France ranks is the third most-frequently chosen country for foreign students. While they leave with a smile on their faces, they also remember the difficult path they had to travel to come study in France. They have but one word of wisdom for you: plan ahead. This way, folks!In school year 2004-2005, over 255 000 foreign students chose France as their destination. Most came from North Africa, mainly the Maghreb countries (30%), 25% from Europe, 16% from Asia and 7% from North and South America.
With one out of ten students a foreigner, France is now the world’s third most-frequently chosen country for students wishing to learn abroad, behind Germany and the United States. The country’s main draws are its quality of life and cultural renown, but also its wide range of educational programmes. Its higher learning establishments are many in number and can be found throughout the country: universities, elite business and engineering schools (the grandes écoles system), schools specialising in art or medical professions, and more. The universities come out on top of the specialised schools, with 14.7% of the student body composed of foreign students. Likewise, economics/management (24% foreigners) and the sciences (16%) are the subjects most frequently chosen by students arriving from across the world.
Quality Education at a Moderate Price
Foreign students are also pleased to be able to enjoy quality education at a price lower than in other countries. In France, university tuition is amongst the lowest in the world (EUR 150 to 300), as the State funds most of it, while the grandes écoles come at a relatively low cost compared to other countries.
Another feature unique to France is the lack of distinction between French and foreign students. The latter are treated exactly the same, whether in terms of pre-requisites for entry, student status, coursework, diplomas earned and housing grants.
When is the best time to enter the system?
There are generally more students from abroad in the second and third cycles than in the first cycles. They account for 21% of students in the Master’s and doctoral programmes, compared to 11% at the Licence (or Bachelor’s) level.
According to Thierry Audric, the Managing Director of Edufrance, which the government has put in charge of promoting French higher education throughout the world, the best strategy is to aim for a Master’s degree two years after having earned a Bachelor’s Degree in one’s country of origin: “The first few years at university are very difficult for a foreign student, who needs time to adjust. Not only are the teaching conditions not optimal, considering the number of students filling the amphitheatres, but in addition, the bulk of the selection process, which occurs in the first year of law or medical programmes, is drastic, whether for foreign or French students”. The students who opt for a third-cycle programme are those who have already completed their training in their own country and are looking to specialise in a field of research in France.
Should I go on as an exchange student or solo?
If you want to study in France, two options are available: going as part of an exchange programme between establishments (Erasmus within Europe, Erasmus Mundus for other countries, or other international agreements) or going on your own. Contrary to popular belief, exchanges account for only 20% of student mobility. Every year, nearly 80% of the foreign students who come to France are actually going solo. “These are students who leave more enriched and mature. The establishments appreciate them because they are resourceful and enthusiastic”, notes Thierry Audric.