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Paris universities deny claim of ‘lottery’ for medical students

AFP archive | French second-year medical students

The governing body of universities in the Paris region has denied a report published Thursday in respected daily Le Monde that medical schools will resort to a lottery system to choose from an overflow of first-year students.


According to the story in Le Monde, medical schools in the Paris region have become so popular that they could no longer cope with the sky-high number of applications.

Sadep (Service interacadémique d’affectation des étudiants en première année d’études médicales et odontologiques), the organisation that assigns medical students to a specific establishment, told French Le Monde on Thursday that, contrary to normal practice in France, getting a place at one’s university of choice would be less a matter of academic prowess than a matter of pure luck.

Officially, there will now be only 7,500 places for first-year medical students in the Ile-de-France region around Paris. However, in 2015, 8,143 students began their studies there.

An even bigger number is expected to apply next year. Most of these students will have scored high enough in the baccalaureate exams to be accepted.

In France, high school graduates who get the required scores in their final exams are usually accepted to their first establishment of choice.

“We will follow the applicants’ choices very carefully and try to assign their first choice according to their baccalaureate results,” the Rectorat de Paris (which controls university admissions across the region) said in a statement quoted in the Le Monde report. “But we can accept 7,500 students only.”

In a bid to clarify the report amid widespread consternation on Thursday, the Rectorat issued a second statement insisting that “all first year students in the Paris region will be able to pursue their choice of subject and establishment” and that there would be “no lottery system”.

“The number of medical students we can accept will evolve,” the Rectorat said in a statement, adding that the applications are made by students before they get their baccalaureate results and that “some of them will sadly not pass their exams to the required standard”.


According to the Le Monde report, the decision was forced by one Paris establishment refusing to take any more students, obliging other establishments to follow suit.

Universities and student union representatives are split on how best to respond to the crisis, but all agreed that a lottery was the worst option for resolving the problem.

The French Order of Doctors in a January 2016 white paper called for a toughening of the selection process by means of extra testing, a move rejected by the national association of medical students (ANEMF), which called for greater flexibility, given the number of first-year students who drop out of their studies.

“We know very well that a month after the beginning of the first term, once some students have dropped out and students are organised into small study groups, there is more than enough room for everyone,” an ANEMF spokesman told Le Monde.

The FIFDL union, which represents high-school students who are applying for university places, condemned the decision to select first year medical students by lottery, saying it was “playing with the lives of graduates”.

The body argued that more students could be admitted as first years given the number that drop out, and called for the universities in question to be given extra resources to cope with the glut of applications.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)


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