The Prime Minister of France, Edouard Philippe, has unveiled an international education strategy including a target to welcome 500,000 students by 2027, the introduction of tuition fees for non-EU students, an increase in English-taught courses, and more welcoming student visa policies.
The strategy to attract 500,000 higher education students, an increase of approximately 50 per cent within a decade, was introduced by the Prime Minister in a speech this week and is built around three pillars: welcome, fees, and overseas influence.
One of the major changes of the new strategy is the introduction of tuition fees for non-EU students from September 2019.
Currently, non-EU students at public institutions pay only a small registration fee, but this will increase to €2,770 per annum for bachelor programmes and €3,770 for postgraduate courses. Tuition will remain free for EU students.
Prime Minister Philippe said non-EU students would be covering about one-third of the cost to the state of teaching them. “It is a strong choice, a choice of solidarity and openness, which will allow us to better welcome students who choose France. But it is also a responsible and measured choice,” he said, stating that the fee level was well below European competitors such as the Netherlands and the UK.
He added that in some recruitment markets, free university tuition was seen as a sign of low quality. However, the number of scholarships available for non-EU students will triple, he explained, with some of the tuition fee expenditure going towards this.
According to data released by Campus France, there were 343,000 international students at French higher education institutions in 2017, a 4.5 per cent increase compared with the previous year. Of these, almost half were African, while 22 per cent came from Europe and 21 per cent from Asia.
With regards to visas, France will simplify the visa application process, move application procedures online and limit the need to visit consulates from next year, the Prime Minister said.
Meanwhile, from March 2019, non-EU master’s-level graduates will be eligible for a residence permit to establish a company or look for employment in France. “If we welcome international students, if we invest in them, it is also the case that they come back to be engines of growth in France and abroad,” the Prime Minister said.
As part of the strategy, Campus France has been asked to create a ‘Welcome to France’ label that will be awarded to institutions that improve their welcome procedures for international students, and has provided €10 million for the initiative.
France is currently the fifth-largest higher education destination for international students, behind the USA, the UK, Australia and Germany.