Nanterre students' simmering unrest recalls 1968

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THE UNIVERSITY campus at Nanterre, where unrest leading to the student riots of May 1968 began, has delayed the start of the academic year for first-year students because of overcrowding.

Michel Imberty, the president of Paris X University at Nanterre, west of Paris, announced the delay for one week until next Monday after education authorities asked the campus to admit extra students just before the beginning of term.

Opened in 1964 to accommodate 14,000 students, Nanterre is now expected to take 35,000. It employs fewer administrative staff than in 1975 when it had 20,000 students. All French students who pass the baccalaureat school-leaving examination are entitled to places in higher education institutes, and student unions have repeatedly resisted attempts at selection.

Since 1990, when Nanterre had 30,000 students, there had been no increases in staff or lecture halls, the university said. The authorities, according to Mr Imberty, 'don't seem to understand that there are limits and we have gone beyond them'.

The campus is situated in the department of the Hauts de Seine, France's most prosperous. It was there that the first demonstrations - partly about overcrowding - started in the autumn of 1967 leading to the revolt which paralysed France the following spring.

The main students' union, Unef-ID, has called a protest for today at Nanterre to draw attention to a private university being built in the department and scheduled to open next year.

Charles Pasqua, the Gaullist Interior Minister and president of the departmental council, is the inspiration behind the private university.