Vincent Thomas, President of the University of Burgundy, spoke during the ceremonial return to the site of the University of Auxerre, avenue des Plaines-de-L’Yonne, this Thursday, September 22, 2022.
On this occasion, he returned to the news that caused a stir from early September: the decision of the Board of Directors of the University of Burgundy (UB) to suspend its participation in the Union of Universities and Institutions (Comue). “University of Burgundy Franche-Comté” (UBFC).
“It is not about wanting to gain independence, nor about stopping cooperation with all higher education actors in the area”
Vincent Thomas, President of the University of Burgundy
In reality, “it should be noted that this general structure is no longer suitable for this cooperation”, the UB president defends. There are several reasons for this position.
An organization that does not adequately represent the area
First, he mentions that he is Comue
It was created in 2015 to benefit from the loans of the investment program for the future (PIA, 10 million euros per year earmarked for research). Except in 2021, that program disappeared. In fact, “this structure finally lacks today the object that guided its foundation seven years ago”, explains Vincent Thomas.
The University of Burgundy leaves the University of Burgundy Franche-Comté
According to a university representative, Comue no longer harbors this ambition. Worse, he says, it doesn’t really represent the regional area because “it has only one headquarters in Besançon, neglecting the territories. Especially the western Burgundian arc.”
“Achieving Higher Ambition”
For all these aspects, Vincent Thomas calls for the creation of a territorial coordination agreement. A body that would allow, in his words, “to restore and lighten the institutional structure in order to make it more ambitious than the Comue”.
For this, the president of the University of Burgundy wants to add the health institutions of the region, as well as national research organizations (CNRS, Inserm, etc.) that are not in the current grouping.
“If more of us participate in the development of a common strategy for the benefit of research, of course we will be stronger and we will be able to shine more in the international world.”
As a result, an opportunity to welcome new researchers and students to the region. And it is quite natural to “convince the international jury to grant us new loans for the benefit of research”. Beneficial extension to the local socio-economic fabric.
In the eyes of the Shanghai rating
A challenge for the University of Burgundy and all its partners at a time when the Shanghai ranking “places the University of Burgundy in the top 5% of institutions in the world”. Based on research projects carried out by all UBFC member institutions.
“There is no conflict with Besançon,” assures the president of the University of Burgundy
This development seemed necessary to President Vincent Thomas, whose structural will was misunderstood by many of his colleagues.
More than 70 teachers-researchers and researchers from Bourgogne Franche-Comté have published an open letter in recent days expressing their dismay at the consequences of this expulsion of the University of Burgundy from the Comue UBFC. Which divorce, as it stands, will be finalized on March 1, 2024.
“All the projects carried out by the UBFC represent subsidies worth 60 million euros. It would be a waste to lose this funding we have. In the long term, we fear the disappearance of education and research in Burgundy. Franche-Comté”.
They also call for “collective thinking” to find a favorable outcome. The call for discussion was also voiced by several regional parliamentarians in a letter published on September 16, 2022. Among the signatories are Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne and André Villiers, senator and deputy of Yonne, respectively.
“You have to trust yourself”
“These letters show legitimate concern, but they show that those who signed them have partial information about the situation,” pleads Vincent Thomas. The state has not yet taken a position on the loans, so their loss today is not just a working hypothesis. And yet. The change in form will not prevent us from winning other programs of excellence in the future. This will allow us to feed the research activities that we will structure together with other envelopes. You have to be sure of yourself.”
Comue UBFC brings together the University of Burgundy Franche-Comté, the University of Franche-Comté, the University of Burgundy, the University of Technology Belfort-Montbéliard, SUPMICROTECH-ENSMM, the Institut Agro Dijon and the Arts and Professions Campus. Cluny.