New head for international francophone university agency

The Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie, or AUF, has appointed a new director, Jean-Paul de Gaudemar, who will take up the post in December.

He replaces linguist Bernard Cerquiglini who is completing his second four-year mandate at the head of the AUF, which promotes higher education and research in French-speaking universities throughout the world.

The AUF supports and finances a global network of more than 800 universities and research centres that use the French language. Its headquarters are in Montreal, Canada, where it was founded in 1961, and it also has offices in Paris.

De Gaudemar, who was elected by the AUF governing board in September, told University World News his plan is "to make the AUF a force for innovation and expertise, and as such one of the levers of global development at the heart of a French-speaking world open to its environment".

He has spent his working life within France’s education and higher education system, both as an academic and in the administration.

After graduating from the elite École Polytechnique with a doctorate in economics and agrégation (a civil service competitive examination for certain high-level posts in the French education system), he became a professor and later vice-president of the University of Aix-Marseille.

During his career he has been senior adviser to the director-general of the CNRS, France’s National Centre for Scientific Research, and has held a number of posts in the education ministry, including as director of the Strasbourg, Toulouse and Aix-Marseille education authorities, and director of schools education.

Most recently he was higher education and research counsellor to the Minister for Education, Higher Education and Research Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, then for her State Secretary for Higher Education and Research Thierry Mandon. Previously he was education counsellor to former prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

He takes over at the AUF after eight years of expansion under Cerquiglini during which the number of member institutions rose from 656 in 2007 to 812, in more than 100 countries. Universities and research centres in countries outside the traditional French-speaking communities, such as South Africa, Brazil and China, have joined the agency’s network.

A new AUF Maghreb bureau in Rabat, Morocco, and branches in São Paulo in Brazil, Sofia in Bulgaria and Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire have opened, and the network of Campus Numériques Francophones – francophone digital campuses – has increased to 68 institutions in 44 countries. The aim of these campuses is to promote development of French-language universities in emerging countries.

During his directorship Cerquiglini introduced a number of major initiatives:
  • • A culture of evaluation: 21 strategic indicators for the period 2014-17 have been introduced to monitor and if necessary adjust services and actions, such as the number of degree programmes supported by the AUF, and how many students are following these courses.

  • • Promoting partnerships: Examples include the AUF helping to reform the higher education system of Côte d’Ivoire; coordinating with the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie a distance system for teacher training which has trained 13,500 primary school teachers in 10 African and Caribbean countries; and partnerships initiated with international organisations including UNESCO and the West African Economic and Monetary Union, UEMOA.

  • • Expertise: In university governance AUF has advised on introducing self-evaluation, especially in African universities at the request of CAMES, the African and Madagascan Council for Higher Education; helped institutions adopting the ‘LMD’ (licence, masters, doctorate) system based on the Bologna process of three, five and eight years’ of higher education; strengthened doctoral education through creation of 10 doctoral colleges; and supported university consortia in developing major research and education projects on an international scale.

  • • Reform of the system of North-South cooperation: Increased decentralisation to AUF’s regional bureaux has led to greater inter-regional cooperation rather than direct aid, resulting in more attention being paid to the needs of member institutions which are formalised through regional directors’ conferences.

  • • Developing online education: AUF opened its first francophone digital campus in Dakar, Senegal, in 1991, and in 2012 created IFIC, the French-language engineering institute for distance knowledge and education, based in Tunis. It has increased the number of its open distance courses, or FOAD, from 20 in 2003-04 to 85 today, 40 of them produced by African institutions; and established a francophone model of massive open online courses, or MOOCs.