Why Is College in America So Expensive?

Université et argent
Before the automobile, before the Statue of Liberty, before the vast majority of contemporary colleges existed, the rising cost of higher education was shocking the American conscience: “Gentlemen have to pay for their sons in one year more than they spent themselves in the whole four years of their course,” The New York Times lamented in 1875.

Decadence was to blame, the writer argued: fancy student apartments, expensive meals, and “the mania for athletic sports.”

Today, the U.S. spends more on college than almost any other country, according to the 2018 Education at a Glance report released this week by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

All told, including the contributions of individual families and the government (in the form of student loans, grants, and other assistance), Americans spend about $30,000 per student a year — nearly twice as much as the average developed country. “The U.S. is in a class of its own,” says Andreas Schleicher, the director for education and skills at the OECD, and he does not mean this as a compliment. “Spending per student is exorbitant, and it has virtually no relationship to the value that students could possibly get in exchange.”

Only one country spends more per student, and that country is Luxembourg — where tuition is nevertheless free for students, thanks to government outlays. In fact, a third of developed countries offer college free of charge to their citizens. (And another third keep tuition very cheap — less than $2,400 a year.) The farther away you get from the United States, the more baffling it looks.

This back-to-school season, The Atlantic is investigating a classic American mystery: Why does college cost so much? And is it worth it?

At first, like the 19th-century writer of yore, I wanted to blame the curdled indulgences of campus life: fancy dormitories, climbing walls, lazy rivers, dining halls with open-fire-pit grills. And most of all — college sports. Certainly sports deserved blame.

On first glance, the new international data provide some support for this narrative. The U.S. ranks No. 1 in the world for spending on student-welfare services such as housing, meals, health care, and transportation, a category of spending that the OECD lumps together under “ancillary services.” All in all, American taxpayers and families spend about $3,370 on these services per student — more than three times the average for the developed world.

NewImageOne reason for this difference is that American college students are far more likely to live away from home. And living away from home is expensive, with or without a lazy river. Experts say that campuses in Canada and Europe tend to have fewer dormitories and dining halls than campuses in the U.S. “The bundle of services that an American university provides and what a French university provides are very different,” says David Feldman, an economist focused on education at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. “Reasonable people can argue about whether American universities should have these kind of services, but the fact that we do does not mark American universities as inherently inefficient. It marks them as different.”

But on closer inspection, the data suggest a bigger problem than fancy room and board. Even if we were to zero out all these ancillary services tomorrow, the U.S. would still spend more per college student than any other country (except, again, Luxembourg). It turns out that the vast majority of American college spending goes to routine educational operations — like paying staff and faculty — not to dining halls. These costs add up to about $23,000 per student a year — more than twice what Finland, Sweden, or Germany spends on core services. “Lazy rivers are decadent and unnecessary, but they are not in and of themselves the main culprit,” says Kevin Carey, the author of The End of College and the director of the education-policy program at New America, a nonpartisan think tank.

The business of providing an education is so expensive because college is different from other things that people buy, argue Feldman and his colleague Robert Archibald in their 2011 book, Why Does College Cost So Much? College is a service, for one thing, not a product, which means it doesn’t get cheaper along with changes in manufacturing technology (economists call this affliction “cost disease”). And college is a service delivered mostly by workers with college degrees — whose salaries have risen more dramatically than those of low-skilled service workers over the past several decades.

College is not the only service to have gotten wildly more expensive in recent decades, Feldman and Archibald point out. Since 1950, the real prices of the services of doctors, dentists, and lawyers have risen at similar rates as the price of higher education, according to Feldman and Archibald’s book. “The villain, as much as there is one, is economic growth itself,” they write.

This all makes sense, if we just focus on the U.S. But what about the rest of the world? These broader economic trends exist there, too. So why does college still cost half as much, on average, in other countries?

One oddity of America’s higher-education system is that it is actually three different systems masquerading as one: There is one system of public colleges; another of private, nonprofit institutions; and one made up of for-profit colleges.

The biggest system by far is the public one, which includes two-year community colleges and four-year institutions. Three out of every four American college students attend a school in this public system, which is funded through state and local subsidies, along with students’ tuition dollars and some federal aid.

In this public system, the high cost of college has as much to do with politics as economics. Many state legislatures have been spending less and less per student on higher education for the past three decades. Bewitched by the ideology of small government (and forced by law to balance their budgets during a period of mounting health-care costs), states have been leaving once-world-class public universities begging for money. The cuts were particularly stark after the 2008 recession, and they set off a cascading series of consequences, some of which were never intended.

The easiest way for universities to make up for the cuts was to shift some of the cost to students — and to find richer students. “Once that sustainable public funding was taken out from under these schools, they started acting more like businesses,” says Maggie Thompson, the executive director of Generation Progress, a nonprofit education-advocacy group. State cutbacks did not necessarily make colleges more efficient, which was the hope; they made colleges more entrepreneurial.

Some universities began to enroll more full-paying foreign and out-of-state students to make up the difference. Over the past decade, for example, Purdue University has reduced its in-state student population by 4,300 while adding 5,300 out-of-state and foreign students, who pay triple the tuition. “They moved away from working to educate people in their region to competing for the most elite and wealthy students — in a way that was unprecedented,” Thompson says.

This competition eventually crept beyond climbing walls and dining halls into major, long-term operating expenses. For example, U.S. colleges spend, relative to other countries, a startling amount of money on their nonteaching staff, according to the OECD data. Some of these people are librarians or career or mental-health counselors who directly benefit students, but many others do tangential jobs that may have more to do with attracting students than with learning. Many U.S. colleges employ armies of fund-raisers, athletic staff, lawyers, admissions and financial-aid officers, diversity-and-inclusion managers, building-operations and maintenance staff, security personnel, transportation workers, and food-service workers.

The international data is not detailed enough to reveal exactly which jobs are diverting the most money, but we can say that U.S. colleges spend more on nonteaching staff than on teachers, which is upside down compared with every other country that provided data to the OECD (with the exception of Luxembourg, naturally).

In addition, most global rankings of universities heavily weight the amount of research published by faculty — a metric that has no relationship to whether students are learning. But in a heated race for students, these rankings get the attention of college administrators, who push faculty to focus on research and pay star professors accordingly.

Likewise, the new data show that U.S. colleges currently have a slightly lower ratio of students to teachers than the average for the developed world — another metric favored in college rankings. But that is a very expensive way to compete. And among education researchers, there is no clear consensus about whether smaller classes are worth the money.

In the beginning, university administrators may have started competing for full-freight paying students in order to help subsidize other, less affluent students. But once other colleges got into the racket, it became a spending arms race. More and more universities had to participate, including private colleges unaffected by state cuts, just to keep their application numbers up. “There is such a thing as wasteful competition,” Charles Clotfelter, a Duke University professor and the author of Unequal Colleges in the Age of Disparity, wrote me in an email.

All that said, it’s also true that state budget cuts were uneven across the country. Today, in-state tuition in Wyoming is about a third of the cost of Vermont, for example. In places where higher education has not been gutted and the cost of living is low, an American college degree can still be a bargain — especially for students who don’t mind living at home and are poor enough to qualify for federal aid. Taking into account living expenses, says Alex Usher of the consulting firm Higher Education Strategy Associates, a student at a public university in Mississippi will likely end up with similar out-of-pocket costs as a student in Sweden.

Usher, who is based in Toronto, is one of the few researchers to have looked carefully at the costs of higher education globally. And much of what he finds is surprising. In 2010, he and his colleague Jon Medow created a clever ranking of 15 countries’ higher-education systems — using a variety of ways to assess affordability and access. Reading the report is like peeling an onion. The first layer focuses on the most obvious question: the affordability of college based on the cost of tuition, books, and living expenses divided by the median income in a given country. By this metric, the U.S. does very poorly, ranking third from the bottom. Only Mexico and Japan do worse.

But the U.S. moves up one place when grants and tax credits are included. “Your grants are actually really generous compared to everybody else,” Usher says. Tuition is higher in the U.S., so the grants don’t fully cover the price, but 70 percent of full-time students do receive some kind of grant aid, according to the College Board. From this perspective, sometimes called “net cost,” Australia is more expensive than the U.S.

Next, looking only at our public colleges, the U.S. rises higher still, ranking in the middle of the pack in Usher’s analysis, above Canada and New Zealand. This data is from 2010, and things may look less rosy if he were to redo the study now, Usher cautions. But still, he sounds weirdly hopeful. “The public system in the U.S. is working as well as most systems,” he says. “Parts of the U.S. look like France.”

The problem, of course, is that other parts of the U.S. look more like a Louis Vuitton store. America basically contains 50 different higher-education systems, one per state, each with public, private, and for-profit institutions, making generalizations all but impossible. The U.S. does relatively well on measures of access to college, but the price varies wildly depending on the place and the person. Somehow, students have to find their way through this thicket of competition and choose wisely, or suffer the consequences.

The more I studied America’s baffling higher-education system, the more it reminded me of health care. In both spaces, Americans pay twice as much as people in other developed countries—and get very uneven results. The U.S. spends nearly $10,000 a person on health care each year (25 percent more than Switzerland, the next biggest spender), according to the OECD’s 2017 Health at a Glance report, but our life expectancy is now almost two years below the average for the developed world.

“I used to joke that I could just take all my papers and statistical programs and globally replace hospitals with schools, doctors with teachers and patients with students,” says Dartmouth College’s Douglas Staiger, one of the few U.S. economists who studies both education and health care.

Both systems are more market driven than in just about any other country, which makes them more innovative — but also less coherent and more exploitive. Hospitals and colleges charge different prices to different people, rendering both systems bewilderingly complex, Staiger notes. It is very hard for regular people to make informed decisions about either, and yet few decisions could be more important.

In both cases, the most vulnerable people tend to make less-than-ideal decisions. For example, among high-achieving, low-income students (who have grades and test scores that put them in the top 4 percent of U.S. students and would be eligible for generous financial aid at elite colleges), the vast majority apply to no selective colleges at all, according to research by Caroline Hoxby and Christopher Avery. “Ironically, these students are often paying more to go to a nonselective four-year college or even a community college than they would pay to go to the most selective, most resource-rich institutions in the United States,” as Hoxby told NPR.

Meanwhile, when it comes to health care, low-income Americans tend to be less familiar with the concepts of deductibles, coinsurance rates, and provider networks, according to a variety of studies, which makes it extremely difficult to choose a health-care plan. “These are both sectors where consumers are too poorly informed and societal costs and benefits too great to leave decision-making entirely in the hands of individuals,” as Isabel Sawhill at the Brookings Institution has written.

Ultimately, college is expensive in the U.S. for the same reason MRIs are expensive: There is no central mechanism to control price increases. “Universities extract money from students because they can,” says Schleicher at the OECD. “It’s the inevitable outcome of an unregulated fee structure.” In places like the United Kingdom, the government limits how much universities can extract by capping tuition. The same is true when it comes to health care in most developed countries, where a centralized government authority contains the prices.

The U.S. federal government has historically been unwilling to perform this role. So Americans pay more for pharmaceuticals — and for college classes. Meanwhile, more and more of the risk gets shifted from government onto families, in both sectors.

At the very least, the American government could do a better job sharing information about the quality of colleges in ways everyone can understand, Schleicher says. “You can’t force people to buy good things or bad things, but they should be able to see what the value is.”

Spending a lot of money can be worth it, if you get something awesome in exchange. “America has the best colleges and universities in the world!” President Donald Trump exclaimed at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this year. Former President Barack Obama said the same thing before him.

But is it actually true? No meaningful data exist on the quality of universities globally. America does have a disproportionate number of elite colleges, which accept fewer than 10 percent of applicants, and these places do employ some brilliant scholars who do groundbreaking research. But fewer than 1 percent of American students attend highly selective colleges like those.

Instead, more than three-quarters of students attend nonselective colleges, which admit at least half of their applicants. No one knows for sure how good these colleges are at their core job of educating students. But in one of the only careful, recent studies on adult skills, the OECD’s Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, Americans under age 35 with a bachelor’s degree performed below their similarly educated peers in 14 other countries on the test of practical math skills. In other words, they did only slightly better than high-school graduates in Finland. America’s college grads did better in reading, performing below just six other countries, but dropped off again in another test, scoring below 13 other countries in their ability to solve problems using digital technology.

If American colleges are not adding obvious and consistent academic value, they are adding financial value. Americans with college degrees earn 75 percent more than those who only completed high school. Over a lifetime, people with bachelor’s degrees earn more than half a million dollars more than people with no college degree in the U.S. In fact, no other country rewards a college degree as richly as the United States, and few other countries punish people so relentlessly for not having one. It’s a diabolical cycle: Colleges are very expensive to run, partly because of the high salaries earned by their skilled workers. But those higher salaries make college degrees extremely valuable, which means Americans will pay a lot to get them. And so colleges can charge more. As Carey, the End of College author, summarizes: “Students are over a barrel.”

Still, the return varies wildly depending on the college one attends. One in four college grads earns no more than the average high-school graduate. Associate’s degrees from for-profit universities lead to smaller salary bumps than associate’s degrees from community colleges, which are cheaper. And two-thirds of students at for-profits drop out before earning their degree anyway, meaning many will spend years struggling with debt they cannot afford to pay off — and cannot, under U.S. law, off-load through bankruptcy.

This convoluted, complicated, inconsistent system continues to exist, and continues to be so expensive because college in America is still worth the price. At certain colleges, for certain people. Especially if they finish. But it doesn’t have to be this way, and almost everywhere else, it isn’t.

First published, September 11, 2018

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Météo des Luttes – janvier-février 2019 –

Barometer of struggles – January-February 2019 –

Streikwetterdienst – Januar / Februar 2019 –

Barómetro de las luchas – enero-febrero de 2019 –

Meteo delle lotte – gennaio-febbraio 2019 –

Clima das lutas – Janeiro-Fevereiro de 2019 –

Aux quatre coins de la planète, des étudiants, des universitaires, des chercheurs, mais aussi des lycéens ou des enseignants, se mobilisent pour s’opposer aux politiques néolibérales et conquérir de nouveaux droits. Et la plupart du temps, nous n’en savons rien ou si peu…
Nous nous proposons donc de tenir sur ce blog une « météo des luttes », organisée sous la forme de textes courts, de « brèves », suivis de liens à consulter ou de documents à télécharger.
Dans ce bulletin météo, nous vous signalons quelques-uns de ces combats, locaux et universels...

All over the world, students, academics, researchers, as well as high school students and teachers are mobilizing to oppose neoliberal policies and conquer new rights. But most of the time, we hear little or no wind of it...
We therefore propose to keep on this blog a “barometer of struggles” organized in the form of news in brief, followed by links to consult or documents to download.
In this weathercast, we signal to you a few of these recent fights, local and universal…

Überall auf der Welt kämpfen Studierende, Lehrende und Forschende, aber auch SchülerInnen oder gar Eltern, gegen neoliberale Politik und für neue Rechte. Davon erfahren wir in der Regel nur wenig…
Auf dieser Seite verzeichnen wir also einen wissenschaftlichen Streikwetterdienst aus kurzen Texten und Meldungen mit Links und Dokumenten zum Herunterladen.
In diesem Bericht stellen wir Euch einige dieser lokalen und allgemeinen Kämpfe vor.

En todas partes del mundo, estudiantes, académicos, investigadores, pero también estudiantes y profesores de secundaria se movilizan para oponerse a las políticas neoliberales y conquistar nuevos derechos. Pero la mayor parte del tiempo, no sabemos nada o muy poco....
Por lo tanto, proponemos mantener en este blog un "barómetro de las luchas", organizado en forma de resúmenes, seguidos de enlaces para consultar o documentos para descargar.
En este reporte meteorológico, señalamos algunas de estas luchas, locales y universales…

In tutto il mondo, studenti, accademici, ricercatori, ma anche studenti delle scuole superiori e insegnanti si stanno mobilitando per contrastare le politiche neoliberali e conquistare nuovi diritti. E il più delle volte non ne sappiamo nulla, o molto poco...
Proponiamo quindi di tenere su questo blog un "meteo delle lotte", organizzato in forma di brevi testi, seguiti da link da consultare o documenti da scaricare.
In questo bollettino meteorologico, diamo notizia di alcune lotte, locali e universali…

Em todo o mundo, estudantes, acadêmicos, pesquisadores, mas também estudantes do ensino médio e professores estão se mobilizando para se opor às políticas neoliberais e conquistar novos direitos. E, na maioria das vezes, não sabemos nada ou tão pouco acerca disso...
Propomos portanto manter neste blog um "clima das lutas", composto por textos curtos, "resumos", seguidos de links para consulta ou documentos para download.
Neste boletim meteorológico, relatamos algumas dessas batalhas, locais e universais…

  1. En Afrique
    • Guinée
      Après plus de trois mois de grève liés à des revendications salariales, les enseignants ont repris les cours car un accord a enfin été trouvé avec le gouvernement.
    • Niger
      NewImageLes enseignants-chercheurs ont lancé une grève de 72 heures à partir du 18 février. Leurs revendications portent sur de meilleures conditions de vie et de salaire ainsi que sur la poursuite des élections des recteurs des universités du pays par toute la communauté universitaire et non par nomination du ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur.
    • République démocratique du Congo
      Après trois jours de coupure d’eau et d’électricité sur le campus de l’Université de Lubumbashi suite à des pluies diluviennes, une manifestation des étudiants a mal tourné le 27 janvier.
    • Sénégal
      Les étudiants de l’Université Gaston Berger (UGB) de Saint-Louis continuent de réclamer leurs bourses en ce début d’année 2019 et ont décrété un mot d’ordre de grève de 48 heures. Ils sont aussi en colère contre les ruptures d’approvisionnement de l’eau potable au sein du campus et la non-disponibilité du WIFI.

      Au printemps 2018, comme en 1968, c’est pour réclamer des bourses d’un niveau suffisant que les étudiants sont descendus dans la rue et que des heurts importants ont eu lieu avec les forces de l’ordre tuant un étudiant de l’UGB par balle le 15 mai.

    • Tunisie
      NewImageAlors que le Fonds monétaire international presse le gouvernement tunisien de geler les salaires du secteur public afin de réduire le déficit budgétaire, un mouvement de grève a été massivement suivi dans la fonction publique depuis novembre dernier. Un accord sur les augmentations salariales a finalement été signé le 7 février par le gouvernement et l’UGTT (Union générale des travailleurs tunisiens), annulant par là-même la grève générale qui était prévue les 20 et 21 février. Toutefois, selon le secrétaire général de l’UGTT, la mobilisation du personnel du secondaire doit se poursuivre tant que le dossier des retenues sur les salaires du personnel gréviste n’est pas réglé.
  2. En Amérique Latine
    • Colombia
      NewImageEntre octubre y diciembre de 2018, los estudiantes han convocado acciones de lucha en todo el país no sólo para exigir más presupuesto para las universidades públicas sino también para denunciar los crímenes de líderes sociales y la represión durante las marchas. Los estudiantes, los profesores y el Gobierno Nacional de Ivan Duque llegaron a un acuerdo el 14 de diciembre de 2018. A ver cómo va a suceder con la mesa de diálogo entre los diferentes actores para seguir e implementar concretemente los acuerdos…
  3. En Amérique du Nord
    • United States
      More than 30 000 teachers on the streets of Los Angeles on January 14. Something we have not seen since 1989 ! These teachers of public schools are fighting to get higher salaries and better learning environment for children who are often more than 40 in a class. The strike could snowball in the United States and help to strengthen the fight against privatization of education.

      Following Los Angeles, labour actions took place in half a dozen states. In Denver, after a three-day strike, a first in 25 years, teachers won on February 14. Denver School District will allow an average 11.7 percent pay raise and annual cost of living increases. This « historic deal », as described by the Denver Teachers School Association (DTSA), addresses the teachers’ biggest concern about the unfair and non-transparent merit-pay system.

      In West Virginia, teachers walked off the job for a second time in the year on tuesday 19 February. But this time, they are not fighting for pay raises. They’re protesting Republican efforts to privatize public education.

  4. En Europe
    • Albanie
      En réaction à la hausse annoncée des droits d’inscription, des milliers d’étudiants albanais étaient dans la rue le 11 décembre 2018. Cette révolte étudiante, qui bouscule le pouvoir, remet en cause non seulement la démocratie mais aussi les politiques néolibérales appliquées par les principaux partis, analysent Jean-Arnault Dérens et Laurent Geslin dans un article de Mediapart.
    • Belgique
      Des dizaines de milliers d’étudiants soutenus par l’association Youth for climate, « brossent » les cours….
    • France
      Carre rouge soutien 600Le 19 novembre 2018, le Premier Ministre Édouard Philippe a annoncé l’augmentation des frais d’inscription des étudiants étrangers non-européens. La mesure, présentée comme un vecteur de ressources nouvelles dans une stratégie d’attractivité internationale des universités françaises, prévoit une hausse de près de 1600% de ces frais ! Pour s’y opposer, de nombreuses mobilisations se poursuivent dans tout le pays, organisées par les principaux syndicats (FAGE, Solidaires, UNEF), ainsi que des collectifs d’étudiants et d’enseignants-chercheurs.

      Au cours des semaines, les mobilisations s’intensifient et se diversifient. Pour suivre en direct l’évolution du conflit, le site du collectif université ouverte recense les actions en cours et prévues dans toute la France, dans l’attente de la parution d’un décret.

      Les étudiants appellent par ailleurs à une convergence des luttes avec les lycéens, les syndicats, le mouvement des gilets jaunes et la lutte pour le climat.

      De leur côté, des enseignants en colère du primaire, du secondaire ou de l’enseignement agricole réclament une revalorisation de leurs salaires, une meilleure reconnaissance de leur métier et moins de précarité. Organisés sur les réseaux sociaux, ces « stylos rouges » regroupent 60 000 internautes sur Facebook, se mobilisent un peu partout en France et ont publié un manifeste téléchargeable ici.

    • Germany
      In Berlin, thousands of students held a strike against the coal Commission on Friday January 25th demanding an end to fossil fuels. Germany's deal sets a 2038 end date for coal, but it's not ambitious enough
    • Netherlands
      An estimated 10,000 students marching through The Hague to protest climate change on February 7th.
    • Suisse
      Une mobilisation de la jeunesse d’ampleur nationale en faveur du climat s’est déroulée, le 18 janvier, dans 15 villes helvétiques dont Neuchâtel, Zurich et Genève.
    • United Kingdom
      NewImageAfter the strikes against pension cuts in 2018 voted in 61 universities through the University and College Union (UCU) action, new strikes dates are announced at 16 English colleges in pay row, starting on Tuesday 29 January.
  5. En Océanie
    • Australia
      Thousands of school students protest and walk out of class on Fridays and will be ready to follow the global strike4 on climate on March 15.

À l’origine de notre Internationale


L’idée de l’Internationale des Savoirs pour Tous est née le 25 mai 2018, au cours d’une journée de débats sur l’Enseignement supérieur et la Recherche (ESR), organisée à l’Assemblée Nationale par « La France Insoumise ». 

Alors que se déroulait, au même moment, une énième messe néolibérale liée au processus de Bologne, cette rencontre, intitulée « Pour une Université européenne insoumise » et dont on trouvera ici le programme complet, visait plusieurs objectifs :
- passer au crible de la critique les fondements, la mise en œuvre et les conséquences des politiques libérales de l’ESR en France, en Europe et dans le monde,
- dresser un état des lieux des luttes des étudiants et des personnels de l’ESR, que celles-ci soient passées ou en cours et au niveau local, national ou à l’échelle internationale,
- démontrer qu’il existe désormais, dans quasiment tous les pays, des revendications, des propositions de réforme, des programmes alternatifs aux politiques néolibérales de l’ESR.

Cette journée, qui donna lieu à plusieurs tables-rondes et ateliers dont on peut voir ici la restitution filmée, fut couronnée de succès. D’une part, elle rassembla un large public (étudiants, universitaires, chercheurs, militants associatifs, syndicaux et politiques) en provenance de nombreux pays (Allemagne, Argentine, Colombie, Espagne, France, Grèce, Italie, Royaume-Uni, Suède…). D’autre part, la qualité des interventions, la richesse des débats, furent l’occasion pour les participants d’identifier de multiples points de convergence et donnèrent à chacun l’envie de continuer, de se fédérer.

Au cours de l’été, un appel commun à la création d’un réseau alternatif mondial de l’ESR fut donc rédigé. Intitulé dans sa version française « La science pour le plus grand nombre, pas pour l’argent », il fut traduit en plusieurs langues (anglais, espagnol, italien, portugais) et adressé pour signature aux participants de la journée du 25 mai, ainsi qu’à certains de leurs contacts. Bien que diffusé avec très peu de moyens, cet appel connut un écho certain. Fin 2018, plus de 100 signataires, individus ou collectifs, représentant 22 pays, avaient rejoint le réseau.

Le temps était donc venu de lui donner un nom et de le rendre plus visible, plus actif. Ainsi naquirent « L’Internationale des Savoirs pour Tous » et ce blog pour contribuer à sa vitalité.

Dakar Call for an Exceptional World Research Program

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Dakar Call for an Exceptional World Research Program

Appel de Dakar pour un Projet de recherche mondial exceptionnel

The 22nd General Assembly of the World Federation of Scientific Workers met in Dakar on December 8th, 2017. It agreed to call upon governments, the world scientific community and all the inhabitants of our planet facing a serious environmental crisis, in order to launch an exceptional research project to an amount of about 1200 billion euros per year, based on the principles of cooperation and solidarity. It is a global and urgent requirement.


Climate, biosphere, oceans…, the Earth system is destabilized. It enters unknown territory. The living conditions of all humanity and even that of all animal and vegetal beings are threatened. Ultimately, the very survival of the human species could be posed. The way that human activities are currently carried out is at the root of this situation. A rapid and deep transformation of how these activities are being developed is indispensable. A technical, ecological and even civilizational transition, that benefits all human beings, must bring about a change in the relationship between humanity and the Earth system, ensuring the conditions for its survival, for peace, well-being and life fulfillment of all populations. These stakes are global. They require a takeover by and mobilization of all nations, all populations and all sectors of activity. Such a transition requires that:
– the principles of solidarity and cooperation overcome the principle of competition;
– new financing and technology transfer mechanisms be implemented adapted to the needs and trajectories of the different countries;
– procedures be developed that take into account the needs, uses and specific knowledges of populations;
– inequalities be reduced.

A major contribution of research – including the social and human sciences – is essential for such a transition. With that aim, it is important to put an end to policies primarily focused on meeting the demands of multinational companies and on promoting the competitiveness of the territories subject to extreme international economic competition created by free trade agreements. Key sectors, such as education, energy, health, agriculture, food, industry, are strategic for the future of humanity. They require the establishment, under the umbrella of the United Nations, of an agency, with the necessary legal and financial resources, responsible for an international program of the transition, based on global aims and with enough flexibility to consider, and be enriched by, local and national specificities. This transition program must include exceptionally major research programs of a size unmatched by current ones, and subordinated to the principles of cooperation and solidarity. Such major international research programs shall also be supported by current national and international research networks and programs. It is urgent to reach exceptional levels of financial investments of the order of 1200 billion euros, about the 2% of the world PIB, to mobilize the world scientific power towards these projects, without any exclusion, allowing for the participation of all countries.

At stake it is the achievement of the following objectives:
– increasing energy efficiency and reducing cost of generating, storing and transporting renewable energy, while drastically minimizing adverse environmental and health effects; stopping all exploitation of fossil fuels as soon as possible;
– increasing uptake of carbon dioxide by agricultural soils and through reforestation, and using CO2 as a raw material to obtain carbon based chemicals, fuels and materials;
– reducing agricultural methane emissions; improving the nutritional and sanitary quality of the diet; strongly reducing the negative effects on health and the environment resulting from human activities;
– preserving freshwater sources, rivers and oceans and allowing universal access to drinking water; preserving biodiversity;
– developing technologies and techniques adapted to the diversity of local situations, especially in their cultural, environmental and climatic conditions (for instance, housing or energy).

In this twenty-first century, the preservation of the Earth system and of all the common goods of humanity, the lasting well-being and the life fulfillment of all human beings, shall be the objectives and the compass that guide the scientific community, and beyond it all the human community. The World Federation of Scientific Workers (WFSW) works to define, promote and implement strategies to achieve the above mentioned goals. It calls on scientists from all countries to be committed to this task and, in cooperation, contribute to the achievement of these goals, and more broadly to the development of an unstoppable international movement capable of achieving them. The WFSW will direct this call to UN organizations and promote it through international NGOs, regional and international labor movements and labor confederations, and appeal to the world citizens to bring the call to the attention of their respective governments.

La 22e Assemblée Générale de la Fédération Mondiale des Travailleurs Scientifiques (FMTS) s’est tenue à Dakar, en décembre 2017. Face à la crise environnementale, elle a décidé d’appeler la communauté scientifique et toutes les populations de la planète à la mise en place d’un projet de recherche international exceptionnel, d’une hauteur de 2% du PIB mondial, soit environ 1200 milliards d’euros annuels, fondé sur les principes de coopération et de solidarité. Il s’agit d’une exigence mondiale et urgente.


Climat, biosphère, océans…, le système Terre est déstabilisé. Il entre dans une ère inconnue. Les conditions de vie de l’ensemble de l’humanité et des autres espèces animales et végétales sont menacées. A terme, la survie même de l’espèce humaine est posée. Le type d’activités humaines actuel constitue la cause de cette situation. Une transformation rapide et profonde de celles-ci est indispensable. Une transition technique, écologique et civilisationnelle, bénéficiant à tous les êtres humains, doit permettre une évolution du rapport entre l’humanité et le système Terre, assurant à l’humanité les conditions de sa survie, de la paix, du bien-être et de l’épanouissement de chacune de ses populations. L’enjeu est planétaire. Il exige une appropriation et une mobilisation de l’ensemble des nations, des populations et des secteurs d’activité. Il nécessite :
– que les principes de solidarité et de coopération doivent supplanter celui de concurrence ;
– la mise en œuvre de mécanismes de financement et de transfert de technologies adaptés aux besoins et aux trajectoires des différents pays ;
– le développement de dispositifs permettant de prendre en considération les besoins, les usages et les savoirs des populations ;
– une réduction des inégalités.

Une contribution majeure de la recherche – y compris en sciences humaines et sociales – est indispensable à cette transition. Pour ce faire, un terme doit être mis aux politiques qui tendent à principalement orienter la recherche vers la satisfaction des demandes des entreprises multinationales, et vers le soutien à la compétitivité des territoires soumis à une concurrence économique internationale aggravée par les accords de libre-échange. Des secteurs clés tels que l’éducation, l’énergie, la santé, l’agriculture, l’alimentation, l’industrie, sont stratégiques pour le devenir de l’humanité. Ils nécessitent la mise en place, sous l’égide de l’ONU, d’une agence – disposant des moyens juridiques contraignants et financiers nécessaires – en charge d’une programmation internationale de la transition, fondée sur des objectifs globaux et sur une flexibilité permettant de prendre en considération – et de s’enrichir- des spécificités nationales et locales. Cette programmation doit inclure des programmes de recherche internationaux d’une ampleur exceptionnelle, sans commune mesure avec les programmes actuels, organisés selon les principes de coopération et de solidarité. Ces programmes de recherche internationaux doivent être soutenus par les programmes et les réseaux de recherche internationaux et nationaux existants. il est urgent de passer à un niveau exceptionnel d’investissement financier – de l’ordre de 1 200 milliards d’euros, soit 2 % du PIB mondial – pour mobiliser les forces scientifiques mondiales dans ces projets, sans exclusive, avec la participation de tous les pays.

Il s’agit de contribuer à la réalisation des objectifs suivants :
– augmenter l’efficacité énergétique et diminuer le coût de la production, du stockage et du transport des énergies renouvelables tout en réduisant drastiquement les effets négatifs aux plans environnemental et sanitaire ; cesser au plus vite toute exploitation d’énergies fossiles ;
– augmenter la captation de dioxyde de carbone par les sols agricoles et la reforestation, utiliser le CO2 comme une matière première pour produire des composés chimiques, des combustibles et des matériaux à base de carbone ;
– réduire les émissions agricoles de méthane ; améliorer la qualité nutritive et sanitaire de l’alimentation ; réduire fortement les effets négatifs aux plans environnemental et sanitaire de l’ensemble des activités humaines ;
– préserver les sources d’eau douce, les rivières et les océans et assurer un accès universel à l’eau potable ; préserver la biodiversité ;
– développer des technologies et des techniques adaptées à la diversité des situations locales, notamment dans leurs dimensions culturelle, environnementale et climatique (par exemple dans les domaines de l’habitation ou de l’énergie).

En ce XXIe siècle, la préservation du système Terre et de l’ensemble des biens communs de l’humanité, le bien être durable et l’épanouissement de l’ensemble des humains, constituent les objectifs et la boussole devant orienter la communauté scientifique, et au-delà l’ensemble de la communauté humaine. La Fédération Mondiale des Travailleurs Scientifiques (FMTS) se mobilise pour la définition, la promotion et la mise en œuvre de stratégies visant ces objectifs. Elle appelle les scientifiques de tous les pays à s’engager dans des coopérations contribuant à la réalisation de ces objectifs, et plus largement dans le développement d’un mouvement international puissant en capacité de les atteindre. La FMTS portera les exigences de cet appel auprès des organisations de l’ONU et en fera la promotion auprès des ONG internationales et des fédérations et confédérations syndicales internationales et régionales. Elle appelle les citoyens du monde à porter cet appel devant leurs gouvernements.

Posted on February 12, 2018 at https://fmts-wfsw.org/

Publié le 12 février 2018 sur https://fmts-wfsw.org/