After a contested procedure, Thierry Coulhon appointed chief evaluator of French research

Thierry Coulhon will therefore be the next president of the High Council for the Evaluation of Research and Higher Education (Hcéres). This independent administrative authority with a budget of 18 million euros is responsible for evaluating higher education establishments, research organizations (60 per year), research units (500 per year) and university training and diplomas. (1,000 licenses, masters or doctoral schools).

His decree of appointment dated October 30, signed by the President of the Republic, is published in Official newspaper Sunday 1is November, after the favorable opinion of the parliamentarians who heard him on October 21. But this Elysée adviser for higher education and research almost did not pass this obstacle. Forty deputies and senators have declared themselves against his nomination, 34 are in favor. However, the opinion is considered favorable because the nays, in the majority, did not reach three-fifths of the votes cast, as had happened seven times in the past in this type of procedure.

Why such mistrust? Thierry Coulhon, mathematician, 62-year-old university professor, knows the system very well. He chaired the University of Cergy-Pontoise then Paris-Sciences-Lettres. He also spent two years running an overseas mathematics institute in Australia. He was also a member of the cabinet of the Ministry of Higher Education and Research between 2008 and 2010 when a much contested law on university autonomy was applied. As such, he had to manage the occupation in March 2009 of Aeres, the ancestor of Hcéres. He is therefore a recognized specialist.


But this vote reflects the unease caused by this candidacy for several months. One of the most important positions in the research and higher education system has been vacant for a year. The mandate of Michel Cosnard, the predecessor of Thierry Coulhon, reached by the age limit, expired on October 29, 2019.

Thierry Coulhon himself explained this significant delay to parliamentarians on October 21. According to him, energies were mobilized on the development of the research programming law (LPR) announced in February 2019 by the then Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe. He refuted the idea that he wanted to be a candidate at that time.

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During that time in any case, at Hcéres, “It was a mess”, sums up one of the witnesses at the heart of the system during this period. Without a president, the college of 30 who administers it no longer existed and could not designate the heads of the various departments, change procedures or prepare for the future. The hearing of the future candidate was an opportunity to recall the adventures that marked this long vacancy in power. One of the protest sites, Academia, speaking of “Repeated scandal”.

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