French Evolution

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sun May 14 15:23:11 UTC 2006

>>From The Economic Times  SUNDAY, MAY 14, 2006

French evolution

The French education system is seducing some of the brightest and best.
In terms of student numbers, France may not be a match for campus
destinations such as the US and the UK. However, the French education
system is attracting some of the brightest and best for not just
specialised institutes and scientific excellence but also because of the
diversity factor. An interesting trend is that knowledge of French
language, which earlier proved an obstacle for Indian students, is now
turning into an advantage. Firstly, lack of French language skills is no
longer grounds for rejection of students from courses at French
institutions. Besides, in a globalised situation students often like to
learn the language which gives them access to a wider range of courses and
institutions and also better opportunities in the global jobs market.

Institutes in France are becoming increasingly bilingual keeping in mind
the needs of international students. Some courses begin in English and
slowly go French thus giving foreign students the chance to integrate into
the system and pick up the language. Besides, students from India
increasingly want to learn a foreign language and those planning to study
in France often take courses at Alliances Francaises before they leave,
feels Archana Chaudhary, EduFrance India co-ordinator. The French ministry
of foreign affairs, too, has an active policy of promoting the French
language, particularly through the network of 151 cultural centres and
institutes and 283 Alliance Francaises. The aim is to support French as a
major language of international communication which combines culture and

Besides, more than 300 courses of study are now dispensed in English on
all campuses in the country. For Indian students who wish to study in
France, the fact that public universities are highly subsidised is a big
advantage. The expenses at some public institutions could work out as
cost-effective as Rs 25,000 per year inclusive of social security. In
fact, scholarships are built in to the system of education and students
also get assistance with lodging expenses depending on the city grade
where they are located.  Specialized courses in business and hospitality,
however, don't come cheap, says Chaudhary.

Broadly, Indian students can avail themselves of the French Embassy
incentive scholarships at the masters level which cover living expenses,
stipend and air fare and the French ministry of external affairs
administered grants which work out to 200 Euro per month. While there are
70-80 new scholarships in the first category each year, the second is
merit based with about 20-30 per year. Tuition fee waivers ranging from
50% to 100% for meritorious students are also possible on an institutional
basis at the masters level. The science and technology section of the
French embassy also funds short internships at the PhD and post-doctoral

Currently there are 1200 Indian students attending various courses in
France and the numbers are growing. Though we are not really looking at
any huge increase in numbers, more and more French institutions are
sending delegations to India because they are keen on recruiting students.
They are also entering into various partnerships with Indian colleges and
institutions. Indian students are also increasingly attracted towards
France as a gateway to Europe. The French education system is world class
with something for everyone.  From specialist institutes in the area of
fashion, design and architecture, there are the Grand Ecoles of higher
education. Humanities, social sciences, aviation and specialised
management and hospitality courses are very popular among Indian students.
Four month internships are structured into the system which is also very
useful, Chaudhary says. Other factors which are a big draw for Indians
include an adaptation year to learn French, five year integrated courses
in engineering for undergrads and low costs for foreign students in many
fields of study. We have now launched a dedicated section at EduFrance
India to handle queries related to engineering. The programme called N+I
will put applications for engineering courses on the fast track, Chaudhary

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