Ville de Marseille

Mars 2012 >

“A new proposal for education, comprehensible and consistent”, Yvon Berland, chancellor of the University of Aix-Marseille

“A new proposal for education, comprehensible and consistent”, Yvon Berland, chancellor of the University of Aix-Marseille

Since 3rd January, Professor Yvon Berland, a nephrologist by profession, has been chancellor of Aix-Marseille University (AMU), a single university formed out of three: Provence, Méditerranée and Paul Cézanne. Vice Chancellor of the CPU (Conférence des Présidents d’Université) as well, he has revealed for "Horizons 2020" his route map.

Yvon Berland, first chancellor and prime initiator of the University of Aix-Marseille (Photo AMU)

­­­­­What were your reasons behind creating a single university?
Yvon Berland: Since the 1970s, the three universities have been more competitive than complementary in some sectors. Science teaching was shared between the three universities, overlapping courses in Economics and Management were shared between two universities. Staff from the three universities could be working in the same research laboratory with different compensation arrangements and different holiday entitlements!
A university identity was lacking. The organisation was almost incomprehensible both for school-leavers and their families, and for those in socio-economic and political circles. Even less visibility on the national and international scene. We had problems forging partnerships with other universities.

What was the process by which the universities of Provence, Méditerranée and Paul Cézanne were brought together? Was it a requirement of the Ministry of Education?
Not at all! This decision has had nothing to do with a ministerial directive!
When I put myself forward as a candidate for the Chancellorship of the Université de la Méditerranée in 2004, I indicated in my mission statement that I would do all I could to bring the three universities together so as to achieve cohesion and revise the education on offer. This was a difficult process for the project did not have unanimous approval. At a two day seminar in 2007, the three universities finally accepted to unify their governance arrangements and join together. The ministerial decree of 24th August 2011 which created Aix-Marseille University marked the end of the process. Then three university boards were elected last November: the Executive Board, the Science Board and the Board dealing with studies and university life. The 22 elected members of the Executive Board met on 3rd January to elect the chancellor of Aix-Marseille University.

What changes are in view for the coming academic year?
The five-year contract with the government started on 1
st January 2012. It consists in putting forward our education proposals, our research structure and our strategy for the organisation. We have reviewed our education proposals and got rid of the overlaps. On 1st September 2012, we will put forward coherent proposals which will encourage cross-discipline education by associating, for example, Sciences with the Humanities and Health with Law.

What does this new grouping represent?
Aix-Marseille University has 70000 students, of whom 10000 come from abroad, and almost 8000 staff - teachers, researchers, engineers, technicians, and administrators. AMU has 132 research facilities and 21 faculties (Medicine, Science).

What have you done about communication?
Last February we had just one Aix-Marseille University stand for students to consult. Campus signage will also be changed at the entrance to each of our buildings.

What plans have you got internationally?
Taking into account our history and our geography, we are situated alongside the universities within the Mediterranean basin. Our aspiration is to become the knowledge capital of southern Europe. We wish to forge more targeted partnerships with some of the other great universities of the world in Asia and America­.