The cost of attending a French university for students from outside the European Union is set to shoot up from €170 to €2,770 per year, a jump of 16 times the current fees, from autumn 2019.
That means, with Britain set to leave the EU in March 2019, British students who want to attend a university in France could be paying thousands of euros every year to do so.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said that at the moment a “wealthy foreign student pays the same tuition fees as a poor French student whose parents have lived, worked and paid taxes in France for years”.
At the moment a degree costs €170 per years while a masters costs €243 and a PhD costs €380 but once the change is introduced these fees will rise to €2,770 for a degree and €3,770 for the two higher qualifications.
The government has stressed that these increased fees still only represent “one third of the real cost” of the courses, with the rest paid for by the French State.
“Our strategy: To carry out a kind of revolution so that our attractiveness is not so much founded on being nearly-free as on a true choice, a true desire, that of excellence. #WelcometoFrance,” the prime minister tweeted.
The government has also said it will triple the number of university scholarships from 7,000 to 21,000 and there will be 14,000 grants targeted mainly at students from developing countries.
According to the government that means, along with the other grants already in place, one in four international students will qualify for a grant or scholarship.
Philippe defended a “strong but measured decision which will allow us to better welcome students who choose France.”
And while the fees might seem expensive, they are far lower than an international student would expect to pay to go to university in the UK where prices vary but can be upwards of £10,000 (€11,247) per year, according to reports
Meanwhile in the US, where higher education is notoriously expensive, international students — who are categorised as 'out-of-state' students — paid an average of $24,930 (€21,834
) per year in 2016/17
However student unions Fage and Unef are strongly against the move, arguing that this is a way of “selecting students by the amount of money they have” and that France will end up “depriving itself of talented students who simply cannot afford the fees”.
France is the most popular non-English-speaking country for international students and the fourth most popular country in the world behind the US, the UK and Australia.
Nevertheless, the number of foreign students in France, which sits at the 343,000 mark, dropped by 8.1 percent between 2010 and 2015. The French government wants to boost that number to around 500,000.
And even though these figures have improved in recent years, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is hoping to increase the figures with a series of measures in a bid to make French universities more attractive to international students, including those from Asia.
These include making the visa application process simpler and creating more French campuses abroad.
At the moment in France, 45 percent of foreign students come from Africa, 19 percent from the European Union, 16 percent from Asia, 9 percent from America and 4 percent from the Middle East.