During the month of April the streets of Pairs have looked very similar to the way they did during the student revolt of May, 1968.
During the month of April the streets of Pairs have looked very similar to the way they did during the student revolt of May, 1968. Students prised up chunks of stone from the cobbled streets. They hurled bottles at police. Tear gas floated up to the blossoming trees. Riot squads slipped smoothly into wedge formation and charged at students.
This year's outbreak looks far less menacing than the uprising in May 1968 which paralysed the country - but no end is in sight. Almost all france's 800,000 students are affected. They are either taking an active part in protests against government education reforms or are prevented from working by a nationwide campus strike that has paralysed French university life.
The situation is uncomfortable for the government since a clear majority of presidents of the country's 75 universities have come down on the students' side.
They oppose government reforms aimed at changing the direction of university education so as to prepare students for entering the industrial economy.
At present, more than half the students follow cultural tradition by taking liberal arts courses. Teaching has always been a main outlet for these graduates. But because France has so many students there are not nearly enough jobs to go round in the present difficult economic situation, not even for teachers.
The weekly news magazine, Le Pointe, has noted: "The French university is an unemployment factory. It is the biggest machine imaginable for manufacturing the frustrated."
But despite deep student concern over unemployment, leftist-controlled student unions are determined to block the government reforms. They claim that the reforms will bring the universities under the yoke of management and industry.
"Keep the bosses off campus", "no to the University of Capitalism" and "we won't play the bosses' game" were some of the slogans chanted in protest marches in all major French cities.
The controversial scheme has three main goals: to double the number of professional job-training courses; to link future employers more closely to university programmes; and to channel students into courses relevant to job prospects during their second year at university.
Government leaders say the scheme is practical and the fierce opposition to it is purely political. They blame the left for the upheaval.
This film is serviced with a commentary by BBC reporter David Jessell. A transcript of the commentary appears overleaf.
SYNOPSIS: The month of April has seen a wave of student unrest in France, climaxed by big street demonstrations, violence and arrests. The unrest brought back memories of the May 1968 student revolt that paralysed France. BBC reporter David Jessell takes a closer look at the situation.