Foreign students travelling to study in Paris next autumn will find a coordinated support system to help them through the maze of red tape, to look for accommodation and to discover the social and cultural life of the capital.
The system is an initiative of Paris City Hall, with the Ile-de-France region, the ministry for foreign affairs, the Paris education authority and the universities of Paris, together with student welfare associations, police, employment and tourist offices, and Edufrance, the government agency that works to attract students from abroad.
"With its 300,000 students, about 15 per cent of them foreign, Paris is the biggest university town in Europe," said David Assouline, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of student life. "The prestige of Paris's higher education institutions and the cultural influence of the capital represent a significant attraction for many foreign students."
But, he said, numerous difficulties inherent in living as a foreign student could severely limit the success of their stay. "It is a dream for many to come to study in Paris, which often turns into a nightmare."
The 16 partners have signed a commitment to set up three priority services in time for students' arrival in Paris at the start of the 2003-04 academic year.
These first steps will be: an interactive website; one-stop reception centres to advise on all matters including the formidable administrative procedures, social benefits and cultural activities; and a comprehensive register of public and private housing available to students in and around Paris. The police will provide a special centre to deal with students' residence permits.