France wants Indian students. “When former French president Nicolas Sarkozy visted India in 2010, it was felt that the number of Indian students in France should increase from the current 3000 to 6000 by 2013,” says Helene Duchene, director of mobility and attractiveness at the French ministry of foreign and European affairs.
India is important for France because both countries share the same views when it comes to democracy. France supports India’s bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, the countries are collaborating on the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project and IIT Rajasthan has been founded in collaboration with France, among many other things,” Duchene adds.
Fabienne Couty, also from the ministry, says, “The quality of students coming from India is quite high, especially those from the IITs. So far, about 226 MoUs have been signed between schools and universities of the two countries,” she says.
When compared to the US or UK, the most preferred destinations of Indian students, France is relatively cheaper. “Education makes up 40% of the country’s budget – fees for the students is funded by the state, which comes to about ¤16,000 per student,” says Couty. For the country this is an investment for gaining high quality students, she adds. International students also get some financial help for accommodation.
Eric Chevreul, another official from the ministry who looks after the student mobility programme, says many collaborative research projects have been successful thanks to the Indo-French Centre for the Promotion of Advanced Research, funded through an annual corpus of Euro three million with India and France equally contributing ¤1.5 million each. The Eiffel France Scholarships for international students have also been attracting many talented Indians to the country.
About Indian students finding it difficult to cope with the French language, Chevreul says, “about 700 courses are taught in English. Interestingly, the Chinese are coming to France to learn French as they want to focus on some fast-developing French-speaking nations in Africa. At the master’s level, you need to take English and not French.”
French universities and grande ecoles are increasingly using English as the medium of instruction, especially in areas like management, engineering, political science etc.
International students have a right to work if they are enrolled in an institute participating in the national student health-care plan. Those who are not nationals of European Union member countries must also hold a valid residency permit. Those with a master’s degree can apply for a one-time temporary residency authorisation valid for six months after their student residency permit expires. This authorisation enables students to work at any job up to the limit of 60% of the official work week.
Studying in the institutes of higher education, also known as the Grand Ecoles, is a matter of prestige as these have selective entry for talented students in business, engineering etc. The country is renowned for its education and research in medicine, genetics, physics, astrophysics, biology etc.
Education France: How the numbers add up
85 Public universities
224 Engineering schools
220 Business schools
291 Doctoral departments
1,200 Research laboratories
1 out of every 3 French doctoral degrees is awarded to a student from outside France