The interview was conducted by Gabriel Beauvallet-Bauchet, February 2022
Prof. Philippe Icard, from the University of Burgundy, has been teaching students of the Europa Master about European Law since its creation in 2013. In this interview, he shares with us his views on the programme as well as its students.
As for the origin of the programme, how did the idea of creating such a programme in Dijon come about?
The origin of the programme is in Germany. There were already links between the French faculty in Dijon and the German faculty in Mainz. From the beginning, there was the idea of embracing the two fields of political science and law. It so happened that I [Mr. Icard] wanted to develop a master's degree based on European Union law at the University of Dijon. Mr Bernard Altheim gave me all the time he needed to do so after hearing the idea of a partnership with Mainz. Then came the idea of integrating a third partner. Based on the Weimar triangle, the choice fell on Poland. We thought, why not Opole? It was a young and dynamic University, and this idea served two purposes: to bring Germany and Poland closer together, and to add a new angle of vision and perceptions of the European Union by allowing students to study in this newly entered country.
What was the vision behind the creation of the Master in this form, with the specificities (concentration on EU law, several shared courses, courses only in French, some exotic courses, such as finance) specific to Dijon that we know?
The application was accepted by the UFA, with a view to building a "European Studies" degree. As this disciple and this notion of a diploma is a bit of a catch-all, we chose to orient the curriculum more towards the legal and institutional level, with shared courses with other law students, finance courses, etc. There was no debate about the languages: it would be in English in Poland, and in order to have the support of the UFA, it was necessary to have a curriculum in French and German. The stated objective of mastering languages was thought to optimise the integration of students into the European labour market.
Have you noticed a change in the profiles of the people following the programme?
Yes and no. Yes for the people recruited in Dijon, because it took a long time before lawyers decided to apply for the Master. Indeed, they did not understand the usefulness of the degree because of its political science aspect. Moreover, the degree was seen as a degree of academic excellence... And this did not encourage the Burgundians to join! So there were more non-lawyers at the beginning, who had to do a one-year DU* to get up to speed in law and then enter the master. Now there are more trained lawyers, and students come from all over France.
For Mainz there is no difference in the long-term profile: they are first and foremost political science students.
For Poland it is different, there has always been an eclectic pool of students recruited in Poland in terms of specialisation and nationality.
What do you think are the strengths of such a course for students? What would be the points to improve?
The strong points are the fact that you do law, political science and a lot of language learning at the same time, which gives you a global and in-depth view of the subjects covered. Moreover, the fact that it is an integrated course on three different campuses allows you to experience the European Union on a daily basis. In talking to the members of the European institutions, you realise that this is exactly the type of profile they are looking for.
The points to be improved in my opinion would be: to allow foreigners to have a greater knowledge of French and therefore to make an effort to learn French before the Master's programme, in order to avoid the Dijon semester being too big an ordeal for them (there is no question of renouncing the use of French during the programme!) Another point to improve is that it is difficult to ensure a follow-up of students after graduation, as there is no established network of the Master outside EMA-DOM, which I salute for its important actions in the service of the Master.
How do you see the programme developing in 10 years' time?
I hope that Euroscepticism will not gain ground in Europe to the extent that this degree becomes a law history degree! [Laughs] On a more serious note, the range of courses offered will inevitably evolve, as one of the principles of our programme is to adapt to the evolution and requirements of the European labour market and European policies.
*DU = Diplôme d’Université (“University degree”), a one-year-long non-state-approved degree offered to people who want to enter a programme of study for which they have no prior qualifications.