France’s Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced in November the ambitious plan “Bienvenue en France”, by which the French government aims to increase the number of its international students from 320,000 to 500,000 by 2027 and to boost the visibility of France’s higher education (HE) sector worldwide. According to Philippe, in fact, despite France being the fourth country for number of international students (after the US, the UK and Australia) and the first non-Anglophone country, the number of international students grows much more slowly there compared to other countries which have put in place robust internationalisation strategies. This is why the French government is now committed to take concrete action and trigger the internationalisation of its HE sector by a series of ad hoc measures.
This goal will be achieved via three main actions that Prime Minister Philippe called “pillars”, a metaphor that tastes like déjà-vu. The first pillar concerns the improvement of the enrollment procedures for international students in France, from the beginning of their application until the fulfillment of their study abroad. This means, firstly, simplification of visa procedures: the application can be made online and the list of required documents will be reduced. Moreover, those holding a Master obtained in France can apply for a visa to set-up a business in France. Other measures of this pillar foresee: the creation of Welcome Desks for Anglophone students; assigning one contact person to each international student, charged of accompanying the international student throughout all the steps to be taken, even before his/her arrival to France; facilitating access to student accommodations; increasing in the number of courses of French as a second language; increasing the number of English-taught courses.
The second pillar concerns what Philippe referred to as “financial equity”: for non-EU students, university annually fees will be sharply increased. As of next academic year, they will pay EUR 2,770 for the bachelor’s and EUR 3,770 for the master’s. However, the government has also assured that the number of scholarships for international students will also increase, passing from 7,000 to 21,000 already next year.
The third pillar revolves around the strengthening of French higher education institutions (HEIs) operating abroad: an initial fund of EUR 5 Million will be opened-up in 2019 by the French Ministery of Foreign Affairs in order to support new initiatives of higher education cooperation, such as educational programmes built jointly by French and foreign HEIs, that take into consideration the specific needs of the society and of the job market in the country involved. Once these projects will be considered solid, the French Development Agency will contribute to their implementation with EUR 20 Million per year, starting from 2020.
Bienvenue en France
Edouard Philippe’s speech (in French)
Brochure (in French)