The Instituts Universitaires de Technologie (IUTs) play a very specific role in the French higher education system. They have been collaborating for over 20 years with British universities and, in the current period of change, we feel these collaborations, which concern the life skills and professional training of ordinary young people (not the elite), are precious, and need nurturing and supporting. As the older generation of dedicated academics and educators who put these programmes into action has retired or is retiring, a younger generation is reconsidering matters and inventing new ways of working. This chapter looks at how things have developed and are likely to develop in the future.
The IUT System in France
The IUT system dates back to 1966, when the idea of creating a two-year diploma was launched that would give direct entry to the job market at the level of intermediate management, the so-called techniciens supérieurs. The aim was to produce university graduates better suited to the needs of the job market in the secondary and tertiary sectors. Today there are 115 IUTs in France, with over 115,000 students. Overall, the system has been a success in terms of both the employability of graduates and academic achievement.
The institutes are part of the universities, but with an autonomous status (although with the recent university reform in France things may evolve). Unlike French university undergraduate courses, IUTs are able to select their students, which probably explains the high rate of success (more than 90 per cent of those who enrol succeed in getting their diplomas). In relation to the technologie part of their title, the main purpose of the IUTs is to bring together the business world and the academic world. It is said that IUTs provide the scientific, technical and human training required for students to become highly skilled technicians in today's workplace. They develop a job-centred approach in their courses (with compulsory work placements, as well as work projects with companies, and also many of the teaching staff are professionals from industry).
The IUTs award different diplomas: two-year diplomas (diplômes universitaires de technologie, DUT) as well as three-year degrees (licences professionnelles, LP) covering general and technical subjects.