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France: Big increase in student grants and new law on higher education and scientific research

Earlier this month, student unions in France welcomed the announcement of higher education and scientific research minister Geneviève Fioraso revealing an ambitious reform of the student benefits system, including a substantial increase in grants. This reform will be introduced in two stages, starting in September 2013 for students in greatest difficulty - those coming from disadvantaged families, having to work besides their studies or living without support (due, for example, to family breakup). The second series of measures will come into effect from the start of the new university year in 2014. This two-year reform will cost some EUR 318 million and benefit to a total of 92 000 students in the first year alone. The main objective of the reform is the improvement of the social and economic circumstances of students, one of the key priorities of the French government. It mirrors François Hollande’s election promise to give priority to young people and follows the adoption by the national assembly of the Law on Higher Education and Scientific Research (known as loi E.S.R.) on 9 July 2013. Key objectives of the new law are student success, investing in research, enhancing employability and opening to Europe and to the world. Together, the E.S.R. law and the student grant reform work towards the democratisation of higher education and the objective of attaining 50% higher education graduates in each age category. Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research - Reform (in French)