France is planning to increase studies cost for international students as the country seeks to reclaim more visibility and prestige for its universities.
Rabat – French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced on Monday, November 19.
Called “Bienvenue en France” (Welcome to France), the international education reform bill is meant to “increase France’s attractiveness” as a study destination.
Starting from the 2019-2020 academic year, international students at French universities will pay higher enrollment fees, namely the equivalent of 30 percent of the total cost of their degrees.
For bachelor degrees (which cost €10,000), students will be charged €2770, instead of the current €170 registration fee.
And for Master’s and PhD degrees, whose registration fees were €234 and €383 respectively, students will pay €3,770. Even with the increase, international students in France will still be “paying significantly less than they do in North America, Netherlands, Great Britain, and most of European countries.”
‘Competing with North America and most of Europe’
France, one of the few Western countries where access to education has until now been nearly free of charge and subsidized by the government (except for a tiny number of elite schools called Grandes Ecoles), is now bidding to join other European and North American institutions in the scramble for international prestige.
In a global education system where prestige is associated with the amount of university fees, the size of research budgets, and the quality of education facilities, Philippe argued, it is “unfair” to have “rich international students” pay the same fees as their low-income French counterparts whose parents pay taxes.
The prime minister said that the increase will serve to fund more education-related projects. The plan includes renovation works as well as establishment of new scholarships to attract low-income students from the developing world.
According to French newspaper Le Figaro, France is the fourth country (behind the US, Great Britain, and Australia) with the highest number international students. Students come from developing and emerging countries, especially francophone Africa, North-east Asia, Latin America, and the Arab world.
“We can do much better,” Phillipe said, as he explained how the increase can help French learning institutions be more competitive.
The funds will be used in building more facilities to accommodate students and invest more in foreign language learning, he said. For Philippe, France should benefit from its status as a prized destination for higher education.
The move has come under heavy criticism from education syndicates, however. They argue that many of the concerned international students are not as rich as the prime minister claimed. Instead, the reform will “reinforce social precarity” for students for many of the targeted students.
Fage, a students’ rights advocacy group, said in a statement that “it is not students’ job” to help rekindle France’s “underfunded education system.”
The bill will only be applied to students who are not citizens of an EU country.