Universities in France and Australia

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When I enrolled at Dauphine University in Paris to do my post-graduate translation diploma at ESIT many long years ago, I was rather shocked at the environment. It was located in a  high-rise building (and the toilets were disgusting). When I started teaching there 15 years ago, it was no better. Only the toilets were slightly cleaner.They finally spruced up the outside and did up the wing I work in and are now renovating the entrance hall. They also refurbished the canteen area a couple of years ago.

I did French honours at James Cook University in North Queensland. It has a magnificent campus practically out in the bush. The wallabies used to come in from the surrounding hills in the evening. The library takes up a whole building. The library at Dauphine takes up one floor and there are certainly no individual desks for the students to work at. During exam periods, you see them all sitting on the floor in the corridors. Our wing is a bit better because we are actually a school within a school and have fewer students. Compared with the Dauphine students, we have luxury surroundings.  At least they don’t have to sit on the floor.

When Black Cat did her first year of post-grad at the University of Queensland a few years ago, she used to skype me from one of the cafés on campus. I couldn’t believe it. At the time, we didn’t even have wifi inside our building. So I campaigned until we got it. A couple of years back, I lectured in terminology and needed an internet connection for the course. I was assigned a lecture theatre in a new area downstairs where the walls were too thick for a wireless connection. I asked for a cable connection and it took THREE MONTHS to get them to connect it during my 1 ½ hour weekly class. They were afraid of the students using it. I couldn’t believe it. OK, ESIT is not part of Dauphine (for historical reasons, we are part of Paris Nouvelle Sorbonne University which is over the other side of Paris) but even so, I thought that was pretty inefficient.

I then pushed to have a room equipped with computers to hold our translation classes. I even got the quotes (we’re multi-task here). A computer is a compulsory tool for a translator today, as you may well imagine. It finally happened and I immediately claimed the room before anyone else did. All last year, I was allowed to use it as a special favour because the student security system wasn’t functioning. This year, that problem has been solved but they still haven’t connected up the permanent video projector so I have to count on our somewhat moody technician to set up the laptop and portable projector for me. This involves getting there early and checking that he hasn’t forgotten me. And when he’s not there for some reason, I have to do it myself.

The e-learning platform we’re supposed to use has been down since classes went back in September. Fortunately I have a cluey student who suggested zoho docs so I’m using that. At least I’m sure it’ll work. Whenever I complain and point out that the facilities in Australia are much better, I get the answer that the students are not paying the same fees. They did in my day, but that’s changed now of course. In France, the yearly fees range from 174 to 564 euros (230 to 750 Australian dollars) a year plus compulsory social security which is about 150 euros (200 dollars). I gather the fees are a little higher than that in Australia … President Sarkozy has a big plan to develop university campuses, make each university autonomous and charge much higher fees. This has understandably met with a lot of opposition and the latest news is that two of the universities have gone broke. Haven’t noticed any campuses yet.

Ah well, only another semester to go because I’ve decided this will be my last year of teaching.

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15 thoughts on “Universities in France and Australia”

  1. I thought Dauphine was clean in comparison to Nanterre where there was poop spread across the bathroom walls, no toilet paper and no soap! I got UTIs because I would avoid drinking so I didn’t have to pee. Sometimes I would go home at lunch time just to have a toilet break.
    French universities obviously lack sufficient funding but I am not sure high tuition fees are the best solution. Canadians start their careers with significant student debts unless they get a grant of some sort. The special interest-free student loans aren’t available to everyone. For example, I was not eligible. Going to university in France enabled me to have a good education for relatively little money (except my Erasmus semester which cost a fair bit for housing, etc).
    For those wishing to study in a French university, you’ll need to equip yourself with hand santizer, many packs of tissues and for girls, good thigh muscles for squatting!

    1. Sounds like Dauphine when I was there in the late seventies. It’s much better today, though the floor’s often flooded. The toilets are always mixed of course and I’m not keen on the urinals down the end. There are soap and water but the drier’s broken. I preferred it when I was on the permanent staff and could use the staff toilets but you need a key!

  2. Love it!
    I’m a french student and I was in UQ for one semester. The campus was clearly more beautiful than mine! Maybe because Queensland is also more beautiful than our sad cities 😉 And I was also impressed by all the social clubs you can find in Oz. I think France misses all of those social clubs, except in “Grandes écoles”… I think that make australian system more attractive than the french one.
    But, yes you’re right the fees are not the same! It’s incredible over there!

    1. Hi, thanks for your comment. UQ is a beautiful campus, isn’t it? The social clubs definitely make a difference. Black Cat really missed them when she came back as well.

  3. Hi Fraussie, I have worked at QUT in Brisbane for 16 years now and we sometimes complain about facilities but after reading your blog I realise that we are in paradise. I did my fine arts study at USQ (Toowoomba) and it was also wonderful and that was back in the early eighties.

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