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  • Sarkozy’s €7,7 billion excellence bet

    - Back in 2010, the French government borrowed over €35 billion to finance an ambitious research excellence program. €7,7 billion of these funds will now be allocated to eight university clusters which are part of Sarkozy’s ambition to consolidate the segmented French HE sector.

    In 2010, French President Nicolas Sarkozy launched "Investments for the Future", an excellence program worth €35 billion. Goal was to foster the economy by massively boosting the stand of the French research sector and the institutions involved.

    Big chunk of the program is dedicated to the Excellence Initiative (Idex) which will allocate €7,7 billion to eight selected conglomerates consisting of universities and other research institutes. Now, the government announced the complete list of groups that were selected for a large cash infusion.

    Debt financing excellence

    In addition to Bordeaux, Strasbourg, and Paris Sciences et Lettres which were selected last year, Aix-Marseille, Paris-Saclay, Sorbonne Université, Sorbonne Paris Cité, and Toulouse will receive extra funding. The focus on conglomerates instead of individual institutes was chosen consciously as Sarkozy wants to consolidate the segmented French higher education sector through mergers.

    Observers labeled Sarkozy's ambitious Investments for the Future program also as "The Big Loan" since all of the funds were raised on the financial markets through leverage financing. Notable members of the Idex jury were Jean-Marc Rapp, president of the European University Association (EUA), and known French economist Philippe Aghion from Harvard University.

    Upcoming April French President Nicolas Sarkozy is going to face his opponent François Hollande from the Socialist party during the Presidential Elections. Sarkozy is known to revert to policies that appear opportunistic at times. Whether his excellence bet has got him a greater share of the electoral vote remains to be seen.