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Online courses are not a solution to the energy crisis – French minister

A return to remote learning is not the way to fight soaring energy prices, says Sylvie Retailleau

Universities should not return to online courses to deal with the energy crisis, said French Minister of Higher Education Sylvie Retailleau.

His statement comes as France and other European countries increasingly seek cost-cutting measures amid soaring energy prices and growing fears of gas shortages.

“We are coming out of Covid-19 [restrictions]we have to keep the teaching in the classroom,” Retailleau said on Wednesday, quoted by Le Monde newspaper.

“Institutions that need help will be assisted so that we don’t have to go back to remote learning.” 

Minister previously said universities are required to implement energy saving measures, but should not come to the detriment of students [and staff].” 

Retailleau’s remarks came after the University of Strasbourg (Unistra) in eastern France was criticized by teaching unions and student groups for its decision to extend the winter break this year and to bring back distance learning to meet rising energy costs.

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University president Michel Deneken announced on Monday that the Christmas holidays will be extended by one week until January 9. In addition, all courses will be delivered remotely for one week in February.

The heating of the university, which has nearly 57,000 students, will be switched on “as late as possible,” with the temperature kept at 19C (66F), Deneken added.

“We are facing an energy crisis. As you know, the cost of energy is increasing every day,” says Deneken. “We all need to work together and change our habits for the long term.”

The AES student group blasted Unistra’s plan to impose distance learning as a “selfish and degrading” arguing that the move violates student rights.

“Teachers will have to teach in thermal blankets, while students will shiver from the cold,” Imane Oulhadj, the head of the student union Unef, said.

The main teachers’ unions FSU and CGT-FERC have also argued that it is the government’s responsibility to impose energy saving measures without limiting access to public services.

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