From May 13-28, over 170 events have been planned across five continents, including at the Quai d’Orsay in Paris on May 23, with Olivier Becht, minister in charge of foreign trade, economic attractiveness and French nationals abroad in attendance.
“You are, in your diversity, one of the faces of French academic excellence,” Becht said. He addressed some 300 delegates, including alumni, who the minister thanked for choosing France as a study destination, and highlighted that the country wishes to remain present at their side throughout their careers.
“The community of former international students in France is a symbol of excellence and internationalisation of higher education,” said Becht.
Becht noted that in 2022, France welcomed record numbers of international students, over 400,000, ranking it seventh in the countries welcoming the most international students.
The global celebrations aim to bring alumni together and highlight the strength of the France Alumni network, which was launched in 2014 and now brings together more than 372,000 members worldwide.
The network allows international alumni in France to stay connected with their peers and with France.
Alumni at the event spoke of fostering a “unique and lasting bond” between one generation of alumni to the next and shared personal stories of triumph during their time in France.
Archippus Sturrock, originally from the UK and alumnus of the University of London in Paris, spoke about the equality, diversity and inclusion aspects of an international experience in France.
“When we travel, we discover diversity,” he said, adding that it was during his studies in Paris that he found the courage to come out.
“France is freedom in a lot ways,” said Kaiwei Wang, alumnus of École Nationale Superieure de chimie de Montpellier, and originally from China.
“The perception of what is valuable and what is essential for one’s career and one’s life is so different compared to China,” he told The PIE.
“You are, in your diversity, one of the faces of French academic excellence”
The France Alumni network platform has also enabled 3,200 partnerships with French and foreign companies and institutions since launching.
France is the internship capital of the world, said Christopher Cripps, senior advisor for global engagement and diplomatic affairs, Sorbonne University.
“France is very in line with what employers need because higher education institutions work very closely in various ways with employers to make sure that their pedagogy and curriculum is in tune to what the market needs,” said Cripps, who came to France as an international student from the US and “never left”.
“For me, that’s always been part of the uniqueness of French higher education, is making sure that students are trained to produce for their employer at a very high level immediately upon graduation,” he told The PIE.
Soalandy Randrianjafy, originally from Madagascar, a student at the Engineering Faculty of Life Sciences at the Institut Nationale Polytechnique de Toulouse told The PIE how she too appreciates the French higher education system’s proximity with the business world.
“I will finish my studies in March 2024 but I already have more than one year of professional experience on my CV including two long internships in top-tier companies in my field. This experience, facilitated by my engineering school through the gap year system, will make it easier for me to get my first long contracts after my graduation.”
Cripps added that he appreciates how France defends and propagates French culture and French language.
“We have a lot to offer in English in France from business schools, engineering schools and universities but at the same time, this is France. French is a language spoken by 350 million people around the world and French education is deeply rooted in history and culture and there are disciplines that you just don’t come to study in English in France.”
“France is very much a centralised country,” said Julien Frémont, deputy director of international relations, University Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne.
“What we offer in our higher education institutions, private or public, is validated by the central and French ministry.
“It means that the offer you have in Toulouse or in Nantes, or in Bordeaux or in Paris for example will be the same one wherever you are. So this is important to know that the degree you get has the same value as it would elsewhere in France. That’s one of the best things ever I would say for any students in the world.”
Delegates heard from esteemed guest of honours who too proudly call themselves alumni of a French education, including professor of paediatrics and former health minister of Rwanda, Agnes Binagwaho.
“Mix nationalities, mix knowledge, progress together, do research together. We are always better when we seek solutions from various sides to improve this life on earth,” said Binagwaho, who studied at the Université de Bretagne Occidentale.