Interview: Jean-Marc Sere-Charlet, minister-counsellor at the French Embassy
Why should a student choose France for higher education?
France has a long-standing reputation for excellence in higher education, particularly its engineering and business schools, and institutes for human and social sciences. While Paris was voted the best student city in the world in the 2012 QS ranking, many French institutions figure prominently in the Shanghai Classification of Universities, in the rankings of the Financial Times and Times Higher Education, and in the European report on science and technologies published by the European Commission.
There has been a spurt of 50% in the number of Indian students going to study in France over the last two to three years. Today, around 3,000 odd Indian students opt to study in France every year, specialising in subjects such as engineering, management, law, economics, international affairs, language, fine arts and architecture design.
Higher education in France is an attractive prospect both for its quality and affordability. Tuition fees in France is considerably lower than that of other popular destinations for international students. For example, tuition fee for a master’s in law at Sorbonne University in Paris is around Rs. 40,000 per year, whereas the same diploma from University Oxford, England costs around 30 times more. The gap is even wider for business schools, ie, approximately Rs. 56 lakh to attend the London Business School, whereas it is Rs. 20 lakh for a diploma at HEC, France’s top business school.
Language and culture are considered as barriers for students aspiring to study in France. How do you plan to address these issues?
French institutions teach over 700 courses in English and this number is expected to increase dramatically, thanks to the recent reform of public university curriculum. It is, thus, no longer necessary to be fluent in French to study in France. However, many students choose to take French classes, which can be a valuable asset in an international career, since it opens the door to 75 French-speaking countries across the world.
Which are the major scholarships for Indian students?
The Embassy of France runs its own scholarship programme, the Charpak, for students at the bachelor’s and master’s levels, as well as PhD candidates (Raman – Charpak Fellowship, run jointly with the Indian Department of Science and Technology). The Charpak Scholarship Programme offers three types of funding: a) internship programme, for engineering and pure sciences students at the bachelor’s or master’s levels who plan to train at French institutions during their academic break (May to July); b) exchange programme, designed for exchange students for a period of one to four months at the bachelor’s or master’s degree level, c) master’s programme, for students who wish to study in France at the master’s degree level for one to two years. The scholarship value for all three prgrammes include free student visa, a monthly stipend of €615 for up to ten months (which is equal to an academic year), medical insurance coverage, access to student housing, if available, or partial funding of housing expenses (€230 to €280 monthly), depending on the city of residence in France, and full tuition waiver at public universities. Partial tuition waivers may be granted by other institutions, according to their individual policies. For eligibility and other details, visit www.inde.campusfrance.org/en/page/eligibility. For more details on Raman — Charpak Fellowship, visit cefipra.org/raman-charpak
How flexible is the visa policy?
Visa procedures for Indian students have been simplified and special attention will be given to students living far from any French Consulate or Campus France office. Also, visa applications by Indian faculties and officials will be examined as a matter of priority. In May 2012, as a major development, French authorities decided to ease the conditions for obtaining a work visa for students who completed their course in France. This has allowed students graduating from French business and engineering schools to extend their stay in order to acquire work experience in France. Furthermore, as of July 14, 2013, all Indian citizens who have graduated from a French higher education institution, subsequently applying for a tourist or business visa for a trip to France, will be given a visa with a validity up to five years if the education in France was at the master’s or PhD levels.
Any plans to deal with the issue of a falling rupee?
France has always been a destination for quality education at an affordable cost, as the French government subsidises not only university fees, but also accommodation through a grant called APL that represents about 35% to 40% money back on rent for student accommodation. The falling rupee may have caused a hike in this spending, but in most cases the impact is generally fairly marginal.
Coordinated by Aanchal Bedi