France lays out welcome mat

September 14, 2001

Foreigners who want to study in France should soon find it easier to take up residence and support themselves there.

Education minister Jack Lang and minister of foreign affairs Hubert Vedrine have announced measures that will simplify entry procedures and remove administrative obstacles in a bid to entice more applicants from abroad to enrol in French higher education.

The ministers presented the measures, which are based on recommendations made in a report by Elie Cohen, international relations adviser at the ministry of education, to a conference of foreign ambassadors to France.

New provisions include:

  • Each university will define its own policy through a "declaration of international action"
  • A new council for the reception of foreign students will monitor the policies, make proposals and devise a "charter of quality"
  • Administrative changes will make it easier for ex-pupils of French schools abroad, up to 70 per cent of whom are not French nationals, to enter higher education in France. They will be eligible for a new system of grants. (According to the Cohen report, former pupils make 5,000 applications each year, but only 1,700 result in enrolments)
  • The ministries of education, foreign affairs, employment and the interior will cooperate to cut bureaucracy within universities, such as simplifying the issuing of work permits for foreign students
  • Diplomas will be translated to conform to international standards. For example, "baccalaureat plus 3" will become "bachelor".

In 1998, the government introduced a student visa, a restructured scholarship programme and an agency to promote French higher education abroad.

Two years ago, foreign enrolments started to rise after a period of steady decline. Last year, 173,000 students from abroad studied in French, representing 10 per cent of the university population and 25,000 more than in 1998.

Half of them came from Africa, nearly 30 per cent were from Europe, 14 per cent from Asia and 7 per cent from America.

But foreign enrolments still fall short of the numbers the government wants to attract to compete with countries such as the United States.

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