Entente is not so cordial

June 13, 1997

A FLAGSHIP postgraduate student exchange between France and the United Kingdom has met with apparent lack of interest among British students.

The Entente Cordiale scheme dates from the 1995 Franco-British summit. But the cross-Channel flow has been largely one-way. In its first year 23 French students came to the UK but only five Britons reciprocated.

In the latest round, the final numbers are equal, 12 each from France and the UK. But the French contingent, which may include another four students, was selected from 350 applicants while in the UK there were only 32 hopefuls.

The programme is run in France by the British Council and in London by the French embassy. The Pounds 10,000 bursaries are underwritten by British and French companies including BP and NatWest. Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, chancellor of Oxford University, chairs the trust in Britain while former French minister and European commissioner Simone Weil is president of the French arm.

Organisers have identified the language barrier as one possible reason for the scheme's low uptake in the UK. But total command of French is not a prerequisite. Also, in the first two rounds the French insisted that UK applicants had a master's degree, which has now been dropped. Sir Christopher Mallaby, a prime mover of the scheme whileambassador in Paris, said: "We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. This will make a difference of ten qualified applicants in the next round."

Next week the French embassy will promote the scheme with a reception for vice chancellors.

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