French woman, 91, finally gets PHD after 30-year thesis

A woman aged 91 has become one of the oldest women in France to gain a PhD after she completed a thesis that she had begun three decades earlier.

French woman, 91, finally gets PHD after 30-year thesis
Photo: Catherine Cronin/ Flickr

Colette Bourlier was awarded the mark of “high distinction” for her work, which she successfully defended on Tuesday before a jury of the University of Franche-Comte in Besancon, eastern France.

“It took a bit of time to write because I took breaks,” Bourlier said, explaining the exceptional time for her opus.

The thesis was entitled “Immigrant workers in Besancon in the second half of the 20th century.”

It drew on her own experience as a teacher in literacy programmes for immigrants in the eastern French city.

She became interested in studying for a PhD after she retired in 1983. Normally, a PhD in France is written in three years, but Bourlier was “an extremely atypical” student, said her professor, Serge Ormaux.

“She is probably the only person who knew all the aspects in such detail and who was able to weave everything together. She backed it up with statistical analyses.”

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Swedish academia hiring ‘rigged’: university union

Swedish universities are rigging their recruitment to make sure favoured internal candidates get jobs, according to Sweden's leading university union.

Swedish academia hiring 'rigged': university union
The union director accused universities of 'nepotism'. Photo: Tor Johnsson/SvD/TT
A report from the Swedish Association of University Teachers and Researchers (SULF) found that one in ten job adverts for lectures and researchers was published just a week before the deadline for applications, and half were published less than three weeks in advance. 
A full third of the adverts had just one applicant, three quarters had less than five, and three quarters of jobs went to an internal applicant. 
“It's shocking,” union director Git Claesson Pipping told The Local. “It's nepotism, and also, instead of employing people for longer times, they just employ people for six months at a time and keep giving new positions to the same people.” 
Pipping said the union had decided to analyze 268 job offers after receiving complaints from members who struggled to find open positions. 
“They said there were virtually no jobs to apply for, because all jobs have already been set aside for somebody else,” she said. 
The report found that universities discouraged outside applicants by posting adverts in hard-to-find sections of their websites, giving extremely short notice, and requiring extensive documentation. 
Universities also often decided on the winning candidate just days after the closing date, indicating that outside candidates had not received serious consideration.
“They're getting away with this because if you are unhappy with the decision, you have to make a formal complaint, and you don't want to complain because you want the next job to be yours,” she said. “You don't want to make a fuss and be a trouble maker.” 
The union has called on the government to instruct the Swedish Higher Education Authority to ensure that universities had “transparent and legally compliant recruitment processes”. 
The job offers analyzed were put out by three faculties: Lund University's Faculty of Engineering, Stockholm University's Faculty of Social Sciences, and Uppsala University's Faculty of Medicine. 
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