Paris: Sorbonne university shut down after riot police evict protesting students

The incident was the latest in a string of protests that have seen students occupying a dozen universities across the country since March over plans to give public universities the power to set admission criteria and rank applicants.

The protestors at the Sorbonne – which was at the heart of mass student and worker protests that all but shut down France for several weeks in 1968 – moved in to occupy spaces inside the university on Thursday afternoon.

University authorities said they negotiated with them for around three hours to try and get them to leave, but when the talks failed they asked for the police to be sent in just before 10 pm.

“The evacuation… was calm and without incident,” according to a statement from Paris police.

The Sorbone later said that the university would be closed on Friday and Saturday for “security reasons.”

Riot police were also sent on Thursday evening to Paris-Tolbiac university, which has been occupied since March, but later left without removing the students, who like their colleagues across the country see the reform as a violation of the French principle of free education for all.

President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that in many of the occupied universities, those doing the occupying were “not students but professional agitators, professionals of disorder.”

He insisted that the reform would go through, and also said that ongoing protests by train workers, hospital staff, pensioners, lawyers and magistrates would not prevent him from overhauling the nation’s economy.

Currently, students who pass their school-leaving baccalauréat exam can enrol in any university course, regardless of how well they scored in that exam.

The government says that this results in overcrowding at universities and is a major reason why 60 percent of students fail to complete their degree within four years.

The situation reached a crisis point last year, with universities using a lottery system to out places in dozens of oversubscribed courses, causing disappointment for thousands.

Now, public universities will be given access to a student’s school records to help them select those whose “motivation” and “aptitudes” best match the course on offer.