The quality of its higher education is making France increasingly attractive in the eyes of foreign students. An advantageous interest, encouraged by a pro-active policy aimed at attracting high-level applicants.
Large numbers of foreign students have chosen French higher education for the 2011-2012 academic year. France definitely enjoys international recognition in the intellectual and cultural fields, and the education provided at its higher education institutions has a very good reputation. Furthermore, measures to help with the reception, settling in and integration of students are developing and improving.
Over the last ten years, the number of foreign students has continued to grow. There were 284,659 at the beginning of the previous academic year, 12.3 % of the French student population, making France the third largest host country, in equal place with Australia, behind the United States and the United Kingdom. They come from the Maghreb countries, China and India, but also from the European Union, the Middle East, South-East Asia or the African continent. The majority enrol for science-related subjects (nearly 36 %), management (19 %) and information technology (20 %). These are followed by biology, law, communication and journalism, physics, economics and political science.
Three quarters of them choose the universities, where their number has grown considerably: over 70 % in ten years. Some of these institutions provide a personalised welcome, special pedagogical support and courses in French university methodology. These efforts have been rewarded by an increase in recruitment at Master’s and Doctorate level: nearly 40 % of PhD students in France are foreign. The top-level business schools are also very attractive, with almost 25 % of their students from abroad.
The engineering schools are currently developing effective strategies. The Ecole Supérieure d’Ingénieurs in Rouen, for example, has opened offices in India and China and today 25 % of its graduates are foreign, compared with 17 % two years ago. Schools are setting up dual degree agreements with foreign universities or devising joint training programmes, such as the Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace, in Toulouse, which has joined up with European institutions to create a “European Aerospace Institute”. The Conférence des Grandes Ecoles set itself the objective of increasing the population of foreign students to 30 % in ten years.
Students often arrive through bilateral or European exchange programmes such as ERASMUS. The total amount of grants from the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs for foreign students comes to nearly 80 million euros.
Le Centre National des Œuvres Universitaires et Scolaires, which comes under the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, offers single central reception desks with the aim of making student life easier. The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs has established a quality charter for hosting foreign students. Before they leave, these students receive guidance from Espaces CampusFrance, which work within the French Diplomatic Representations in 97 pays. The national agency CampusFrance has 261 member organisations (universities, grandes écoles, institutes) which pool their experience and expertise.
In order to attract the best applicants, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs has launched several special programmes. The Eiffel Excellence Scholarship Programme funds Master’s and PhD courses, the Major Excellence Scholarships allow students to pursue their studies as far as a Master’s degree. Quai d’Orsay/Entreprises has established a partnership through which grants are jointly financed with French businesses recognised at world level.
The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs is working in conjunction with Egide (the French centre for international exchange programmes), which organises the arrival of over 30,000 students every year. Once back home, the students can stay in touch thanks to the many initiatives of the French Diplomatic Representations which put graduates from French institutions in contact with one another.