France is now aggressively courting Indian students and linking up with educational institutes here with the establishment of an Indo-French educational consortium and signing of 21 inter-university agreements.
At an Indo-French education seminar Saturday, NR Narayana Murthy, chief mentor of Infosys Technologies, was conferred the French government's Officer of the Legion of Honour by French Minister of Higher Education and Research Valerie Pecresse.
Murthy received the highest award for outstanding service to France just a day after he was chosen for India's second highest civilian honour, Padma Vibhushan.
Murthy and Pecresse also released a newsletter for the newly set-up Indo-French Alumni network.
One of the academic initiatives announced on the occasion was setting up the Indo-French Consortium of Universities that will initiate projects of joint research and enhanced cooperation at the Masters degree level
Besides, 21 agreements were signed at the seminar in the presence of the French minister in the field of student and faculty exchanges at masters and undergraduate levels.
For example, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi inked a deal with Groupement des Ecoles des Mines for cooperation in the field of advanced research at the doctorate level in applied mathematics and physics.
Similarly, one of France's best known institutes in political studies, Sciences-Po Paris signed two separate agreements with University of Madras and Delhi's St. Stephen's college for exchanges in social sciences and economics.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy Friday had set the target of tripling the number of Indian students in France.
Compared to 17,000 Chinese students enrolled for higher education courses in France, there are only 1,700 Indian students.
According to French officials, visa rules for Indian students were recently liberalised to allow them to work part-time while pursuing their studies.