Colleagues in France are currently busy filling applications to try to get a piece of “Le grand emprunt national” or “The big loan”. Now this is supposed to be a glamorous way (only in french) to describe what is essentially …. a science stimulus package, with a special emphasis on the borrowing aspect from international financial markets.
The funding is intended to boost the country’s long-term competitiveness, by creating “Pillars of excellence”: five to ten campuses of research excellence, each of which receiving an endowment of up to €1 billion and other funds to hire leading researchers or buy equipment to create ‘labs of excellence’.
Now do you remember the academic in-civil war that was triggered last year by the Presidents of Canada’s G5 universities, who were accused of promoting a similar “Pillars of excellence” conspiracy? Here are only a few of the skirmishes:
- Globe and Mail story.
- CBC summarizes.
- Smaller universities weigh in: Carleton, UQaM, UWindsor, Maclean’s
- Columns from London Free Press, Ottawa Citizen, Windsor Star (“an education in arrogance”), Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, PEI Guardian (which, according to its masthead, “covers PEI like the dew”…)
- Jeffrey Simpson, Globe and Mail: G5 proposal is “a bad idea, poorly expressed”.
- James Turk, CAUT Executive Director G5 proposal is an “insular, short-sighted and potentially destructive approach.”
Well, the french are not immune from that as some academics fear the money will flow only to the largest institutions, and that it will totally ignore the pockets of excellence in smaller universities.