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The French connection

It is not just attractive to tourists, France is now emerging as the preferred destination for higher education among Indian students. Read on to understand why…

education Updated: Aug 20, 2013 14:44 IST
Aanchal Bedi
Aanchal Bedi
Hindustan Times

Home to globally-recognised ­education brands, such as La Sorbonne, Sciences Po or Les Gobelins, to name a few, France remains the fourth most popular destination for international students after the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. Last year, almost 2600 students opted for higher education in France, a number that the French government is ­looking to increase by another 50 per cent in the next five years. Low ­tuition fees and the fact that over 700 courses are being taught in English here, are just some of the reasons why Indian students are looking towards France as an option for higher studies.

All international ­students, whether or not they receive additional financial aid, enjoy the same low tuition rates as French students at universities and other public institutions. France’s central government defrays a large share of the true cost of education at public ­institutions (between €10,000 and €14,000 per student per year), thereby reducing the student’s tuition burden. “French universities and other education ­institutions do not distinguish between international students and French students. Also, admission and tuition requirements are the same for both,” says Arnaud Mentre, first counsellor, head of press section.

All students, regardless of origin, enjoy the same benefits (health coverage, housing assistance, etc). France spends about 1.2% of its gross domestic product on higher education — about €20 billion annually, which represents an investment of about €10,800 per student, including international ­students.

At a time when many Indian students have to take on debts to fund their degrees due to a falling rupee, universities in France offer high-quality education at affordable prices. The ­tuition rates charged by ­public education institutions in France are set by decree.

In 2012-2013, annual tuition rates for degree programmes in public institutions were as follows — €181 for licence programmes, €250 for master’s programmes, €380 for doctoral programmes, and €596 for ­engineering ­programmes. In addition to these basic charges, ­students may have to pay ­additional fees for specific ­services or special ­programmes. The cost of enrolling at private institutions is higher, ranging from €3,000 to €10,000, particularly in the case of business schools. QS Rankings reveal that a total of 35 French universities made it to the 2012/13 edition of the World University Rankings. About 22 (out of the 35 universities) are in the top 500. France’s two leading universities, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, and Ecole Polytechnique ParisTech, were among the top 50 ­universities.

“Higher education is a ­priority for France. We are keen on increasing the diversity of our student community and are looking forward to making studying in France a fruitful experience for Indian students,” says Francois Richier, ambassador of France to India.

Recently, the ­ambassador announced a special student visa and scholarship ­incentives. Indian students, who subsequently apply for a work or tourist visa, after completing their doctorates from French universities, will now be granted a five-year Schengen visa by the French embassy in India. This year, the French embassy, along with its corporate partners, will award ­scholarships of Rs. 7.1 crore to 235 meritorious Indian students who wish to pursue their higher education in France.

The embassy is also ­planning to ­organise a France-India job ­opportunities network. This will bring together the HR heads of major French companies in India and their Indian counterparts. Over 350 French companies are present in India with a total investment of over $18 billion, facilitating 2.4 lakh skilled jobs across the country.

International students have a temporary work permit for a maximum of 19 hours a week. During their master’s degree, which is an 18-month course, one year is dedicated to ­academic ­studies and the rest to an internship in a French ­company. After completing their degree, students can apply to stay in France for six months even after the expiry of their visa if they are looking for a job. If they find one, they will no longer be eligible for the student visa, but may apply for a work visa which will be readily available with the company.

A three-step process to enroll in a French institute:
1 Obtain an offer of admission from an institution in France. This is a prerequisite for obtaining a visa to enter France.

2 Administrative registration: Upon arriving in France, students must report to their new institution and pay tuition fees for the ­coming year. The student will then receive a proof of enrollment and a ­student ID card

3 Academic registration: Following the administrative registration, the student is invited to visit his/her new academic department to ­register for specific classes at specific times and to be briefed on examination procedures

Applying for a visa that suits you the best:

Long stay visa:
Extended-stay visa (known as the VLS-TS) is granted to international students who intend to study in France for more than six months. This visa also serves as a residency permit for the duration of its validity, provided it is certified by the OFII (Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration).

Temporary stay visa: For a stay ranging from four to six months, this visa exempts its holder from undergoing OFII formalities. With this visa, a student can freely move through the Schengen area (including France) for a ­maximum period of 90 days over a six-month period.

Short-stay visa: Students wishing to enroll in a language ­training course or short-term programmes should apply for this visa. This non-renewable short-stay visa permits stays of up to three months in the 25-country Schengen zone.

First Published: Aug 20, 2013 14:38 IST