FRANCE: Ministers unveil foreign student strategy

The French government is seeking to attract more foreign students, especially those from developing countries with "high potential", and to increase the proportion of postgraduates from abroad.

Alain Juppé (pictured), Foreign Affairs Minister, and Valérie Pécresse, Minister for Higher Education and Research, outlined their strategy for international students last week at the opening of a meeting with official representatives and students from nine member countries of the G8 and G20, of which France currently holds the presidencies.

Pécresse said France wanted to raise the proportion of masters and doctoral students from abroad from the present 50% to two-thirds; and raise the intake of foreign students studying under partnership agreements between French and international institutions from 20% of total foreign students studying in France to 50% over the next three years.

About 278,000 foreign students were enrolled in French higher education at the start of the 2010-11 academic year, placing France third in the rank of countries catering for students from abroad, after the United States and the United Kingdom.

The nine countries represented at the meeting on "attractivity of universities" organised by Campus France, the government agency that promotes French higher education abroad, were Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, the UK and the US.

Juppé told the meeting that by 2015 the world student population would have doubled since 2000 to 200 million, two-thirds of them from developing countries.

"Student mobility, which has tripled during the course of the last 30 years, today concerns three million people. By 2025 young people studying outside their countries of origin will number between four and six million."

Students' international mobility had "profoundly changed in nature", he said. "While it used to depend largely on geopolitical and cultural relations between countries, now it is seen as a lever for economic development by governments and as a competitive advantage by teaching establishments. In an environment where knowledge and innovation are vital factors of competitivity it has become a major stake in world economic competition."

Studies abroad enabled future citizens to learn about sustainable development, and acquire expertise to adapt to world development. International mobility was essential to train tomorrow's leaders who would contribute to a greater respect for diversity and cooperation between countries, and a world of greater stabililty and peace, said Juppé.

His aim was to "attract students of high potential, especially those from developing countries", in such disciplines as science, engineering, law, economics and management. Campus France would increase its efforts abroad to promote French studies and set up a quality charter for those in receipt of French government bursaries. Currently these students number 16,000.

Pécresse described the "unprecedented" university reforms that had been taking place in France in the past four years, to which the government had devoted an extra EUR9 billion (US$13 billion) over five years.

In 2007 there were 85 universities and nearly 225 grandes écoles. "Today there are some 20 university clusters which have emerged throughout the country which tomorrow will be the French equivalent of Todai, Heidelberg or Princeton," said Pécresse.

"In the battle in which our economies are engaged for the control of knowledge and technologies, student mobility is without doubt the most certain way to ensure balance and harmony in the internationalisation of our exchanges."

She said in addition to attracting more foreign students she also hoped to encourage more French students to study abroad. At present they number 50,000.

Related links
Record number of students from abroad
Influence more important than income