International students in France handed court victory over plan to hike tuition fees

International students coming to France have received a legal boost with a ruling against a planned hike in tuition fees.

International students in France handed court victory over plan to hike tuition fees
France is an attractive destination for foreign students. Photo: AFP

France's Conseil constitutionnel (constitutional court) ruled on Friday that free access to public higher education is a constitutional right in France.

The ruling appears to strike a blow to the French government's plans to significantly hike tuition fees to anyone from outside the EU who attends university in France.


At present, overseas students from outside the EU (which will of course include the UK after Brexit) pay the same tuition fees as French students – €170 a year for a bachelor’s degree and €243 for a master’s.

The low tuition fees have over the years made France an attractive place for overseas students to study, particularly in contrast to the USA where tuition fees regularly run into tens of thousands of dollars.

In the academic year 2017/18 340,000 foreign students came to France to study, making it the leading non-English speaking destination for overseas students.

But the French government wants to increase fees for foreign students to €2,770 for a bachelor's degree and €3,770 for a master's, new measures which officially came into force last month, although many French universities have so far not implemented them.

The decision was met with fury by students and education leaders, and as well as public protests, one group of students and professional associations brought the case to the Conseil constitutionnel, France's highest court that rules on constitutional matters.

However, although the ruling is a victory for the students group, there are still some unanswered questions, including a caveat in the court's ruling that “modest” fees can still be levied.

Bosses at French universities, who have in general been against the proposed hikes, are now demanding greater clarity from the government over what this ruling means.



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France to make period products free for students

The French government said on Tuesday it would make period products free for students, joining a global drive to end "period poverty" - the inability to pay for menstrual protection.

France to make period products free for students
Last year, Scotland became the first country in the world to offer free universal access to period products. Photo: Andy Buchanan / AFP

Higher Education Minister Frederique Vidal said that machines containing free tampons, sanitary towels and other period products would be installed in student residences and university health services in the coming weeks.

She added that the government aimed to make period protection “completely free of charge” for all by the start of the next academic year in September.

In November, Scotland became the first country in the world to make period products free for all, blazing a trail that inspired feminists and anti-poverty campaigners around the world to also take up the issue of period poverty.

In England, free period products are available in all primary and secondary schools – a move New Zealand said last week it too would implement.

In December, President Emmanuel Macron had promised to also address the issue of period poverty.

Commenting on the plight of homeless women, he noted that “the fact of having your period in the street and to not be able to buy something to protect yourself and preserve your dignity” added to the humiliation they suffered.

The move to make sanitary protection free for students comes amid a growing focus on youth poverty following shock images of food banks being swamped by hard-up students due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many students say they are struggling to make ends meet after losing part-time jobs in cafes and restaurants which have been closed for months due to the health crisis.