Higher university tuition fees for foreigners should not affect the attendance of African students

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From now on, a non-European student will pay 2,770 euros for a license instead of 170 and 3,770 euros for a master, compared to 243 previously. What consequences for African students?

The Council of State gave on July 1, 2020 the green light to a significant increase in the registration fees for foreign students, rejecting the appeal of several student associations including UNEF. This decision should not weigh on the arrival of African students in France, according to the study of an academic.

Students outside the European Union will see their university registration fees increased to 2 770 euros in license and 3 770 euros for a master’s, compared to 170 and 243 euros respectively for young Europeans. Doctoral students would be exempt. A decision which, according to some experts, should have little influence on the arrival of African students in France.

Only a handful of universities had decided to implement this increase in fees for foreigners outside the European Union from the start of the 2019 academic year, decided in 2018 by the French government. In October 2019, the Constitutional Council had nevertheless enshrined the principle of free public higher education. However, nothing stands in the way of registration fees. “modest” be perceived “taking into account, where appropriate, the financial capacities of the students”, had decided the Sages. It remained to clarify the interpretation of the term “modest”.

This is what the Council of State did, which clarified that “the low cost of the registration fees required from users following training in public higher education with a view to obtaining national diplomas must be assessed in the light of the cost of these training courses”. Or, le “average annual cost” undergraduate, master, doctorate or graduate engineer titles are valued at 10,210 euros, he recalls. Or approximately three times the amount of the registration fees provided.

A decision that worries African students, even if aid and “total exemptions” are provided for the most disadvantaged. Scholarships are awarded each year and “international mobility students may be eligible for some of them“, explains the Council of State. They can also benefit from a “total or partial exemption from the registration fees charged to them”.

France attracts a large number of African students every year. In 2019, 46% of the 350,000 foreign students in France were from the continent. Morocco is the first country of origin for foreign students (12%), followed by Algeria (9%), China (9%), Italy (4%), Tunisia (4%) and Senegal (3%) … If France is the first non-English-speaking country welcoming non-European students, foreign students in France represent only 5% of the 5,100,000 international students on the move worldwide. By 2030, the number of these could exceed 10 million individuals.

Welcoming foreign and especially African students is part of France’s influence strategy (French soft power). According to a study by the academic Fabien Chareix, higher registration fees should not necessarily mean lower “of the mobility of African students to France”. The researcher indicates that it is not free studies that guide their choice, but academic excellence and the value of diplomas.

As proof, more and more African students are choosing international and not only towards countries which offer them scholarships or with which they have linguistic proximity.

Before even introducing higher registration fees, France welcomed fewer African studentsFabien Chareix, lecturer at the SorbonneStudy on the mobility of African students

This professor at the Sorbonne explains that it is not the free university that will encourage African students to no longer look towards the United States, Great Britain, Saudi Arabia or China, but the quality the reception, monitoring, orientation, social coverage and academic excellence that France can give them.

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