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Interview with Prof Martine Aiach, Dean from the University Paris Descartes, France

17 August 2011

In 4 years of her 5-year term as Dean of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical and Biological Sciences at the University Paris Descartes, France, Prof Aiach has presided over many changes of the 107-year old pharmacy programme. During the Conference of Deans from Pharmacy Faculties in French speaking countries (CIDPHARMEF), Prof Aiach reflected on her time as Dean, during which she saw changes to French law and education and has planned the renovation of a 130 year-old building. She will be retiring next year.

Recently, a French law was passed which allowed individuals for the first time to work in both hospitals and universities, with dual roles as clinical teachers and researchers. Prof Aiach saw this as an important step for academia, providing a needed link to the professional sector and generating a teaching and learning environment whereby course content could be adapted to suit the needs of the professional world. Her university recruited 60 clinical teachers/researchers for these new posts.

Education reform brought health students from pharmacy, medicine, nursing and dentistry to the same classroom for their first year of studies. The change, implemented in the 2010-2011 academic year, resulted in both positive and negative outcomes, Prof Aiach said. Positive aspects included a balanced perspective from each discipline in general health studies; active engagement from faculty and staff; and gains in administrative efficiency from online registration. Negative aspects included an overwhelming number of first-year students (more than 3,000), many of which will not find a placement, as only a small number are selected for further study.

One of the most significant opportunities for change to the school will also the most noticeable. The university faculty building, located in the heart of Paris and built in 1882, will undergo a €43,000,000 renovation and restoration, based on the plans for renovation that have been prepared under her guidance.

Prof Aiach credits these accomplishments to her solid team of colleagues, staff and supporters, and in particular to the project team members who met every 15 days to monitor the progress of projects until they were completed. Prof Aiach said she became an AIM member because international collaboration is a high priority for her university, with benefits to both teaching and research.

The University Paris Descartes has an enrolment of 4500 students and academic teaching and research staff of 200.

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