The interview. Why is the president of Rouen University leaving his post at full term?

The President of the University of Rouen-Normandy left his position on January 12, 2023. (©MN/76actu)

the president ofUniversity of Rouen (Seine Maritime) Joel Alexandre resigns. The announcement was made this Thursday, January 12, 2023. He came to this position in September 2016 and was re-elected in December 2020. therefore, he leaves before the end of his second mandate. “Considered for one year” decision.

He is preparing to “finish his turn” in the business, confident that he will “take the helm for generations to come.” The “quiet” departure, ahead of the election of a new president on Jan. 27, is an opportunity to reflect on his commitment to the university along with his own accomplishments, as well as regret.

It’s time to think about yourself

News: What made you leave?

Joel Alexander: It is an extremely interesting function that requires personal and family sacrifices. It’s time to think about yourself sometime. In 2020, when we decided to do it again, we were in the middle of the pandemic, we hadn’t finished the site contract that was due to be signed in a few weeks, it would have been completely irresponsible from my point of view not to. do it

The current sequence is more favorable. Now that many things are in place, other colleagues must take over. I am retiring. I will finish in the “back office”. As president, I dealt with a number of issues within the country. And a few other issues are close to my heart. I think I will help a few of my colleagues in their progress.

“We should have accelerated the use of digital technology”

What will you remember from this presidency?

JA: I am convinced that the connection between training, research and innovation should be very close. I tried to make this triptych work better and more.

This resulted in the organization of the enterprise, with colleagues on the team specializing in research and others not in training, but managing both in given disciplinary sectors.

Another crimson theme that excites me is thinking that all the issues and problems we perceive can be solved through trans and multidisciplinary approaches. This started the Cop Herl research project after the Lubrizol accident. I hope that this direction will be the signature of the University of Rouen.

Your mandates were also marked by the pandemic and this changed the situation…

JA: Security issues have been on my mind since my first term in office in 2016, even before the pandemic. We must remember that at that time we were in the midst of a terrorist attack. The incident at Pasteur forced me to close the site. This decision was not easy, but it forced the hiring of personnel for all these aspects of security. We have also invested in video surveillance. Things that are harmless enough now, but weren’t back then.

And then since March 2020, it’s been a long time. I was the first to advocate for the university rectors to wear masks and said that we will organize the beginning of the school year with this. I was a bit of a black duck with exotic ideas, but it all came together in the end.

The use of digital had to be greatly accelerated. What surprised me was the richness of our human resources in the midst of the pandemic. Without the commitment of many of my colleagues, I believe this period could have been much more difficult. This period significantly changed our relationships, our teaching practices and our way of looking at things.

“Funds per student continue to decrease”

How do you feel about student insecurity and what affects staff?

JA: During the pandemic, it was a financial hardship and a moral hardship for many students who found themselves alone when it was a life cycle we were there to share. It remains today. In terms of cost of living, it has been linked to the context since last March. 43% of our students have to do a small job, which greatly affects our organization and the way we work.

I have tried to act on these issues in my functions here and in my national duties. If I have one open regret, it is that in the election period we are living in 2022, we could not take some weight in the national debate.

Compared to other countries, higher education and research are rarely in the spotlight. Funding per student has continued to decline since 2009. Worsening for Rouen are control ratios.

In recent years, we have witnessed calls for the development of projects…

JA: In general, many people condemn ecosystem evolution. I denounced him as president, and tomorrow I will be freer to denounce him. Today, we have to respond to challenges related to projects in all sectors. Uncertainty has increased among our staff because we are understaffed and have little control, but also because the funding available in calls for projects only allows us to pay contract staff. We are moving towards the Anglo-Saxon model.

All this puts us in dramatic situations because behind them are the skills we are losing and a system that makes us compete. Even if the competition doesn’t scare us, it’s a lot of energy and expense.

For many, it is also a career change. When you want to be a researcher, it’s about doing your research, being in your lab, and not responding to calls for projects or being a manager.

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Is it just about resources?

JA: It is not only a matter of means, our respected politicians do not understand that we are raising generations that will shape the future of the country. We are not a country that benefits from raw materials or deposits, its strength today is the training of the youth, the entire population.

The work we have been able to do for lifelong training in these various years is also a kind of pride. I’ve always believed that the paradigm that many people take for granted – you train, work and enjoy retirement – is largely over today. We need to focus higher education and research on these issues.

“The university is not valued at its fair value”

Do you have any other regrets?

JA: I will leave with the feeling that the presence of the university is not seen and appreciated at its fair value compared to other cities where it is a real institution. Some are starting to take notice, especially Metropolis, which is now investing a great deal of resources.

A commitment must be made from both sides. We have established a certain number of partnership relations with the municipalities where we are established. For example, Mont-Saint-Aignan was the first to open laboratories to residents.

With a budget of around 260 million, as soon as one euro is invested, there is almost a four euro benefit for the area consumed, traveled by students, salaries. We are seen as a cost center where students make noise, not as a real dynamic place preparing for the future.

What major challenge awaits the next president?

JA: The difficulty we are experiencing as we speak is financial. Considering the energy crisis, we voted for the 2023 budget with a deficit. We are set to double our energy spending between 2023 and 2022. We can do it once because we have enough working capital to fill those gaps, but other investments, especially real estate. , landscaping, etc. should be used for

The only resources we have in the CPER (State-Regional plan agreement) are for the library. We do not own our building of more than 300,000 m², but we assume the responsibilities of an owner without it. Maintenance of unfinished buildings is one of the biggest challenges.

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