On Tuesday we were fortunate enough to hop across the border and visit a french institution of higher education – University of Strasbourg, or Unistra.
The University has a rather interesting history, mostly from its mandated split into three universities, its reunification, and the handing over of control from the French government to university leaders. One of the most fascinating differences that we learned about is the fact that French PhD students are housed in a graduate “ecoles” or graduate college. While at Virginia Tech, PhD students are housed in departments, much the same as masters and undergraduate students, at Unistra, courses are organized for PhD students outside of traditional “faculties”. Instead, this graduate college organizes and manages all of the studies of PhD students. We also had a great opportunity to hear from the President of Unistra, who was able to offer us a clear picture of some of the differences between US and French institutions.
A highlight of the Unistra experience was the addition of some of our Uni Basel cohort! A few of the Basel students were able to join us for the trip, which meant hurried introductions on a fast moving train but also a chance to immediately have common ground for discussion. All of us were pretty fascinated by the French system of higher education, and spent a lively train ride back to Basel discussing pros and cons and what we could do to improve each system.
We ended the night with a lovely discussion with the Rector (President) of Uni Basel, and then a dinner together which provided the opportunity for much more conversation. We may not have solved all the world’s problems, but we certainly came up with some ideas for solutions!
One of the Basel students also humored a group of 5 of us by taking us on the very short tram ride to the German border. Switzerland, France, and Germany… three countries in one day. That’s hard to do in the states!
This morning we got together and toured an institute of sports and exercise science at Uni Basel, and then we’ve spent the afternoon on the train ride down to our next home base. Want to know where? Look out for the next post!