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Why are foreign students in France 'Europe's unhappiest'?
Students at a university in Normandy. Photo: AFP

Why are foreign students in France 'Europe's unhappiest'?

Oliver Gee · 29 Sep 2016, 14:22

Published: 29 Sep 2016 14:22 GMT+02:00
Updated: 29 Sep 2016 14:22 GMT+02:00

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An extra three countries were added to the pile in this year's study, meaning a full 20 countries outshone France in 2016, according to the study from StudyPortals. 
Students were asked to rate their overall experience out of ten, with Norway, Ireland, Poland, Finland, and the UK finishing up top. 
France, which finished 21st, saw 598 international student reviews that ranked French universities at an average of 8.19 out of ten. This compares to a score of 9.26 from top country Norway
Although France finished bottom of the pile for the fourth year running, it's only fair to point out that the overall satisfaction rating of 8.19, which by the terms of the ranking still classifies as "very good". 
Honorable mention, however, goes to the Université Francois Rabelais in central France's Tours for scoring the country's only "Excellent" award, meaning reviewers left an average review of between 9.0 and 9.4. 
France had two "Very Good" awards, for the University of Burgundy and the University of Strasbourg. 
In a result that perhaps cements the poor reputation of French universities, the study also found that French students who studied abroad were the most satisfied of all international students.
These students gave an average score of 9.0 out of 10 for the European universities at which they studied, up from 8.5 in 2015.
So what's wrong with French unis?
In short, the price. Dozens of negative reviews posted online mentioned that life in France proved too expensive to live on a student budget. 

Some complained that the lack of student dormitories meant they were left with expensive rental costs, while others found the daily prices of things like food and cinema were too dear. 

On campus, student reviews often cited a lack of organization in the university, a limited amount of courses offered in English, and few people that speak English. 
"Exams are very laxadaisical, and times and dates can change with no warning. Rooms are old fashioned and badly equipped," one anonymous student wrote. 
Another cited a "lack of help and organization from host university in the integration process".
Some said that French universities were outdated, including this student in Brest, western France:
"Teaching skill at my university didn't reach up to the actual standard: the teacher didn't use power point, online scripts, or internet. The classes were too long (two hours) to stay focused all the time."
Some even complained specifically about unwelcoming staff:
"The people working in the international office were unfriendly and didn't help you at all," said one student in Nanterre. 
Story continues below…
The shortcomings of French universities are no secret in France, with the government scrambling last year to invest €100 million to prop up the creaking system. 
In an October report, The Local pointed out nine key problems with the system, from a huge student influx in 2015 to a serious lack of funding. Read it here
The StudyPortals International Student Satisfaction Awards 2016 were based on 15,965 students reviews on 53 different European universities. Spain had the biggest number of winning universities (27), followed by Germany with 15. 
A look at France's legion of foreign students

Although France finished bottom of the pile for the fourth year running, it's only fair to point out that the overall satisfaction rating was 8.19, which by the terms of the ranking still classifies as "very good". 

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