French univ exams halted for hundreds as protests persist | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 15, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, May 15, 2018

French univ exams halted for hundreds as protests persist

Hundreds of French students saw their end-of-term exams suspended yesterday as protesters blocked access to two universities, the latest in months of demonstrations against the government's plans to introduce more selective admission requirements.

Tests were cancelled for some 800 students in the southeastern city of Lyon after about 300 protesters formed a human chain at two sites of the Lyon 2 university, officials said.

In the southern port city of Marseille, meanwhile, police moved in to remove an estimated 60 to 80 students blocking access to the law and economy faculties of the Aix-Marseille University.

Shortly afterwards the protesting students were joined by about 30 rail and dockers' union activists as they squared off against police.

Officials suspended tests scheduled for roughly 700 students given the risk of "disturbing the public order".

Elsewhere yesterday, police evacuated protesters at a university in the western city of Rennes, an operation carried out "calmly and without any incidents," the school's president Olivier David said.

Exams had already been halted last week after blockades at universities in Arcueil, the Paris suburb where Nanterre university moved the exams following weeks of student occupations, and at Grenoble in the southern French Alps.

Dozens of sites have been fully or partially blocked or occupied since the beginning of the year to protest government plans for stricter entry requirements, a key element of President Emmanuel Macron's wide-ranging reform drive.

At present, anyone who graduates from high school is guaranteed a place at a public university, where admission fees are often limited to just a few hundred euros (dollars) a year.

That has led to intense overcrowding at many universities as well as high dropout rates as the number of people graduating from high school has soared in recent decades, with 80 percent currently obtaining a diploma.

But many students view the government's plan for a more selective admissions process as an attack on France's longstanding promise of free education for all.

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