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French universities confront the energy crisis

Students, researchers and university administrators look ahead to winter temperatures with trepidation

It is hard to imagine worse timing: just a week after a major speech by research, higher education and innovation minister Sylvie Retailleau detailing new support measures for students seeing their living standards eroded by inflation, a major French university announced it would extend its winter break because it could not afford to heat university buildings. 

On 15 September, Retailleau had announced she would continue pandemic-era freezes of registration fees and rents for residences under government control, as well as continuing to extend €1 meals to the poorest students. But some universities did not wait for the minister to make good on a promise to work with them on budgeting so they would not have “to choose between heating and [recruiting to] posts”. Chief among them is the University of Strasbourg, which said it would lower temperatures in its buildings, ban space heaters, extend its Christmas closures by a week and shut the campus entirely during the February half-term because it expected its electricity bill to double from its 2021 figure.

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