A STUDENT exchange scheme between France and Britain that attracted a huge number of French applicants but only a handful of British last year is to be revived this month on the back of a dramatic reversal in its fortunes.
The Entente Cordiale scholarship scheme enables students from the two countries to spend a year at universities in the partner country. It was set up in the wake of the summit meeting between the late Francois Mitterrand and John Major in 1995. But there was a distinct lack of applicants from the United Kingdom.
Organisers blamed the scheme's low profile in Britain compared to in France, the English's less developed interest in French, and rules that restricted UK applicants to holders of second degrees.
This stipulation has now been dropped, and the "relaunch" of the scheme on June 9 will mark the attainment of near-matching numbers from both countries.
About 70 applicants for the 1998-99 round were shortlisted by officials at the French embassy in London, which administers the scheme in the UK, and 25 British students were offered scholarships.
The British Council in Paris, which handles the scheme in France, has offered 22 awards to French students.
Officials hope that efforts by Sir Christopher Mallaby, former British ambassador to France and founder of the scheme, to raise funds will lead to an increase in the number of scholarships for 1999-2000.