Energy sobriety: closing universities not approved by the government

Posted on September 20, 2022, 4:00 pm

In the face of soaring energy prices, closing universities is not the answer, says Higher Education Minister Sylvie Retailleau. Although the University of Strasbourg has decided to close its doors for the next two weeks this winter, it is better to keep classes “strongly personal”, a minister said on Tuesday.

“Universities, all higher education institutions, are led to think about a sobriety plan,” the minister told Franceinfo. “We will support our facilities,” she added, adding that “above all, we do not” want the plan to be done “at the expense of students.”

“It shouldn’t penalize the lessons. We are starting from the Covid period. We must keep these lessons firmly in our faces “and we must not” return to distance learning, insisted Sylvie Retailleau. This plan must not be done either “at the expense of positions” because “we need our teaching positions before students” or “at the expense of major projects.”

“We have to save energy. (…) This means setting the heating to 19 degrees, specifically installing thermostats, of course thinking – with a plan led by the Prime Minister on ecological planning – about buildings, renovations. So have a short-term plan and then a long-term plan for our research facilities as well,” Sylvie Retailleau said. For research centers, “short-term measures are certainly restrictive measures as well,” she said.

Heating to 19°C: “students will shiver in the winter”

Unef, the second student union, criticizes the regulation of heating to 19 degrees in universities. “Teachers will be teaching in emergency blankets and students will be shivering from the cold. You cannot succeed in your studies in such conditions,” said the organization’s president, Imane Ouelhadj, at a press briefing on Tuesday.

“From 2022, we are looking on a case-by-case basis for universities and organizations that need help,” the minister said. “We have to support all our operations, but at the same time our operations (…) are responsible, autonomous. And I think the main players in these decisions are university presidents.”

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