in this study and it is too early to predict their future. 25. That is, the internal differentiation process of subdividing disciplines into specializations that then develop their own programs and thus vary the curricula range on offer. This process has been described and analyzed by Burton Clark, who affirms that “higher education is a differentiating society par excellence” (Clark 1997b, 24). 26. The virtues associated with differentiation have been called into question, however (Teichler 1996, 78). 27. Proponents of the academic drift thesis do not all identify the same causes. For Reisman (1956), the process is due to governmental policy with a homogenizing thrust, whereas Birnbaum (1983) stresses the active role of “small” institutions and their tendency to imitate prestigious ones. For Rhoades (1990), academics’ “natural” tendency is to dedifferentiate, but this can be counteracted if the state has the means and if the legislative power is stronger than the executive and administrative ones. Van Vught (1997) proposes two explanatory systems without distinguishing between them. Taking up notions used by population ecologists (Hannan and Freeman 1989), he suggests that organizations competing for scarce resources tend to become similar; then, on the basis of neo-institutionalist thought (notably Powell and DiMaggio 1991), he suggests that higher education is subject to three types of institutional isomorphism: coercive, when a government imposes a single model (Meek 1991); mimetic, leading institutions to copy successful ones; and normative, developing within a professional network (here, academics). 28. Goedegebuure et al. reach the same conclusion: “The unplanned flow of IUT or Brevet de Technicien du Supérieur (BTS) degree holders into universities and the increased openness of universities and grandes écoles to the needs of society following implementation of the contract policy may blur what has been the clearly


29. 30.






36. 37.

38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43.

segmented structure of French higher education” (1993, 384). See chaps. 5 and 6 for analysis of the ministry’s contract policy. In business schools, for example, a doctorate did not use to be compulsory for tenured professor status, whereas now this is increasingly the norm. “Students” figure is from 2001–2002 DEP count of university enrollments, including IUTs but not IUFMs (information memorandum 02–58). “Universities and academics’ figures, including IUTs but not ENSIs, are from 2000–2001 DEP count (information memorandum 02–42). “The 1999 budget for the “Higher education’ section, including university research, will come to 51 billion 114 million francs [€ 8 billion 249 million] in ordinary expenses and payment credits (Alain Clayes, “Education nationale, la recherche et la technologie,” appendix 18 of a general report by Didier Migaud of the Commission des Finances, de l’Economie, et du Plan on the proposed finance law pour 1996). Student enrollment fees are absurdly low in two respects: they are out of all proportion both to the real cost of education and to the return on investment of having obtained a university degree. It can rightly be objected here that the poor material situation of French universities is greatly aggravated by the fact that higher education budget breakdowns are highly favorable to grandes écoles, to the detriment of universities. This solution is novel with regard to the prevailing system; it is less so with regard to the one operative at the very end of the nineteenth century. The budget provisions that went with the law of 1896 encouraged diversification of funding sources. At the turn of the century, two-thirds of university budgets were covered by the state, whereas one-third came from external funding, part of which was from local communities (Weisz 1983; Verger 1986, 333). Cassier (1996) has shown that academics manage this type of relation in such a way as to meet the needs of the businesses they contract with while satisfying their own research demands and scientific standards. As reflected in the increasing proportion of self-raised funding in many university budgets. Filâtre showed that cities were the first to get mobilized and that they used three arguments: democratization of higher education (if they had an extension, they could offer university studies to students who could not afford housing in the parent-university city), and opportunities for local economic and urban development (Filâtre, 1993, 188). For first assessments of the plan and this new example of contractual policy, see Baraize 1996. Etienne Minvielle’s title for a paper delivered at a seminar on hospital management (1997). This applies to professors and maîtres de conférences only. This was the approach being used at the time of my 1987 survey of higher education ministry departments. Education minister Claude Allègre was applying this policy in 1992 when he reduced the number of deuxième cycle maquettes (Allègre 1993). Cf. for example, “L’originalité de Paris IX-Dauphine est remise en cause par le justice” [Université de Paris IX-Dauphine’s original ways called into question by the justice department], Le Monde, August 2, 1997, and a brief article on the same


page, “Des formations sélectives sans fondement juridique” [Legally unfounded selective study programs]. 44. Cf. the following three articles in Le Monde: “La pratique des droits d’inscription ‘sauvages’ s’étend,” [The practice of charging unauthorized enrollment fees spreads], July 25, 1995; “Le tribunal administratif annule le budget de l’université Paris IX-Dauphine: les redevances complémentaires aux droits d’inscription sont remises en causes,” [Administrative court annuls University of Paris IXDauphine’s budget: charging complementary fees is not acceptable] December 8– 9, 1997; “Les universités multiplient les suppléments aux droits d’inscription” [Universities multiply enrollment fee supplements], July 11, 1997. 45. The fees remained minimal: while 56 out of 64 universities used such practices, in 50 percent of cases the amounts requested did not exceed 100 francs (€15.25) (study by the Fédération des Associations Générales d’Etudiants, cited in Le Monde, July 11, 1997).

Chapter 5 1. I will therefore not discuss the Université 2000 plan, though it fully follows the contractual approach. Indeed, the change inheres not so much in the use of ministryuniversity contracts itself as in the fact that, through the implementation of such contracts, the ministry’s approach became for the first time focused on universities rather than disciplines. Université 2000 contracts brought the central administration, académie rectors, and territorial units into play, rather than university presidents; they therefore played a lesser role in changing ministry focus, although, as Antoine Prost has pointed out to me, the building construction that resulted from the Université 2000 plan gave physical, material consistency to university existence. 2. According to Cohen, the ministry “denied” the existence of this law: “the commitment to autonomy [for universities] was vitiated by ministerial decrees that slowly drained away the autonomy granted by the 1968 law"(1978, 164). 3. This model is reminiscent of the thinking of certain American neo-institutionalist political scientists on the state as autonomous from interest groups, and public authorities’ ability to conceive and develop new types of public action themselves (cf. Evans, Rueschemayer, and Skocpol 1985). 4. The only regulatory basis for it at first was ministerial directive 89–079 of March 24,1989, published in the Bulletin Officiel 13 (March 30): 761–765. 5. It should be noted that the political initiators of this action did not themselves anticipate the scope it would acquire. In his 1993 account of his experience as special adviser to the education ministry, Claude Allègre devotes only four pages to the contract policy. 6. Cf. the chapter entitled “L’espace contractuel” in Lucas 1987; the author was president of the Université de Lyon II from 1979 to 1986. He clearly refers to contractual relations between universities and the ministry, but only as manifestations of an overall “contract phenomenon”; that is, first and foremost the development of multiple types of partnerships between individual universities and surrounding actors. It should also be noted that the idea of contracting between state and universities was often defended by the SGEN-CFDT [Syndicat Général



8. 9. 10. 11.


13. 14.


16. 17. 18. 19.



de l’Education Nationale union, affiliated with the Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail, the major center-left labor union]. I first learned of this experiment in December 1995 at a colloquium in Paris organized by the Association des Administrateurs Civils et Inspecteurs Généraux de l’Education Nationale, made up of former students of the Ecole Nationale d’Administration or ENA [grande école for training the French administrative elite], when a member of the audience explained how he had participated in a contract negotiation with the ministry back in the mid-1970s. The CNE did devote a few reports to disciplinary evaluations. And particularly remarkable given that other European countries had chosen disciplined-focused evaluation systems. Interestingly, the CNE’s influence on universities was also weak. Few universities knew how to use CNE documents to develop their own thinking process. In the 1980s the BQR (bonus for quality research) was established, allowing universities to allocate as they saw fit up to 15 percent of research funding from the ministry—not insignificant but still not much. It should be noted that the contract policy for research was still being implemented in centralized, discipline-focused fashion, perhaps even more pointedly so, at the very time that university contracts, which helped strengthen the “university” level, were introduced. We need only recall the Third Republic reformers’ texts, and the declarations that came out of the Colloques de Caen. In this respect, the change process in French higher education that I studied is different from the cooperative process in northern European countries as analyzed by Simoulin (1997, 1999). In northern Europe various groups pushed their own stance, which was more or less contradictory to the others though all were interdependent; the different approaches to reform ultimately gave rise to a new type of action, a kind of synthesis of all positions, a resultant. The French contract policy, in contrast, was not the culmination of past initiatives. This was, moreover, how promoters of the policy themselves seem to have understood their action. They presented themselves as innovators or pioneers, not as recipients of past experience. In this connection it should be remembered that the policy for four-year research contracts had gone off track. The Socialist Party has always been opposed to selective admission. Though some liked to point to his brief teaching career. This term, or the expression “voluntary public agreements” used by Lascoumes and Valluy (1996), are less ambiguous that the word “contract” because the contracts established between the ministry and universities were middle-term negotiated commitments rather than legally binding contracts. They had no legal existence. As Bezes explains (2001), Michel Rocard supported the idea of contractual relations: “Fewer laws, more contracts; fewer oversight and control arrangements, more responsibilities—this is the balance that must be reached if we are to combine modernization and solidarity” (Rocard [1985] in a speech to the 1984 Socialist Party congress in Toulouse; quoted in Bezes). Mitterrand was referring to Michel Crozier’s 1979 work, On ne change pas la société par décret


22. Pierre Muller has often said that the education ministry’s contract policy reflected adjustment of the “higher education” sectorial system of reference to the allencompassing “market economy” system of reference. I disagree. It is true that “contract” is part of economic vocabulary, but the contract “doctrine” developed in the university sector does not involve or reflect market logic. This point of debate reflects the problematic nature of Jobert and Muller’s notion of overall system of reference (1987), which can become a nondiscriminating, catchall, term. While it may indeed be argued that efforts to rationalize university budgeting are additional evidence of the impact of market logic, we could also say that the same phenomenon occurring twenty years earlier would have been cited as consistent with the “modernization” system of reference. Conversely, the switch in agricultural policy direction in the 1960s is not incompatible with the “market” system of reference. Might not promoting large farms and developing more extensive agriculture be understood to fit more readily into the “market economy” system of reference than the “state-driven modernization” one? 23. Documents made available to me by interviewees. 24. The contract solution was also mobilized in implementing the Université 2000 project (cf. Baraize 1996). 25. Excerpt from a November 1989 memorandum for “university advisers” (conseillers d’université); that is, university academics each appointed by the ministry to help a set of individual universities prepare their contracts [see“Balance of power and production of meaning within the ministry”]. 26. Cf. Berrivin’s detailed comparative analysis of the Ministry of Public Works and EDF-GDF [Electricité de France-Gaz de France, the state-owned public utilities company] (1995) and his and my comparison of Public Works and Higher Education (Berrivin and Musselin, 1996). Results of a briefer study of two France Télécom operating departments (Musselin 1992) confirm conclusions from the three more detailed case studies. 27. On this point as it pertains to higher education, see Chevaillier 1998. 28. The aim of the university contract policy was to enable universities receiving less funding to catch up to those with more, with an eye to reducing structural imbalances among various French regions. The latter concern was emphasized when the contractual policy was launched: it was decided that the first wave of contracts would be for universities in the north and west, regions where the rate of access to higher education was relatively low and universities tended to be underfunded. 29. For a more detailed presentation, see Berrivin 1995. 30. Speaking at a recent colloquium, a former university president suggested the difficulty of galvinizing actors and structures to prepare a third four-year contract, wondering aloud what could fuel the process. His question reminds us that the major point of such contracts is not so much the document ultimately produced as the collective, participatory process of producing it. Contracts were not so much (management) instruments as means of internal leverage. 31. Who, for example, could be in a position to compel the ministry to honor its commitments? 32. The title of Patrice Duran’s 1993 article: “Piloter l’action publique, avec ou sans le droit.”


33. I shall therefore not address the extremely interesting question of how contractual policy came to be favored in France as an instrument for modernizing public action given that the country, if we follow d’Iribarne (1989), is characterized by a noncontractual tradition. 34. The central administration has been reorganized several times since, and the DPDU has disappeared. Still, since that date the organization chart has always included a service or department for universities. 35. In fact, there was no head department. As cabinet member and special adviser to the minister, Claude Allègre, saw to interdepartment cooperation. 36. The DESUP’s official power of accrediting troisième cycle programs was transferred to the DRED; carte universitaire planning tasks went to the DPDU; accreditation decisions now had to be integrated into contracts, which the DPDU controlled; certain budget line segments that had been in the hands of DESUP bureaus—a practice that Claude Allègre criticized as making the DESUP the equivalent of a welfare service window—were abolished so as to concentrate all budget decision-making power with the DPDU. 37. Enarques: term referring to graduates of the elite ENA, Ecole Nationale d’Administration. 38. Franck Métras, former president of the Université de Pau, became director of the DESUP; Armand Frémont, former rector of the Académie de Grenoble, became director of the DPDU; Bernard Gasol, former cabinet director for education minister Savary, took over the DPES, and Vincent Courtillot, a colleague of Claude Allègre’s from the Institut du Physique du Globe, took over the DRED. With the exception of Courtillot, Allègre had never worked with any of the new directors, and they did not know each other. 39. After the 1981,1986, and 1988 elections, personnel changeover among administrative cadres in ministries such as industry and public works was fairly limited, while in culture and education it was extensive (Lochak 1986,1992). 40. “Institutional arrangements” is the generic term used by Weir to refer to “patterns of recruitment to administrative posts and procedures governing advancement” as well as a “hierarchical pattern of authority reflected in a tightly controlled information flow…and in the relationship between political and administrative officials” (1989, 59). 41. This never affected the excellent relations among the four directors, referred to as “the four musketeers.” As for the other departments, the DPDU and the DRED for all intents and purposes ignored each other, and the DPES remained external to the contract policy. 42. Personal notes entitled “La politique contractuelle et le rôle des conseillers” (The contract policy and advisers’ role) specified everyone’s role once again after a “seminar” attended by all on February 15 and 16,1990. In it, the university adviser’s task of helping universities re flect on their present and future situation was confirmed, though they were advised to keep “pedagogic” advisers informed on points of interest to them (related to teaching, for instance). For the expert evaluation phase, the document specifies that “the DPDU is to remain in the background” and that “the role of university advisors at this stage is to maintain ties with university institutions.” 43. I use “doctrine” here because it was the term used by contractualization actors, despite the fact that the word connotes a well-established, rigid approach.


44. The DESUP’s lack of “voice” can perhaps be understood by the fact that the work of making explicit and legitimating practices, what Brunsson (1993) called “justification,” is timeconstrained action. While it may be central when new practices are introduced, once they have been institutionalized, the tie between practices and their justification slackens and becomes difficult for actors to perceive. Developing a discourse in favor of discipline-based steering would have supposed that DESUP members had enough distance on their own practices to find, or rediscover, meaning in them, meaning that had become implicit and therefore invisible. 45. The absence of any opposed “doctrine” was particularly glaring if we consider the fact that all persons moved from the DESUP to the DPDU through reorganization adopted the DPDU “doctrine” fairly readily. They did not feel they were disavowing what they had believed in in order to play the “contractualization” game, because to some degree there was no longer a clearly identified “ideational corpus” to hold on to or defend. 46. It was not constructed in reaction to another overall approach, in contrast to what Urfalino showed for the maisons de la culture [facilities for cultural events and activities constructed in a number of major French cities on the initiative of André Malraux], whose principles were defined in opposition to the wishes of the Association des Villes [a body representing all French towns]. Nor was it constructed through movement back and forth between center and periphery, in contrast to what Berrivin (1995) described for the Ministry of Public Works. The center left the initiative to the universities while it steered the overall process. 47. These meetings worked to train future university advisers, who would be called to “hop a moving train.” They also strengthened ties among current advisers, consolidated and disseminated knowledge, and helped harmonize practices. 48. At the time, funding under contract represented about 5 percent of operating budget (not including salaries) and included post creation. 49. In a document dated October 1989 which would serve as the basis for a meeting with western and northwestern universities, the following list of issues or themes was proposed: “a realistic assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the University”; “figuring out how to take in bac-holders and premier-cycle students”; “integrating the university project into the region: relevance of education programs, links to the occupational environment, relations with local communities”; “responding to the need to train 300,000 new teachers by the year 2000”; “a policy for forecasting need for academic and nonacademic staff”; “actions concerning students’ living and study conditions.” 50. Over the year 1990–1991, the first training-action seminars on managing nonacademic staff were organized, followed the next year by seminars on student management. It was also in 1990–1991 that the first series of exchanges on management problems at the university level was launched, for example, internal distribution of financial resources, criteria for distributing nonacademic posts, management of university premises, and so forth. 51. Duran’s definition applies well here: “The contract marks the more or less equal weight of the actors that are party to it; for all intents and purposes they have become partners” (1999, 163). 52. Claude Allègre clearly announced this goal in a letter dated May 22, 1998, to university presidents and académie rectors: “This moment [contract] negotiation





56. 57.

that arises every four years is a special one: university project and national policy can be set side by side and compared; ideas on the carte universitaire and territorial development can be further developed; policies for cooperation with other educational institutions, research organizations, economic and cultural actors can be reenergized; the democratic life of the university can be refreshed.” And he reaffirms the idea that the central administration is and should be directly concerned: “I expect implementation of the contract policy to prove an opportunity for method innovation within the central administration, too: more flexibility, closer working together, more contacts with actors in the field…” (1998). The struggle is inevitable because the two types of logic are “by nature” incompatible. Paradeise reaches the same conclusion regarding steering of CNRS research. The contradiction between discipline-focused logic and university institution logic in the present case corresponds to what Paradeise identifies as the contradiction between the standard ideal of community regulation and joint regulation. In the first model, it is understood that “no external body is competent to evaluate the content and projects [of the scientific community], instituted in the form of disciplines endowed with their own internal dynamic” (Paradeise 1998, 215). In the second model, the organization is accorded the role of arbiter between instituted disciplines, whose demands are not all “equally receivable” (221). But as the author shows, these two ideal types are opposed to each other right down the line, in terms of “internal economy,” “actors’ conceptions,” “mode of managing through delegated confidence,” “use” made of “resources,” and “place” given to “argumentation.” They can never be combined; they can at best coexist. Josette Soulas, Alain Abecassis, and Thierry Malon jointly headed the GIGUE from 1993 to 1997, while continuing in their respective positions, Soulas at IGAEN [Inspection Générale de 1’Administration de l’Education Nationale], Abecassis as delegate-general to the Conference des Présidents d’Université or CPU, and Malon as university secretary-general. On June 1, 1997, the GIGUE became the Agence de Modernisation des Universités, and Abecassis became director, Soulas deputy director. After Abecassis’s departure in June 1998, Soulas was director of the Agence until 2000. The GIGUE’s Nabuco (see chap. 4) improved accounting management, but GIGUE directors were also expecting that introducing this tool would both oblige universities to reflect on how to organize their financial and accounting departments and distribute powers and responsibilities within them, and help them develop university budget and funding policies. Statutorily, the education minister is CPU president. In 2001, after the original French edition of this work, the agency was renamed the Agence de Mutualisation des Universités.

Chapter 6 1. University adherence to the policy was facilitated by the material incentives accompanying contracts. Still, most universities did not have purely utilitarian reasons for committing to contractualization, and those in which the process is the most dynamic are not those in which contracts have been seen as merely a source of additional funding (Lipiansky and Musselin 1995).


2. The Agence de Modernisation des Universities commissioned a qualitative study from us on governance in four universities; this produced a comparative report (Mignot-Gérard and Musselin 1999) and a quantitative questionnaire sent to 37 universities, leading to a second report (Mignot-Gérard et Musselin 2000). 3. In 1994, in the framework of the Higher Education and Research Ministry’s budget forecasting unit, led by Bertrand Girod de l’Ain, we organized a study on contract preparation, negotiation, and follow-up in three universities consisting primarily of more than seventy interviews (Lipiansky and Musselin 1995; Musslin 1997a, 1997b). 4. Let the reader see these remarks less as a claim for my own work than an expression of slight irritation at seeing renowned French scholars develop an overall analysis of French universities on the basis of real but often isolated or trivial facts, thus adopting a less than scientific approach, of a sort that they themselves would criticize in their students’ work. Of course I have nothing against position taking, opinion demonstrating, or proposal making as such. But what are in fact only opinions, positions, or proposals should not, it seems to me, be presented as if they were scientific analysis. 5. To date, four studies on this question have been done in France, one each on the history and mathematics sections of the Conseil National des Universités or CNU (Blanchet and Musselin 1996; Hanin 1996) and one each on university specialist commissions for history and mathematics in five universities (Blangy and Musselin 1996; de Oliveira 1998). 6. Universities could of course use the data they collected and processed on themselves for their own purposes, but that was not the idea behind having them do it. 7. To use the computer program Apogée to calculate student grades, it is necessary to “formalize” the mode of calculating averages (number of grades for a given course, weight of each grade, and so forth), make it transparent, and stop modifying it for a time. This ran counter to practices for certain study programs, in which coursework and grading rules were likely to be reviewed and changed every year. 8. As Gueissaz has shown (1997, 1999), this leads to reviewing and changing how tasks are organized and divided up among teachers and administrators—an additional source of tension. 9. For analysis of problems that arise when computerization is introduced in other organizations see Pavé 1989. 10. Nabuco, for example, is understood and used above all as an accounting tool, although it was conceived as a tool for developing budget policy. 11. This potential was used differently in the three universities studied (Lipiansky and Musselin 1995). We identified three factors that might affect use: (1) existing situation: existing barriers and tensions often proved insurmountable obstacles; not only was the contractualization process not enough to overcome them, it was itself blocked by them; (2) the way contractualization was carried out internally: universities that set up a broad participatory process and collectively constructed a common project produced contracts in which individual projects were not merely juxtaposed; (3) whether or not a few major academic or administrative figures were mobilized and committed, since the contractualization process requires active steering (see Musselin 1997a).


12. Dubois’s analysis (1997b and 1997c) of the different strategies universities develop regarding supply of education programs shows that not all of them choose the same paths and that education supply is a means for universities to translate their own preferences into action. 13. These two types of delegation need to be distinguished from each other. With delegation of expert evaluation, experts give recommendations on a question but decision-making remains with representatives; they both understand the substance and reasoning of the experts and, when deciding, may also introduce other considerations (political, ideological, etc.). The notion of delegation of judgment, on the other hand, should be reserved for situations where “official” decisionmakers have no means of assessing experts’ work and do not diverge from their recommendations. 14. Without there having necessarily been open discussion or a vote. 15. In one of the four universities studied in February 1998, Conseil d’Administration members voted down the budget proposed by the executive office and president because they felt they had once more been given a fait accompli. They then distributed funding on different grounds than what administrators had proposed, and it was decided to modify the budgetpreparing process for the next time around. 16. Current presidents seem to know this: the “Presidents’ working breakfasts” organized by the Agence de Modernisation on such themes as “Financially implementing university policy” and “Human resource management” have been a success. 17. Qualitative survey-based study of seven cases, three in late 1994 and four in early 1996, produced the following results: in five out of seven cases, president’s teams were active and influential in university governance; of the five “strong presidency” cases, two presidents marginalized UFR directors, who found themselves in extremely weak positions in relation to both the president’s office and their own UFRs; in the two other cases, presidents relied heavily on support from UFR directors, who in turn found themselves in the awkward position of making decisions that were not always appreciated in their UFRs; in only one case can we speak of a cohesive team, here made up of the president and certain UFR directors who did not think their role should be limited to primus inter pares and in turn adopted a more interventionist style. 18. Though I agree with the main features of Compagnon’s diagnosis of the French university system (1998), namely, his point about “the fundamental incompatibility between the values of the French Republic and those of the University” (179), I do not share his pessimistic view of the overall situation, which he says can be improved only through “a comprehensive review and rehaul of the higher education system and the creation of conditions for real competition among universities, including both faculties and professional schools” (176). In the last years we have seen that universities came to exist despite the fact that these two conditions had not been met. 19. The ARESER (Association de Réflexion sur les Enseignements Supérieurs et la Recherche) is a group of academics, which included Pierre Bourdieu up until his death and Christophe Charle, who reflect on the development of higher education in France. In 1997 they published a work entitled Quelques diagnostics et remèdes urgents pour une Université en péril [Diagnoses and urgent remedies for an imperilled University].


20. Not to mention the fact that these proposals clearly favor the existence of a national “Université” idea that could be centrally defined and become a common reference for all French universities! 21. The fact that recent studies on two other sectors have produced very different results supports the claim of university sector specificity. In analyzing the network of institutional actors involved in running the city of Paris’s sewage and water purification systems, Tatéossian (forthcoming) has found that relations among them have long been integrated into a highly consistent and cohesive “institutional environment”; alternative approaches are few and remained marginal. Likewise, Bergeron (1998, 1999) has shown how and why there was fixation in France on a single model for treating drug addiction (the psychological or psychoanalytic model), explaining that French focus on this single “treatment” process was strengthened by a cognitive system of representations, values, and norms shared by politicians, treatment professionals in drug addiction centers, the central administration, and others. There is a striking contrast between these situations, where representations, practices, and regulation modes reinforce each other to the point of excluding any other possible solution, and the diversity of approaches observable within the French university system.

Chapter 7 1. This of course does not apply to the few authors who have tried to take into account both components of academic work, studying either the content of pedagogical activities or how they fit in or mesh with research activities. Cf. Bertrand 1993; Bertrand et al. 1994; FaveBonnet 1990, 1993; Zetlaoui 1997, 1999. 2. To these may be added Pierre Bourdieu’s analysis of homo academicus in terms of the notion of “university field.” He specifies the need to examine “the structure of the field of power and the relation which the university field taken as a whole maintains with it, and analyze—as far as the empirical data permit—the structure of the university field and the position which the different [disciplines] occupy within it” (1984, 48; English, 1988, 32). 3. Merton’s scientific ethos is composed of four norms: universalism, communism (later changed to “communalism” to avoid confusion), disinterestedness or the scientist’s integrity, and organized skepticism. 4. T.N.Clark’s expression (1973), which was translated into French as cercle [circle]. 5. Studies conducted in the 1950s and 1960s on private research laboratories systematically showed that the professional logic of the scientific community competed in such labs with organization logic (cf. Glaser 1964; Kornhauser 1962; Marcson 1960; Meltzer 1956; Shepard 1962). 6. See, for example, Merton’s description of the disastrous effects of the Nazi regime on science (1962b) and comparative studies by Ben David (1984, 2d ed.) analyzing how scientifically advanced or behind various countries are by examining how scientific activities in them are structured. 7. The strong program consists of four propositions: (1) sociology of knowledge “would be causal, that is, concerned with the conditions which bring about belief or states of knowledge… 2) it would be impartial with respect to truth and falsity, rationality or irrationality, success or failure… 3) it would be symmetrical in its










style of explanation. The same types of cause would explain, say, true and false beliefs… 4) It would be reflexive. In principle its pattern of explanation would have to be applicable to sociology itself” (Bloor 1976, 4–5). For a more detailed presentation, see Lynch (1993), who lists most sociological works, and Giere (1998), who presents philosophy of science works inspired by this approach. Once this happens, there is no longer any point to the battle between internalists and externalists. As Latour wrote: “The irony of this affair is that the ‘internalists,’ who are always trying to isolate researchers from their allies, are actually asking us to study people who are of no interest to anyone, who don’t have any access to resources beyond their own, who cannot even begin to have their own laboratories…. Conversely, the “externalists,’ who like to study the social dimension of science or science policy but are careful not to descend into content, therefore seem to tell us about people incapable of holding together the various persons or groups interested in their projects and desiring to invest in them.… These enemy groups of analysts are in fact both talking about failed scientists!” (1989, 392). Latour opens Science in Action (1989) with a description of three scientists, whom he situates in different periods, countries, and institutions without ever referring to these features in his analysis and interpretation of what they are doing. It is not surprising that interest in universities as organizations should have emerged in a country where, as Touraine, among others, has shown (1972), the development of university education was fundamentally linked to the emergence of institutions established outside all state control and prior to the constitution of an organized academic profession. Hardy is one of the best representatives of this approach. She first sought to understand what effects a single contextual development (in this case, budget cuts) had on a group of universities whose initial operating modes were collegial, another where they were political, and so forth, and showed that the responses and their internal consequences depended in large measure on the initial model (1989, 1992). She also examined what conditions favor the development of one model over the others (Hardy et al 1983). Taylor (1983) is representative of this approach. He showed that in the case of the University of Calgary, certain facts corresponded to the bureaucratic model whereas others corresponded to the collegial or political model or organized anarchy. Ellström (1983), Davies and Morgan (1982) and Birnbaum (1988) use the same approach. Hardy goes beyond the four models and on the basis of Mintzberg’s typology (1979), distinguishes six cases for Brazilian universities: simple structure, charismatic bureaucracy, professional bureaucracy, mechanical bureaucracy, adhocracy, and division. A “professional bureaucracy” can be missionary, political, technocratic, or anarchic—her table thus includes ten variants (1990, 38–39). Indeed, users of these models often seem to have forgotten they were developed from studies of universities. The most flagrant example is surely the garbage can model, which was used and developed extensively in analysis of public policy (namely Kingdon 1984), in works from which the associated notion of organized anarchy and reference to universities tended to disappear. Cf. Birnbaum’s many works, especially 1986 and 1992; also Vroom 1983, and Neumann 1989.


16. For a discussion of different definitions of the word “university,” see, for example, Renaut’s introduction to Les Révolutions de l’Université(1995). 17. A widely accepted thesis today is that new education programs either give rise to new institutional sectors or are developed through internal diversification in existing institutions, and that in both cases there is a process of dedifferentiation (see Meek et al. 1996 for a synthetic, comparative presentation of these works). In the first case, new institutions seek to adopt the “standards” of the oldest and most prestigious ones (“academic drift”), whereas in the second all institutions ultimately offer the same education supply. 18. The Carnegie Foundation’s recent extensive survey of higher education academics in thirteen countries is fairly exemplary. Such studies provide a snapshot of structures specific to each country and of attitudes and opinions of academics in them at a given moment (Enders and Teichler 1995; Altbach 1996). 19. Is a directeur d’/UFR really comparable to a dean, a université to a university? Maurice, Sellier, and Silvestre (1992) showed the differences between a French contremaître (factory foreman) and a German Werkmeister, despite the apparent statutory similarity between them. Why should the situation be any different for universities? 20. It should be specified at the outset that the term “configuration” here is not related to Elias’s use of the same word to designate the process by which members of a society are linked and integrated (cf., among others, Elias 1970). In my usage, “configuration” does not have this societal dimension and does not designate a structure of normative constraints that profoundly affect the individual’s personality. 21. To draw an accurate diagram of these relations, we would need to add, at the very least, research organizations and groups as well as companies and local communities, and to adopt a less monolithic conception of overseeing ministry, universities, and academic profession. 22. According to Crozier and Erhard Friedberg (1980, 153), a concrete system of actions is “a structured human ensemble which employs relatively stable game mechanisms to coordinate the actions of its participants. It furthermore maintains its games and the relationships among them, by means of mechanisms of regulation. These, in turn, form the content of still other games”. For the same reasons, configurations are also not “public policy networks”. In fact, the notions of policy network and concrete system of action are very similar; both are understood as “tools for describing a fragmented state” (Le Galès and Thatcher 1995). Moreover, studies using the policy network approach (cf. Marsh and Rhodes 1992; Marin and Mayntz 1991) are not really interested in the internal operation modes of the collective actors they study; network nodes remain obscure. In my concept of university configurations, such nodes are themselves objects of study, particularly important ones in that they are instances of interdependence. 23. In other words, a change in regulations does not in itself change a given national configuration. Modifying French accreditation procedures, for example, in no way changes the fact that this procedure is at the core of ministry-university interactions in France. 24. We can say, however, that from one country to another university configurations are more or less constraining; that is, the framing of what is possible can be more or less open. Individual actors’ autonomy from the interdependences constitutive of



26. 27. 28. 29.




a given configuration is greater or lesser by level and by types of constraint the configuration imposes. In analyzing such a configuration, then, we can reconstitute the sectorial system of reference (Jobert and Muller 1987), but only on condition that meaning be reconstructed from observed action, whereas with Jobert and Muller’s notion, the move is in the opposite direction: meaning is what makes action comprehensible. Zetlaoui clearly shows this in her doctoral thesis on academics’ relation to university “space” (buildings, grounds) (1997). Cf. in particular Meyer and Rowan 1977. A “university” configuration in this case, but the notion can readily be enlarged to include sectors other than higher education. My analytic grid is similar to that proposed by a team of British, Norwegian, and Swedish researchers for studying the effects of university reforms on academic values in Great Britain, Sweden, and Norway (see Henkel 1996; Kogan et al. 2000). The authors also use three different analytic levels: macro, meso, micro. However, their analytic framework, like that of B.R. Clark presented above, neglects the existence of the intermediate and national structures by means of which the academic profession is managed and defends its interests. Cf. research studies by Brisset-Sillion on the state of New York and its public universities (1994a, 1994b, 1996, and 1997), an example of how this analytic grid may be transposed onto a place other than France or Germany. In the French case, given that the trend that began in the 1980s is continuing and intensifying, and that local actors, both political and economic, are becoming increasingly relevant and active interlocutors for universities, it would perhaps make sense to transform the “triangle” of interdependent relations into a “square.” In this process as I have followed it, it is crucial to compare data for two countries, as this facilitates the integration of results obtained at the local level into a given national framework. Having such data enabled me to identify what pertained to the specificity of the local situation under study and what could be imputed to the fact that that situation was part of a broader context.

Chapter 8 1. E.g., in the French case, modifications of the national study program maquettes. 2. E.g., the Loi Savary. 3. Quotations are from Piore’s preface to the collective tribute to Jean-Jacques Silvestre (Gazier, Marsden, Silvestre 1998, 5). Hall’s typology for change in public policy (1993) is comparable to Silvestre’s in that it distinguishes between first-order change that does not affect goals or instruments, second-order change that affects instruments without affecting the hierarchy of goals, and third-order change that affects all three constitutive components of public policy, namely, sets of instruments, settings of policy, and the hierarchie of goals. The third category corresponds to paradigm change. 4. This was not the case for the “new universities,” also created during Lionel Jospin’s term as education minister. These institutions enjoyed a particular status that exempted them from the Loi Savary (see chap. 4, n. 5. And Merrien and Monsigny 1996; Merrien and Musselin 1999).


5. I will use the term “ideas” throughout the rest of the chapter to designate any and all of the following: ideas, representations, systems of reference, theories, and cognitive frameworks. 6. Pierson (2000) borrows from economists the notions of “increasing return,""selfenforcing process,” and “positive feedback” mechanisms, showing how they may be used to analyze policy phenomena. He first describes the conditions that economists (namely, Arthur [1994]) have identified as favorable to these mechanisms: “large set-up or fixed costs; learning effects; coordination effects; adaptive expectations [actors adapt their behaviors in such a way as to realize their expectations].” He then identifies the characteristics of the policy sphere that make these reinforcement mechanisms highly likely: the collective nature of politics, the institutional density of politics, political authority and power asymmetries, the complexity and opacity of politics.

Conclusion 1. The list of books and articles that observe such a development, analyze it, or deplore it is long, and includes Neave 1986; Cave et al. 1988; Maassen and van Vught 1988; Neave 1988; van Vught 1989, 1995; Teichler 1988, 1996; Maassen and Potman 1990; Neave and van Vught 19991; Goedegebuure et al. 1993; Neave and van Vught 1994; Maassen 1997; Merrien, Buttet and Anselmo 1998; Braun and Merrien 1999; Henkel and Little 1999. 2. The term “public service” as used by Braun and Merrien (1999) refers not so much to status (public as opposed to private) as the position it is believed the university should adopt: serving and being accountable to students, society, and business. 3. It seems to me that this model should be understood mostly as a reflection of developments in sociological study of “university worlds.” Forty years ago most studies concluded that universities were exceptional, highlighting the collegial character of university functioning (cf. Polanyi 1962; Goodman 1962; Millett 1962) and universities as peer communities characterized by give-and-take mechanisms (Hagstrom 1965). In a way, this made it possible to protect universities from any moves to rationalize functioning, either internal (originating with the university administration) or external (coming from the ministry). Conversely, the managerial university model seems very close to presenting “the university exception” as rhetoric used by members of that institution to protect their monopoly situation and guaranteed income. Such criticism came from neoWeberian sociologists of the professions, who accused Mertonian functionalists of “using the term ‘community’ to refer to what is actually a sociocultural organization that ensures the implementation of esoteric knowledge” (Karpik 1995, 15), affirming that, on the contrary, members of the professions were concerned above all with having a guaranteed income and that their preoccupation with ethics was just a façade. These criticisms echo those developed by the public choice movement (namely, Buchanan and Tullock 1962; Buchanan 1967; Niskanen 1971) and recent New Public Management thinking on both public organizations and universities (cf. Braun and Merrien 1999). 4. In corrective intervention, the ministry evaluates the profession’s actions and decisions after the fact and may mediate for societal or economic demands,







10. 11.




translating them into a form of general interest that is compatible with scientific advancement. In protective intervention, the ministry’s main role is to protect the university from the economic or religious spheres, or society at large, and enable the academic profession to maintain its overwhelmingly dominant position. The significant amount of time spent at conferences presenting the specific characteristics of various national university systems on higher education is a sharp reminder of how far we are from any single model. The maquettes for professional degree programs, for example, are defined with the corpo ration, but their overt purpose is to train and prepare students to proceed to employment in given job makets. The differences between French and American universities are so great—the latter charac terized by selective admission, free fixing of academics’ salaries and enrollment and tuition fees, private sector accounting rules, and so forth—that lamenting the Americanization of French university education seems ridiculous, and above all attests to how ill-informed lamenters are. Studies on American university functioning show that private research universities are much more attentive to “academic” criteria (namely, those related to research quality) than are public or private higher education institutions with few or no doctoral programs. In the latter type of institution, student pressure and the demand that study program content be adapted to the job market carry much more weight than in research universities, as does the administration (cf. Clark 1963, 1971; Brisset-Sillion 1996; Gusfield and Riesman 1968). This solution offers the advantage of not requiring a new framework law such as the one recently passed in the Netherlands strengthening the role and weight of “administrators” and weakening the “decision-making” bodies, making them merely consultative; see de Boer and Huisman (1999). It would not be politically desirable to reform the statutes in France; drafting a new law would only unconstructively resuscitate conflicts and tensions. Cf., for example, Le Monde-Campus, May 18,1999. An example of such a “game rule” would be department members agreeing not to hire one of their maîtres de conférences so as not to fall into localism. There are other rules of the game that could be developed, such as specifying that only candidates with prior teaching experience will be hired. The vast majority of university academics interviewed on the history and mathematics specialist commissions were in favor of maintaining the CNU because in their opinion it guaranteed the scientific quality of hiring selection. It seems to me perfectly possible to affirm the opposite: it is all the easier to do “any old thing” if there are no strings attached, no retrospective accountability. Reference is to Claude Allègre’s renowned call, soon after he became education minister in 1997, to “cut out the fat” on the “mammoth.” Though he later explained that he was referring to the need to reduce ministry service size, his remark was understood by teachers’ unions as implying a need to reduce teacher numbers, and it raised major protests. This aspect of the problem was noted, but ultimately underestimated during implementation of the contract policy (Berrivin and Musselin 1996).


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Author Index

Abecassis, Alain, 86, 154 Altègre, Claude, 76, 77, 78, 79, 120, 141, 150, 152, 153, 160 Altbach, Philip G., 109, 110 Anselmo, Florence, 159 Antoine, Gérald, 28, 33, 144 Arthur, W.Brian, 159

Boyer, Ernest, 110 Braun, Dietmar, 107, 110, 159 Brint, Steven, 145 Brisset, Cécile, 67, 158, 159 Brunhes, Jean, 143 Brunsson, Nils, 153 Buchanan, James, 159 Buttet, Anne-Chantal, 159

Baldridge, J.Victor, 107, 108 Balladur, Edouard, 83 Bancel, Daniel, 73, 76 Baraize, François, 150, 151 Barnes, Barry, 106 Barre, Raymond, 69 Bayrou, François, 54 Becher, Tony, 105, 111 Beckmeier, Carola, 37 Ben David, Joseph, 156 Berger, Gaston, 34, 118 Bergeron, Henri, 156 Berrivin, Renaud, 74, 75, 152, 153, 160 Bertrand, Denis, 156 Bezes, Philippe, 151 Birnbaum, Robert, 149, 157 Blanchet, Sophie, 127, 154 Blangy, Marc, 12, 127, 144, 154 Blau, Peter, 107, 108 Bleich, Erik, 121 Bloch, Daniel, 83 Blondel, Georges, 143 Bloor, David, 106, 156 Boudon, Raymond, 147, 148 Bouglé, Célestin, 143 Bourdieu, Pierre, 57, 141, 155 Bourricaud, François, 31, 33, 34, 118

Callon, Michel, 106 Caplow, Theodore, 127 Cassier, Maurice, 150 Caullery, Maurice, 15, 28, 118, 143 Cave, Martin, 159 Cerych, Ladislav, 148 Chaffee, Ellen Earle, 108 Chandler, Alfred D., 141 Charle, Christophe, 1, 14, 15, 18, 19, 26, 142, 143, 144, 145, 147, 155 Charles VII, 9, 142 Chevaillier, Thierry, 152 Chevallier, Pierre, 9, 142, 144 Chirac, Jacques, 40, 67, 69, 146 Clark, Burton R., 102, 105, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 149, 158, 159 Clark, Terry N., 20, 25, 26, 144, 156 Clayes, Alain, 149 Cobb, Roger W., 68 Cohen, Habiba S., 24, 150 Cohen, Michael D., 107, 108, 109 Collier, Ruth B., 3 Collier, David, 3 Collignon, Maxime, 143 Compagnon, Antoine, 155 Courtillot, Vincent, 152



Cousin, Victor, 13 Crane, Diana, 105 Crespo, Manuel, 147 Crozier, Michel, 64, 113, 151, 157 d’Iribarne, Philippe, 152 Davies, John, 157 de Boer, Harry, 160 de Fortoul, Hyppolite, 17 de Gaulle, Charles, 41, 42, 148 de Martonne, Emmanuel, 143 de Oliveira, Sylvie, 127, 154 de Swann, Abraham, 9 Devaquet, Alain, 40, 72, 146, 148 DiMaggio, Paul J., 122, 149 Dizambourg, Bernard, 86 Dodier, Nicolas, 100 Dubet, François, 132, 148 Dubois, Pierre, 57, 109, 155 Dumont, Albert, 144 Dupuy, François, 43, 64 Duran, Patrice, 152, 153 Durkheim, Emile, 143 Duruy, Victor, 13 Eicher, Jean-Claude, 142, 148 Elder, Charles D., 68 Elias, Norbert, 157 Ellrodt, Robert, 26, 48 Ellström, Per-Erik, 157 Enders, Jürgen, 157 Erlich, Valérie, 148 Eurich, Nell P., 109 Evans, Peter B., 150 Ewert, Paula, 144 Falloux, Alfred, 16, 17 Faure, Edgar, 2, 4, 7, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 39, 40, 41, 42, 44, 46, 48, 49, 59, 67, 117, 118, 119, 126, 138, 146 Fave-Bonnet, Marie-Françoise, 147, 156 Favereau, Olivier, 74 Ferry, Jules, 144, 147 Fichte, Johann, 14, 18, 19 Filâtre, Daniel, 62, 141, 150 Fillon, Fançois, 148 Fouchet, Christian, 27, 41

Freeman, John, 149 Frémont, Armand, 77, 81, 83, 152 Fridenson, Patrick, 141 Friedberg, Erhard, 2, 44, 45, 67, 103, 108, 109, 113, 146, 157 Füssel, Hans-Peter, 110 Galland, Olivier, 148 Garraud, Philippe, 67 Gasol, Bernard, 152 Gaudin, Jean Pierre, 73 Gazier, Bernard, 158 Gerbod, Paul, 11, 12, 17, 25, 142 Giere, Ronald N., 156 Giman, Coit, 143 Girod de l’Ain, Bertrand, 65, 147, 154 Glaser, Barney G., 156 Goedegebuure Leo, 149, 159 Goodman, Paul, 107, 108, 159 Grémion, Pierre, 113 Grosperrin, Bernard, 142, 144 Gueissaz, Albert, 91, 155 Guenée, Simonne, 141 Guichard, Olivier, 44 Gusdorf, Georges, 13, 27, 33, 89, 90, 141, 145 Gusfield, Joseph, 159 Hagstrom, Warren O., 105, 159 Hall, Peter A., 72, 73, 114, 118, 121, 123, 158 Hanin, Frédéric, 127, 154 Hannan, Michael T., 149 Hardy, Cynthia, 108, 157 Henkel, Mary, 158, 159 Huberman, Gur, 147 Huisman, Jeroen, 160 Humboldt, see von Humboldt Jamous, Haroun, 41 Jobert, Bruno, 82, 118, 121, 151, 158 Jospin, Lionel, 67, 72, 76, 78, 120, 158 Jullian, Camille, 143 Kahn, Charles, 147 Kant, Immanuel, 14, 143 Karabel, Jerome, 145


Karady, Victor, 9, 11, 20, 142, 147 Karpik, Lucien, 159 Keynes, John Maynard, 72 Kingdon, John W., 117, 157 Knorr-Cetina, Karin, 106 Kogan Maurice, 59, 111, 158 Kornhauser, William, 156 Laboulaye, Edouard, 18 Laffont, Jean-Jacques, 74 Lapeyronnie, Didier, 125, 148 Lascoumes, Pierre, 73, 74, 123, 151 Latour, Bruno, 106, 107, 156, 157 Le Galès, Patrick, 157 Lefranc, Abel, 143 Liard, Louis, 7, 9, 11, 13, 19, 20, 28, 32, 34, 118, 142, 143, 144 Lichnerowicz, André, 33 Liedman, Sven-Eric, 16 Lindblom, Charles E., 123 Lipianski, Sandrine, 84, 154, 155 Little, Brenda, 159 Lochak, Danièle, 152 Louis XI, 9, 152 Louis XIV, 9 Lucas, Christopher, 153 Lucas, Philippe, 118, 150 Lullies, Stefan, 144 Lynch, Michael, 106, 156 Maassen, Peter, 159 MacHugh, Alexandra, 148 Magliulo, Bruno, 57 Maillet, Jean, 142, 144 Malon, Thierry, 154 Malraux, André, 72, 153 March, James G., 73, 107, 108, 109 Marcson, Simon, 156 Marie, Jean-Louis, 125, 148 Marin, Bernd, 158 Marsden, David, 158 Marsh, David, 123, 158 Maurice, Marc, 157 Mayeur, Françoise, 13, 24, 25 Mayntz, Renate, 158 McDaniel, Olaf C, 111 Meek, V.Lynn, 59, 149, 157

Meltzer, Leo, 156 Mendès-France, Pierre, 34 Merlin, Pierre, 37 Merrien, François-Xavier, 92, 107, 110, 143, 148, 158, 159 Merton, Robert K., 105, 156 Métras, Franck, 83, 152 Meyer, John W., 114, 158 Migaud, Didier, 149 Mignot-Gérard, Stéphanie, 154 Millett, John D., 107, 108, 159 Millot, Benoît, 146 Minot, Jacques, 141 Mintzberg, Henry, 108, 148, 157 Minvielle, Etienne, 150 Mitterand, François, 40, 67, 72, 73, 83, 156, 151 Monsigny, Odile, 148, 158 Moraw, Peter, 16 Morgan, Anthony W., 157 Muller, Pierre, 71, 82, 118, 121, 123, 151, 158 Musselin, Christine, 2, 12, 28, 39, 45, 67, 74, 75, 84, 92, 103, 108, 109, 121, 127, 144, 146, 148, 152, 154, 155, 158, 160 Napoléon III, 13 Napoléon, Bonaparte, 3, 7, 9, 10, 13, 17, 23, 49, 53, 68, 142, 145 Neave, Guy, 109, 110, 159 Neumann, Anna, 157 Neusel, Aylâ, 37 Niskanen, William A., 159 O’Flaherty, Brendan, 147 Olsen, Johan P., 107, 108, 109 Orivel, François, 146 Oussekine, Malik, 40, 146 Padioleau, Jean G., 76 Palier, Bruno, 123 Paradeise, Catherine, 154 Passeron, Jean-Claude, 28, 33, 57, 144 Pavé, Francis, 155 Peylet, René, 83 Pfeffer, Jeffrey, 108 Pierson, Paul, 3, 121, 122, 123, 158


Piore, Michael, 158 Polanyi, Michael, 159 Potman, Henry P., 159 Potocki-Malicet, Danièle, 64 Powell, Walter W., 122, 149 Premfors, Rune, 109 Prost, Antoine, 10, 27, 28, 32, 34, 40, 41, 143, 144, 150 Quermonne, Jean-Louis, 69, 118, 145, 148 Raulin, Emmanuel, 125 Rémond, René, 36, 37 Renaut, Alain, 13, 14, 17, 18, 20, 101, 141, 143, 144, 157 Rhoades, Garry, 58, 148, 149 Rhodes, R.A.W., 123, 158 Riesman, David, 149, 159 Ringer, Fritz K., 16 Rocard, Michel, 40, 67, 72, 120, 151 Rowan, Brian, 158 Rueschmeyer, Dietrich, 150 Sabatier, Paul, 148 Salancik, Gerald, 108 Salmon, Pierre, 27, 41, 147 Satow, Roberta L., 108 Saunier-Seïté, Alice, 69, 119 Sauvage, Jean, 39, 40 Savary, Alain, 32, 40, 48, 58, 67, 72, 73, 95, 138, 146, 148, 158 Schelling, Friedrich, 14 Schleiermacher, Friedrich, 14, 18, 19 Schriewer, Jürgen, 58, 142, 144 Séailles, Gabriel, 143 Seignobos, Charles, 143 Sellier, François, 157 Selznick, Philip, 122 Shepard, H.A., 156 Sigot, Jean-Claude, 125 Silvestre, Jean-Jacques, 117, 157, 158 Simmonet, Stéphanie, 95 Simon, Herbert, 73 Simoulin, Vincent, 118, 151 Siow, Aloysius, 147 Skocpol, Theda, 150 Soisson, Jean-Pierre, 69, 119

Soulas, Josette, 86, 154 Stroup, Herbert M., 108 Surel, Yves, 118, 121 Tatéossian, Pascal, 156 Taylor, Rosemary, 114 Taylor, William H., 145, 157 Teichler, Ulrich, 149, 157, 159 Thatcher, Mark, 157 Thoenig, Jean-Claude, 43, 64, 113 Tierney, William G., 108 Tirole, Jean, 74 Tordensdahl, Rolf, 16 Touraine, Alain, 157 Tullock, Gordon, 159 Urfalino, Philippe, 72, 96 Valluy, Jérome, 73, 151 Van de Graaff, John H., 110, 148 Van Vught, Franz, 110, 149, 159 Verger, Jacques, 9, 142, 149 Vergnies, Jean-Frédéric, 125 Vilkas, Catherine, 96, 147 von Humboldt, Wilhem, 10, 13, 14, 16, 18, 33 von Kopp, Botho, 147 Vroom, Victor, 157 Vuilliez, Charles, 142 Weick, Karl E., 109 Weir, Margaret, 152 Weiss, Manfred, 147 Weisz, George, 14, 17, 18, 19, 24, 26, 28, 143, 144, 149 Williamson, Oliver E., 74 Windolf, Paul, 147 Woolgar, Steve, 107 Yahou, Nouara, 125 Zetlaoui, Jodelle, 156, 158