French universities threatened with closure next winter due to high energy bill

Some French universities tend to close their doors for weeks during the winter to save energy that can no longer pay their high bills due to the ongoing Russian war against Ukraine.

The University of Strasbourg, France, announced the closure of its doors for two more weeks next winter, in order to save energy.

The university, which last year had some 57,000 students, saw its energy bill skyrocket as its spending on electricity, gas and heating went from 10 million euros in 2021 to 13 million euros in 2022, while in the budget 20 million euros were planned for the following season.

The decision to close was criticized by the student unions, because it leads to the isolation of students from their environment, and it is unimaginable to return to distance education, in the words of Iman Walhaj, president of the Student Union Organization “Unef”, in an interview with the newspaper “Le Figaro”.

The representative of the National Association of Universities (UNI), Remy Berad, emphasized that students cannot pay the price of bad government decisions and the international crisis, as well as bad decisions in the university budget.

On the other hand, some universities refuse to close, such as the University of Paris-Nanterre, whose energy bill is expected to increase by 600%.

The president of the university, Guillaume Gillet, says: “We have launched a working group to decide what action to take, because we will not be able to pay the bill and close.”

The rector of the University of Aix-Marseille, Eric Burton, is preparing a plan to reduce the energy bill as much as possible, and he does not intend to re-educate himself online.

“We are looking for solutions, but first of all we want to prevent online lessons among students, so they don’t suffer anymore,” he says.

“We have to think about it, because we know that our expenses will more than double,” explains Sandrine Witska, director of communication at Gustave Eiffel University.

“Sending students home will change the problem and make the kids’ bills go up while ours go down,” he added.