My (brief) experience as an elected French bureaucrat

A French colleague suggested I place a link to my account of my three-year experience as an (elected!) member of the pure mathematics section (section 25) of the Conseil National des Universités, whose role is to admit candidates to the national competition for positions, as well as to decide on promotions.

This doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the book, except maybe to show how the routine charisma of the French higher education establishment is apportioned (roughly) on the basis of democratic principles.  I found that aspect of the experience genuinely appealing.  But the job they had us doing — well, if you’re interested, you can read the details here.  Some of the text consists of quotations in (easy) French, and if you can’t read French you’ll still get the gist by feeding the passages into an online translator.


8 thoughts on “My (brief) experience as an elected French bureaucrat

  1. Thomas Sauvaget

    Dear Sir, thank you for this interesting text (and for this whole blog more generally).

    I would like to ask : was that text written around 2002 as the title indicates, or more recently ? If around 2002, have your opinions on mid-career moves to France evolved in the meantime ? For instance, do you see the 2013-660 law (now allowing teaching in english in french universities with little restrictions) as a potential game-changer, or only a small step ?

    Thank you for any reply.


  2. mathematicswithoutapologies Post author

    Thank you for your question. I don’t think teaching in English will make much difference for mid-career moves. Someone who chooses to move to France mid-career presumably wants to live in France and will have made an effort to learn the language. On the other hand, my impression is that the delay in being promoted back to the level of the position held before the move is now worse than when I wrote the text. When I moved to France in 1994 I was promoted to professeur 1ère classe at the first possible opportunity, with retroactive effect. Already in 2000 this was no longer possible; as I explain in the latter (secret) part of the text, it was in connection with a case of this kind that I felt compelled to leave the CNU one year before the end of my term.


  3. mathematicswithoutapologies Post author

    I’ve also heard recent horror stories about two foreign candidates being denied qualification at the recommendation of rapporteurs who were themselves clearly not qualified to report on the candidates’ work; one immediately obtained a professorship in Germany, the other a prestigious post-doc in England. A colleague on the CNU told me even more recently that the criteria for promotion had been changed to favor administrative service over research, an indirect form of discrimination against foreigners, especially in the early years of their tenure.


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