Legal researchers from all over France are meeting in Angers on the 16th and 17th of June 2022 at the initiative of the Center for Research in Ethics and Western Law (Credo). A meeting that aims to fully include Catholic universities in the French university scene. For Hélène Terron, Head of Credo, they have many unique perks and a voice to be heard.
Why is this symposium innovative?
This symposium is unprecedented because within the five Catholic universities, if there have been meetings, they were students, and if the deans meet at a monthly conference of the Union of Catholic Higher Education Establishments (Udesca), there has never been a research partnership. . This is the first time that the desire to unite the research of these universities in an institutional way has been expressed.
This project is an annual symposium that brings together the five Cathos, who, in turn, will organize a meeting on the specific themes of their research center. At the end of each edition, a book will be published gathering the contributions and included in the legal directory of Catholic universities for the year in question. We hope that this publication will be eagerly awaited and that these colloquia will make it possible to identify and disseminate our work in the national research landscape.
Is research carried out in Catholic universities not sufficiently recognized?
In Angers, for example, the law school did not reopen until 2015 (it collapsed in 1968); therefore, we have only recently entered the French university scene. But, beyond this issue of temporality, if our teaching is very well recognized, our scientific research still lacks recognition, and this is due to the fact that they are private universities.
In fact, the public college has always been the consecrated place for research. The professors there have fewer hours of classes and therefore more time to devote to research, while at Catholic universities our workload is longer and is accompanied by a pedagogical support mission. We are therefore mechanically disadvantaged, even if things start to change. The question of reputation remains: in law in particular, there is always a predominance of public faculty thinking.
Our symposium project is also open to researchers from the public, we don’t stay between us. There are already some who have contributed to this first colloquium, which is a good sign.
Why is it important for the research departments of Catholic universities to be more recognized?
This is essential, because a whole section of research is now neglected by public universities. The latter focus on positive law, when we bring a reflection on natural law (the set of rights that each individual has by belonging to humanity, editor’s note). Giving the floor to this doctrinal development, to this reflection on a law that is not subject to the fluctuations of history, adds a dimension to French academic research.
In addition, because of our doctorate, we are professors-researchers whose vocation, by definition, is to continue our research work at the same time as we teach, all to ensure quality teaching and news.
A final element, of a much more administrative nature, justifies the importance of better recognition of our work: only public universities can now issue state diplomas independently. For our part, we must either go through a jury of deans, before which we must justify the quality of our research work, or through an agreement with public universities. Research is therefore a guarantee of credibility for us.
Catholic universities are growing: their numbers have doubled in 20 years. Is this due to special educational support?
Pedagogical support is one of our strengths, because our discipline is particularly difficult. Success rates at public universities are overwhelmed by the number of students who drop out along the way. In Catholic universities, we carry out pedagogical interviews and, in the first year of law, there is mandatory attendance at each course.
This may seem trivial, but it avoids many dropouts, such as the fact that our numbers are smaller and, therefore, the proximity to the teachers, real. We train students to work and think: at the end of their license, everyone gets places in the best masters (in Assas or the Sorbonne, for example)!
Does the Catholic character of these universities contribute to their success?
Yes and no. Obviously, the Catholic dimension develops there, but we cannot impose it. This dimension is indirectly transmitted by our values of humanity, closeness, dialogue and freedom. Everything is oriented towards the idea of contributing to the common good, the chaplaincies are a source of proposals and, in Angers, for example, a complementary course on ethics, culture and rhetoric is offered.
The latter aims to make people reflect on the issues raised by the Church’s social doctrine, for example. We therefore seek to awaken, not to spirituality because this is not the place, but to a culture and a dimension that constitute our identity as a Catholic university.