French students press for grants

France's national student union says its members are ready to strike unless the government changes the funding system for students by June.

UNEF-IF president Pouria Amirshahi told the daily newspaper Liberation students could wait no longer for a grants system that would give them a choice between financial autonomy and staying at home with their parents.

Any such shake-up would mean altering the tax deductions offered to parents with offspring in higher education.

The creation of a special student status was promised by French president Jacques Chirac in his 1995 election campaign and taken up by Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin. Commitments to reform by two previous conservative education ministers never saw the light of day.

Education minister Claude All gre promised a parliamentary debate on reform before the summer break. The reform would include financial aid to students, transport reductions and rent allowances as well as better access to libraries and sport.

But Mr Amirshahi said: "If Claude All gre does not touch the tax set-up he won't touch anything at all. But I'd be surprised if a party which has lobbied for years for the reduction of inequalities in higher education through tax reform doesn't do it."

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