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Student visas being processed on a priority basis, says French ambassador

After two years of pandemic related lockdowns, when international travel was restricted, Indian students are now choosing to go to foreign campuses again in large numbers. France, which has for many years, been a popular destination for Indians for a wide array of courses, too, is again attracting a significant number of students. “France has opened the doors of its academic powerhouses to talented young Indians through various scholarships, waivers, incentives, and collaboration programmes,” Emmanuel Lenain, Ambassador of France to India, told the Times of India. Since January 2022, more than 4000 Indian students have chosen France for higher studies. And according to the last official data collected post-COVID, there were around 6000 Indian students in France in the academic year 2020-2021.
The French Embassy is, in fact, processing student visas on a priority basis. “We are glad that student visa applications are booming again after the pandemic slowdown. While other categories of visas are seeing longer processing times at the moment, due to an exceptional surge in applications, we have done our utmost to ensure student visas are not affected,” the ambassador said. The French embassy has ensured that there are dedicated visa appointment slots reserved for students and their applications are processed on a priority basis. “On average, the student visa turnaround time has not suffered from delays. We encourage students to reach out to their nearest Campus France representative who will assist them every step of the way,” Ambassador Lenain said. Campus France is a French government agency that counsels international students seeking to pursue higher studies in the country.
Marie Pierre Pechoutre, international manager for masters courses at Centrale Nantes, a science and engineering university, finds that there is a lot of interest in India for engineering courses in France that are taught in English. “Our campus is in Nantes, an industrial hub, and many of our international students find internships and jobs, after their master’s degree, with several companies using our campus recruitment platform. While many of our masters programmes are taught completely in English, we are creating a three-year bachelor’s of science and engineering programme too which will be fully taught in English to be launched in 2023,” she said.
Stephane Thys, head of strategic partnerships , international networks and promotion, University of Lille, who was in India last month as part of a Campus France Tour delegation, feels that there is a growing demand for master’s degree courses at his university, being offered in English, from technology and sciences students in India. “There is also interest from Indian research and PhD students to join University of Lille, which is a large public university. While this year there are only 80 Indian students; based on the interest, we are expecting the number to increase considerably next year,” Thys said. Low tuition fees at public universities are a big attraction for Indian students going to study in France. Several scholarships are also available. Masters students have the advantage of gaining three to six months of professional experience during their internship, along with the availability of a one-year post study work visa facility. “We do not discriminate between domestic and foreign students for tuition fees; the cost of living, too, is cheaper compared with many other overseas education destinations,” Thys added.
Caroline Duval, a representative of ESDES Business School, who was also in India last month; feels that with all the restrictions having now been lifted, many students from India are keen on studying at business schools in France. “We have found a lot of interest among Indian students in our management programmes and hope that next year there will be many enrolments. While courses are offered in English, Indian students also have an opportunity to soak in French culture and lifestyle which is attractive,” Duval said.
Most Indian students in France seek master’s degrees in management studies (70%), according to official figures from the Embassy of France. Engineering programmes come next (11%) and the remaining 19% is evenly spread among different majors, such as humanities, hospitality and tourism, or STEM. Around 3 to 5% of Indian students are pursuing studies at the doctoral level.
Availability of many courses that are fully taught in English and very low or no tuition fees are some of the reasons that attract Indian students to universities in France. “Education in France for foreign students is relatively affordable, which may come as a surprise given how well French universities and colleges rank globally. This is because the actual high cost of education is greatly subsidised by the French taxpayer. It’s the choice we made for our international friends,” Ambassador Lenain said. At public universities, the French government covers most of the cost of students’ education, which includes numerous scholarship opportunities, according to official figures from the embassy. Foreign students pay no more than €3000 a year for the bachelor’s level and €4,000 a year for a master’s degree. And they benefit from housing allowance as well as medical insurance just like domestic French students.

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