To mark the 25th anniversary of the 1998 Franco-Indian partnership, the two countries have adopted the new roadmap to set the course of a bilateral relation until 2047, which will ultimately coincide with the 100th anniversary of Indian independence.
The announcements were made during Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s two-day visit to France.
“The deepening of our links in education, sciences and technologies, and culture, and the blooming exchanges between our young people, as well as the success of a diaspora in expansion, bring together our people and set the bases of future partnerships,” said a joint press release from the two countries.
The roadmap set out France’s ambition to welcome 20,000 Indian students by 2025, and 30,000 by 2030, with a significant increase in the resources of the Campus France network in India.
The European nation previously had a target of hosting 10,000 Indian students by 2020.
According to the latest statistics from Campus France, in 2021, some 6,321 Indian students were enrolled in French higher education institutions in 2021, making India the 14th highest country of origin sending students to France.
Since 2016, the numbers of Indian students enrolled in French institutions increased by a staggering 92%.
In a bid to create a community of Indian alumni in France, it was announced that Indian citizens who hold a master’s degree from any country and who have completed at least one semester in France can apply for a five-year post-study short-stay Schengen visa.
A spokesperson for the French embassy in India, told The PIE that the the new alumni visa is particularly strategic as it rewards students for choosing France as a study destination, including those who came on exchange for only a few months or more.
The visa is designed to allow such students to stay connected to France, as well as a tool promote France as a study destination, they added.
It was also announced that a new format of international classes will be created in order to facilitate the integration of non-French-speaking Indian students into the French higher education system.
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.
The French government will “experiment the creation of such classes while the Indian government will promote it within the secondary education system of India”, the French Embassy in India said in a statement.
The spokesperson told The PIE that this decision was born out of the idea that in order to reach the ambitious targets of Indian students in France, set by the government, France needs to increase its efforts in delivering an international track for first years in public universities which until now has not existed.
“That’s the difference that you can see with Germany or the Netherlands, even with Spain or Italy. We are very shy in the English language because we have this long standing tradition of standing up for French,” they said.
“You need to accept them as they are and as they are is that they don’t speak French”
“If you want to have more students from [those countries], you need to accept them as they are and as they are is that they don’t speak French.”
In recent years there has been a shift in the mindset of the sector when it comes to diversification of its international students, The PIE learned. Previously, when most inbound international students to France were from Francophone Africa, there was less of a need to cater to English-speaking students. As more Anglophone African countries, and students from elsewhere around the globe, choose France as a study destination, stakeholders are increasingly encouraging of this shift.
Although the “fight for the French language” remains, this new avenue will allow universities to welcome non-French speaking students and allow them the time and resources to transform into French speakers, through a one-year course designed to allow them to progress.
“They will be acclimatised within the international class and they would be eligible to go straight to the first year of university,” the spokesperson said.
“The idea is to do the transition and make a bridge for those students who are coming from the secondary schools in India.”
For France to reach its target of 500,000 students by 2027, public universities must get on board with such measures, the spokesperson said.
They hope to initially see 15-30 public universities volunteer to invest in the new courses and added that in terms of cost, the courses can be self-sustainable after only two or three years.
Outlining the benefits to universities, the spokesperson said that students who enrol in the new international classes will be “faithful” to the universities which offer it to them, suggesting that students will be more inclined to progress to a master’s degree at the same institution.