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France: fee hike for int’l students overturned

Controversial legislation that was set to hike fees for international students in France has been overturned, as the president made a fresh call for international talent.
February 1 2024
3 Min Read

Controversial legislation that was set to hike fees for international students in France has been overturned, as the president makes a fresh call for international talent.

In December 2023, as part of France’s proposed immigration law, it was announced that international students would be subject to paying a deposit when applying for a student visa, as well as increased tuition fees for non-EU students.

The law also included an article obliging students to provide annual evidence to prove they are enrolled in a “real and serious” study program.

At the time, stakeholders expressed concerns over the impact the reforms would have on France’s international competitiveness.

However, the Constitutional Council declared the changes “unconstitutional” and the country’s immigration law will no longer contain the measures concerning international students.

The immigration law will however maintain, and simplify, the ‘talent passport’ scheme which allows young foreign graduates who have obtained masters degrees in France, as well as international doctoral students or entrepreneurs, to access a multi-year residence permit.

Reacting to the news in a speech on January 26, Sylvie Retailleau, minister of higher education and research, stressed that “international students are an opportunity for France“.

International students are an opportunity for France

International students contribute €5 billion to the French economy each year, and in the academic year 2022/23, some 402,833 chose French higher education institutions, with Morocco, Algeria, China, Italy and Senegal as the top five sending countries.

As many celebrated the removal of the limiting measures, other commentators were focused on wider attitudes towards immigration in France.

“This censored text is not a victory,” wrote student representative association, La FAGE, in a post on X, highlighting its growing concern for systemic racism faced by international students in France.

“Removing a few measures means avoiding disaster, not improving the situation.”

The group had previously campaigned against the immigration law’s impact on international students, arguing that extra financial layers would be hitting a group they believe are already exposed to increased poverty.

It also argued that obligatory checks on their programs categorised international students as part of illegal immigration networks.

“Foreign students are an asset for France, for our higher education and our research,” wrote the association’s president in a thread about the removal of such measures.

The final text of the immigration reforms upheld by the Constitutional Council retains key factors initially requested by government, with a large part dedicated to simplifying procedures for deporting “delinquent foreigners”.

However, some far-right politicians are not happy that many elements have been thrown out by the Council – such as the introduction of migration quotas – with Jordan Bardella, president of the National Front, calling for a “referendum on immigration”.

Meanwhile, president of France Emmanuel Macron has reinforced his commitment to welcoming 30,000 Indian students by 2030 during a state visit to India to celebrate the 75th Republic Day of India.

“It’s a very ambitious target, but I am determined to make it happen” wrote Macron in a post on LinkedIn.

Meeting with India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, the two leaders took the opportunity to promote a new format of international classes in France, facilitating the integration of non-French-speaking Indian students into the French higher education system through French language classes, starting from September 2024.

Through the new courses, Indian students will be trained in French language and academic topics and completion will allow them to then join bachelor programs taught in French language.

During the visit in late January, Modi invited globally renowned French universities and institutions of higher learning to set up institutions in India under the New Education Policy.

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