STUDYING IN FRANCE (a few facts on …)

1 – What is the trend in the number of foreign students in France?

The number of foreign students in France has increased over the past two years. In the 2004-2005 academic year, our country admitted about 250,000 foreign students for degree/diploma-track courses (not 180,000 as sometimes reported in the press, a number that refers to earlier years).

According to a study by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research published in June 2004, the last two academic years saw a rise in the number of foreign students admitted:

+ 2.7% for students enrolling for undergraduate degrees (premier cycle), +6.4% and + 6.5% for students registering for master’s and doctorates (deuxième et troisième cycles). The increase is based primarily on international students who have come to France specifically to continue their education in French institutions.

The increase in enrollment is also significant in the 155 schools of the conference des grandes écoles (CGE), which now accept over 15,000 foreign students of all nationalities for degree/diploma courses, with a steady increase recorded in the past few years.

In 2004-2005, foreign students accounted for 10% of students enrolled in undergraduate degrees, 14.8% in master’s programs and 25.5% in doctoral programs.

2 - How has policy evolved with regard to foreign students studying at French universities and graduate schools?

France considers the international mobility of students a two-way opportunity. In general student mobility contributes to the enrichment of both the country whose young people leave to study aboard, and the country that hosts these students.

Admitting foreign students is an opportunity for institutions of higher education to broaden. The international mobility of students is a response to demographic shortcomings which impact the economy, particularly--but not exclusively--academic tracks in science where nationals may feel disillusioned to some extent, as is the case in most of the other developed countries.

That is why France has been at pains to increase the attractiveness of its institutions of higher education. To this end, efforts are being made on two fronts:

It is precisely to enhance the attraction of French institutions of higher education that the Interministerial Immigration Monitoring Committee decided to extend the pilot program of Centres pour les Etudes en France (CEF) beyond the six countries originally selected (China, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal and Vietnam).

Six new CEF will be operational starting in spring 2006--in Mexico, South Korea, Lebanon, Cameroon, Madagascar and Turkey. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also plans to establish CEF in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Gabon, Russia, Syria and India after 2006.

3 – How do the CEF help foreign students wanting to study in France?

The purpose of the CEF is primarily to facilitate procedures for foreign students who have chosen France. Students receive help with pre-registration and with obtaining their visas. The CEF are linked to databases and also provide information about the possibilities for graduate and post-graduate education in France.

Helping students via the CEF is also a way of thwarting efforts to circumvent procedures. The “phony” student who has no plans to study in France, and sometimes doesn’t even speak French, is deterred right from the beginning.

Overall, the initial statistics available on the CEF have revealed two trends:

Students who are admitted to study in France therefore benefit as they have access to faster and personalized service.

4 - What is French visa policy for foreign students from countries where there is no CEF?

The purpose again is to facilitate entry procedures for foreign students from countries where we don’t yet have CEF.

The Interministerial Immigration Monitoring Committee is endeavoring to simplify visa procedures for graduate students (those having at least a master’s degree) from countries where there is no CEF. For instance:

-foreign students who have passed a French competitive entrance examination are automatically issued a visa even if they don’t yet know exactly at which French institution they will be studying;

5 – Is French policy aimed at attracting the brightest students?

It’s perfectly justifiable for France to seek to attract some of the best students wanting to continue their education outside their own country (on average only 2% of students globally want to do some or all of their graduate work abroad). This is the condition by which the French university system will remain attractive. The demand for quality is, moreover, considered a decisive factor by foreign students who choose France.

Countries that co-finance higher education in France for their most gifted students also look for high academic standards. In the tough international competition of today’s “knowledge economy,” we cannot minimize our efforts to attract the brightest foreign students and research scholars. On the contrary, we must strive to establish the best possible conditions for welcoming them according to a “charter of quality” so that all the actors know where they stand in regard to a raft of demands aimed at international standards.

It should be noted that this goal does not mean that the cost of such studies is prohibitive. Overall, the French university system remains one of the least expensive in the OECD zone and therefore among the most accessible in financial terms.

6 – What is France’s position specifically regarding sub-Saharan Africa?

Training Africans for high-level office is one of the priorities of France’s external action. A two-part strategy has been adopted to this end:

Our scholarship policy for Africa is ambitious since over a quarter of those receiving scholarships are from sub-Saharan Africa while the number of scholarships in France financed directly by the French cooperation network is close to 3,000. In addition to French government scholarships, scholarships are available under the Francophone multilateral arrangement (AUF) and from foreign governments (in particular Senegal and Gabon); in most cases tuition costs are covered by credits for higher education as they are for most students at French universities.

Over the past five years, there has been a steady rise in the number of African students in the French university system, with the rate of increase slightly higher than that of all other students taken together.

Between 2002 and 2004, the grandes Ecoles, public institutions and consulaire institutions recorded an increase of nearly 40% in students from Africa, taking all nationalities together. The African student population in France currently numbers nearly 8,000, 75% of whom are on academic tracks leading to diplomas or degrees. The fact that Africans represent the highest number of foreign students at our universities is well known. Also worth noting is the fact that of the 25 countries sending the most students to our grandes écoles, which include the three Maghreb countries, three are Francophone countries in Africa./.