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France to increase non-EEA university tuition fees

France will introduce a differential system for non-EEA students that will see tuition fees increase considerably, while at the same time tripling its scholarship offer. French PM Edouard Philippe said the new system will improve international student services, but the move has also drawn criticism from some parts of the public opinion and opposition parties.

Students from non-EEA countries will have their tuition fees increased as of next year. Photo: dcviking/Pixabay

International student scholarships will be tripled, from the current 7,000 to about 21,000

The new fee regime will come into action at the start of the next academic year – September 2019 – and was announced in the international recruitment strategy that Campus France developed in collaboration with the French government.

“[The fees] will finance the development of English-taught programs, the improvement of international students’ integration”

International students who are not nationals of an EEA member, or Switzerland, and enrol for the first time in a French higher education institution will pay €2,770 for undergraduate and €3,770 at master’s and doctoral level.

This is a considerable jump from the €170 per year for undergraduate programs, €243 for master’s programs, and €380 for PhDs that international students currently pay.

“A well-off foreign student pays the same tuition fees as a French student from a disadvantaged background whose parents have been living, working and paying taxes in France for years. It’s absurd and unfair,” Philippe said, according to French newspaper Le Figaro.

The heightened fees will allow French institutions to develop better conditions for international students, Philippe added.

At the same time, international student scholarships will be tripled, from the current 7,000 to about 21,000.

About 15,000 scholarships will be awarded by the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs. and will prioritise students from North Africa and from Sub-Saharan Africa, while 6,000 institutional scholarships will be managed by institutions in line with their partnership and recruitment needs, while refugee students will be exempt from tuition fees, according to the strategy.

Overall, the strategy envisages about 25% of international students qualifying for scholarships or fee exemptions.

However, the move has attracted some criticism, with some labelling it discriminatory, the Huffington Post reported.

Left-wing party La France Insoumise accused Macron to build “a wall of money” which will keep many students, in particular those from Africa, out of French universities.

Statement of the parliamentary group La France Insoumise: No to the tuition fee increase for foreign students! The price of undegraduate degrees will go from 170 Euros to…2,770 Euros! Who can afford that money?

Benoît Hamon, who ran in the 2017 presidential election at the head of the French Socialist party, said that the move would shame the tradition and vocation of French universities. In a tweet, he suggested the campaign should use the hashtag #dehors (outside) rather than #BienvenueEnFrance.

But use the hashtag #outside rather than the cynical #WelcomeToFrance when you are in fact stopping African students by imposing prohibitive tuition fees on them.@EPhilippePM, you shame the tradition and the mission of French universities. 

But Campus France director of communications Florent Bonaventure told The PIE News that the move is a “fair measure” that allows to rebalance costs and develop the sector further, adding that some HEIs, such as many Grandes Écoles, already have different tuition fees for non-EU students.

“University education is not free as it costs the State roughly €10,000 per year. International students will only pay 1/3rd of the real cost of their studies,” he explained.

“[The fees] will finance the development of English-taught programs, the improvement of international students’ integration.”

“The corresponding increase in merit-based scholarships…is very important to us”

Bonaventure highlighted not only the focus on merit-based scholarships, but also the new partnerships supported by the Strategy which will reinforce cooperation with developing countries.

“The corresponding increase in merit-based scholarships, given either by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or by universities themselves is very important to us,” he said.

“Another aspect of this new strategy is the development of new partnerships, such as the recently opened campus Franco-Senegalese or the hub Franco-Ivorian. This capacity building element of the strategy is very important to us as it reinforces our cooperation with developing countries, especially in Africa.”

Even with the new system, French tuition fees will remain considerably lower than those in force for non-EU students in other destination countries, such as the Netherlands or the UK.

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