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French MPs back English courses plan for unis

A contentious proposal that would see more courses at French universities taught in English was given the green light by deputies in the French parliament on Thursday. Critics say the move will lead to France losing its identity.

French MPs back English courses plan for unis
Photo: Flickr

France's lower house approved a plan to introduce more courses in English at universities on Thursday despite critics alleging it will undermine efforts to promote French.

A majority of lawmakers in the National Assembly approved the second article of a bill on higher education in a show-of-hands vote. The full bill put forward by the Minister for Higher Education Genevieve Fioraso is expected to be approved in the Assembly and the upper house Senate, where the ruling Socialists and their left-wing allies have majorities.

The vote followed two hours of heated debate, with lawmakers from the main right-wing opposition UMP saying the measure threatens France's identity.

"A people that speaks a foreign language more and more loses its identity piece by piece," UMP lawmaker Jacques Myard said.

But Socialist lawmaker Thierry Mandon called the controversy "a storm in a teacup" and accused opponents of having "a phobia of foreign students".

The measure, which would also introduce lessons in languages other than English, aims to increase the number of foreign students at universities from 12 percent of the total to 15 percent by 2020.

But the proposal has had its critics including the famed French language protectors at the Academie Francais, as well as journalists and authors.

In an opinion piece written for The Local French writer, Frederic Werst, one the leading campaigners against the bill said the change in law will not have the desired impact of attracting the best students to France.

"The Minister argues that this move would help attract the best foreign students to France. But this is deluded. The universities of choice for the best English-speaking students will naturally be in Anglo institutions. For them, French universities would only be a fallback option," Werst said.

"The minister is blinded by a utilitarian ideology which believes that knowledge is a commodity and a language is simply packaging. But this is false: language itself is knowledge and the ability to speak several languages is extremely enriching.  

"If you want to be competitive and attractive, then this is what we need too promote – not monolingualism, which only leads to poor results.

Other critics say it will harm decades-long, zealous efforts to protect the French language, while supporters argue it will improve the employability of French youth and the attractiveness of the country's universities.

Several teaching unions have also attacked the measure.

France has for decades zealously propagated the use of French both at home and abroad through cultural institutions and the French-speaking Francophonie
bloc of nations.

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STUDENT

Who are all these international students in France and where do they study?

France is the fourth most popular country in the world for international students, with thousands of Americans, British and Australians coming here to study. Here's what you need to know about them.

Who are all these international students in France and where do they study?
Photo: AFP
France is continuing to attract foreign students, with 310,000 choosing to study here over 2015, a 7 percent jump compared to 2012.
 
This is enough to make France the fourth most popular study-abroad country, after the US, the UK, and Australia. 
 
The stats come courtesy of Campus France, an organisation run by the French government that assists foreign students in their university applications.
 
Here's a closer look at the international students in France. 
 
 
 
 
Where do they come from?
 
In 2015, the most represented country among the foreign students in France was Morocco (37,000), followed by China (28,000), and Algeria (23,000).
 
Students from these three countries made up 27 percent of the total population of international students (see graph below).  
 
In Europe, the most popular origins were Italy (11,188), Germany (8,532), and Spain (6,817).
 
 
Meanwhile, there were 5,725 who came from the US, which marked a 2.1 percent increase since 2014, and a 22 percent increase since 2010. 
 
There was also a 10 percent increase in students coming to France from Australasia, bringing to total to around 25,000.
 
There were a further 4,022 from the UK, a 1.3 percent increase on 2014 and an 18.1 percent increase since 2010. 
 
Campus France’s director general, Béatrice Khaiat said she expects the number of students coming to France from the UK and the US to increase in the coming years.
 
“The current situation can be even more favourable to our country: the announcements made in the United States and the United Kingdom to foreign students could encourage students, parents, and even governments in fellowship programs to reorient their choice to France as a study destination,” Khaiat predicted 
 
 

 
While more students are flocking to France every year, France is actually losing its share of the market, as the graph below shows. 
 
The number of students choosing to study abroad (seen in red below) is soaring at a far higher rate than the number of students coming to France (in blue). 
 
The numbers below, which are in thousands, highlight how many more students are choosing to study internationally, with Canada and China enjoying particularly large booms in their international student populations, according to Campus France
 
Where in France do they study?
 
The most popular places to study for foreign students were Paris at 59,179, followed by Versailles at 26,588, and Lyon at 24,150 (see map below). 
 
Other notable cities included Creteil at 21,500, Lille at 15,500, and Toulouse at 15,000. 
 
It was Nice that saw the biggest three-year jump (since 2012), with 25.4 percent more international students choosing the southern city (for a total of 9,202). 

Grenoble, which was named France's best student city late last year, attracted a respectable 11,029 students, up over 12 percent between 2012 and 2015.
 
Other cities with over 10,000 international students included Rennes, Nantes, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, and Montpellier. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
What do they study?
 
As for what they actually study, the graph below shows that most opt for courses in languages, arts, and humanities. 
 
The second most popular field was sport sciences, followed by economics, law, and medicine.  
 
Some 46 percent are in France as part of an undergraduate degree, while 43 percent are here for a Master's degree. Another 11 percent are here for their doctorate. 
 

So what next?
 
Well, now you know what you can expect and who you might meet – and you can always click the link below to find out more about visas and student life. But wait, there's more. 
 
We are making a push to provide more content for our readers who are international students. If you're a foreigner and you're spending this semester studying in France – then we want to hear from you. Especially if you're keen on getting some of your writing published, or feel like letting us know what's going on around campus. 
 
What are you waiting for? Introduce yourself to us via: [email protected] And best of luck this semester. 
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