Indian students love France for its ‘art of living’

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By 2025, France aims to welcome 20,000 Indian students. Emmanuell Lenain, French Ambassador to India, discusses the strategies adopted by France to increase the number of Indian students in French institutes
The number of Indian students visiting France has increased in French universities. Could you give us the number of students who visit each year and the percentage of growth?

Yes, I do. The goal now is to have 20,000 Indian students who choose France for their graduate studies by 2025 – and we are halfway there. The increase is constant at about 30% per year, and we have made great progress, given that this figure was 3000 students in 2014.

What could be the possible reasons why Indian students are increasingly inclined to French education?

Romance, good food! Jokes aside, I think the main reason is that France provides a unique combination of excellent higher education at a reasonable cost and offers great personal experience in terms of lifestyle. That’s what I think makes us stand out.
France is a country of quality research, innovation and education. It spends 2.24% of its GDP on research. That’s why we are a country of innovation, with 65 Nobel Medal winners and 15 Fields. The last Nobel Prize in Economics was shared by a Frenchwoman – Ester Duflo, an Indian – Abhijit Banerjee, and an American – Michael Kramer.

In fact, France is the third most popular destination for international students. Each year, we receive about 350,000 international students, and 40% of our PhD students are foreigners. In addition to the attractiveness of our academic and scientific system, I think that Indians are increasingly aware that language is not an obstacle to study in France. Our institutions offer more than 1,500 programs that are taught in English. So you can choose to study in English or French, but my advice is: learn French anyway, now or while you are in France. What for? Because French is the main language in more than 40 countries on 5 continents and the official language in 29 countries. It is also a diplomatic language used in all international organizations.

In addition, the links you establish with France while you study there do not stop when you leave. First, there are more than 500 French nationals in India, employing 3,50,000 Indian nationals. And then we offer unparalleled visa facilities to our alumni.

Changes in visa rules in the US and growing uncertainty in the UK over Brexit have caused upheaval among Indian students. Has this increased the number of international students in France and other parts of Europe?

He did, and we are eager to attract the best Indian minds. The more I travel to this country, the more I discover the immense talent that lives here. It is a rich resource and an opportunity for our country to introduce them to France. President Emmanuel Macron’s message to students during his visit to India in March 2018 was very clear: France welcomes you. Choose France!

Is there a strategy adopted by France to increase the number of Indian students?

Relations between France and India have never been stronger. It is based on the economy (for example Airbus recently sold 300 aircraft to Indigo) and strategic issues of course, but also on the real engine of sustainable relations between countries: their people. For 20 years, our relationship has been shaped by a strategic partnership, which provides a framework for our collaborations in areas such as trade, defence, civil nuclear energy, space and sustainable development. However, there can be no lasting partnership without increased inter-person contacts. That is why Prime Minister Modi and President Macron agreed last August to get more young people and individuals from both countries to meet, exchange views and work together.

For our part, we have worked hard to make Indian students feel welcome in France. In recent years, we have signed a unique agreement with India, recognizing each other’s National Diplomas in Class 12 (Baccalaureate). This is the first such agreement signed by India with another country. There have been more and more recruitment sessions of French institutions in India, notably through our semi-annual education fair, the “Choose the France Tour”. More and more French institutions are also opening permanent offices there, some even offering programs in India. For example, Xavier University Bhubaneswar (XUB) with emlyon business school, Mahindra Central School in Chennai, and LISAA School of Design in Bangalore. France is now a well-known destination for Indian students, which was not the case a few years ago. We have also adopted the “Welcome to France” strategy, which gives a special label to institutions that have the most favourable policies for foreign students in France.

In addition, we have a variety of scholarships available for Indian students to pursue higher education in France. The French government spends more than one million euros (about 10 crores) each year on financial aid to Indian students through the government and co-financed scholarships. Apart from these, other public and private scholarships are available. Any of our 13 campus offices across India can guide students to find their program of choice, finance their stay, and settle in France.

What are the visa rules for deserving students once they have managed to clear the course/degree to stay back and work in France?

France wants to build a lifelong relationship with Indian students studying in France. Indian students with a master’s degree or a higher degree in France are eligible for a two-year extension of their stay, which allows them to seek a permanent position based on their studies, and to provide them with the international exposure they need in their professional life. Once back in India, former students are eligible for a Schengen tourist or business visa with a long validity period – up to five years. Just like their spouses and children, ensuring that France becomes a family affair.

We also have what we call a “talent” passport. This is a 4-year residence permit for highly qualified individuals, innovative start-up entrepreneurs, artists or investors.

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