Crisis in the Schools of Architecture: the ministry responds

The dispute has been raging in the Ensa for almost two months. Part of the establishment of Rouen, where a serious lack of personnel prevented the return to school and triggered a movement at the same time of the administrators, the teachers and the students, it quickly spread and now affects all the Schools, on structural demands, both on questions of means (budget per student, staff salaries, state of premises) and on the ways of teaching the profession of architect and the very future of architecture.

The Ministry of Culture, which had not reacted so far publicly, engaged in an explanatory exercise on March 27 on the response to this mobilization. With a key message: the “upgrading” des Ecoles is committed, and the financial means, already “strongly” increased, must continue to grow.

An “unorthodox” mobilization

This mobilization, recall the collaborators of Minister Rima Abdul-Malak, combines demands in connection with “specific local problems” and more structural demands, relating to the place of architecture and the architect in society. The Ensa collective in struggle, which coordinates the actions in the 20 schools of the country, asks for nothing less than “States general for the teaching of architecture”. A meeting must take place on March 30 with the ministry, to follow up on several meetings within certain establishments. In particular that of Rouen (again on March 24), which obtained, recall the cabinet of the minister and the administration, an emergency aid and in particular “a job and a half” administrative staff.

This mobilization takes various forms depending on the Schools, some considered as “unorthodox” on the rue de Valois side. “The lessons are not guaranteed but the teachers are there, they occupy the students with something else”explains an adviser, who describes a situation “moving and diffuse” in schools, with “informal blockages”. One thing is certain: all establishments are now affected, to varying degrees.

“Our budget has already increased by 20% in 2023”

To staff and future architects that describe a situation of“indigence” and demand an increase in resourcesthe ministry replied that Rima Abdul Malak, who estimated in January in an interview with Batiactu, that “we have never needed so many architects”has obtained, since its arrival in 2022, “an unprecedented financial effort” for Ensa, with the increase, in the 2023 budget, of 20% of the budget allocated to architecture.

This influx of resources should make it possible to “Upgrading Schools”explains the minister’s entourage, after the “sharp drops in endowments in the early 2010s”. The effort, “Very important”is therefore engaged, according to rue de Valois, who hopes that “each year will see an increase in the budget to achieve this upgrade”. The action plan is therefore “in progress”, and it must continue; so there would be “no budget surplus following this mobilization”.

“The recovery plan has benefited the Ensa”

At the same time as this increase in the budget, the minister’s entourage argues that the schools have benefited from the recovery plan, since 75 million euros have been earmarked for the renovation of establishments (Bordeaux, LyonsRouen), and the creation of new premises, as in Marseilles where the Mediterranean Institute of the city and territories will bring together, near the Mucem, lessons in architecture, town planning and landscape.

In this “real estate effort” succeeds, since 1 January, thanks to the increase in the budget, a “revaluation effort for school actors”. In particular, contract teachers were upgraded on this date, while tenured teacher-researchers must be upgraded from September, “the statutes of the profession to be modified”. Discussions are underway, particularly with the social partners on this point. As for the number of teacher posts created, it is 80 out of the 150 provided for by the 2018 reform, the pandemic having interrupted the movement. “The dynamic resumes”we are assured rue de Valois.

“The effort per student is comparable to that in university”

This question of the financial means of the schools is part of a context where two inspection reports over the past two years showed that the average expenditure per student in architecture was much lower than that of university students. This expenditure was estimated at 8,500 euros, compared to around 11,000 per average student. A figure taken up by François Brouat, president of the college of directors of Ensa, during his hearing this month before the senators.

“This amount is underestimated” advisers say. After having “recalculates with the same criteria as for the average expenditure per student of higher education institutions”, they get the amount of 11,300 euros. The effort would therefore be “comparable”. Not that spending per French student is particularly high, compared to other OECD countries…

Finally, as long as it debunks received ideas, the Minister’s collaborators believe that, concerning the number of architects practicing in France, international comparisons are not “not very reliable”. The figure of ten times as many architects elsewhere in Europe “does not match the same realities of the profession”, especially. The ministry relies on the report of the General Inspectorate of Cultural Affairs, which mentions “5% increase” desirable.

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