Written by Joanna Hughes

With countries increasingly angling to capture a greater share of the international higher education market,education reforms in France may position it for success. Here’s a closer look at the plans, as recently reported by Times Higher Education.

More Autonomy Ahead for Universities?

In response to issues including unprepared first-year undergraduates and high dropout rates of 60 percent at French universities, higher education minister Frédérique Vidal debuted reforms which will “lead to a more stratified, UK-style system.”  The changes are also anticipated to make the country’s universities more appealing to international applicants.

For starters, while a lottery system currently determines which students will gain entrance to oversubscribed courses (a policy which the Macron administration has deemed to be “dehumanizing” and “unjust”), universities will now be allowed to choose which students are accepted.

Universities will also gain the ability to institute mandatory preparatory courses for applicants, compared to the current system in which all high school graduates are automatically guaranteed spots.

Toward a New Image Overseas

According to Gilles Roussel, president of France’s Conference of University Presidents, the reforms represent a “small revolution” in France because of the element of selectivity they introduce to the higher education system. This, in turn, will be a boon for domestic talent and international student recruitment alike. Says Roussel, “It should give the French license [undergraduate degree] a new image for the French and for foreign students.”

Other benefits hoped to result from the reforms? Universities may become more competitive with France’s elite grandes écoles institutions, which may prevent bright talent not admitted to these highly selective entities from going abroad, according to higher education consultant Sebastian Stride. Meanwhile, higher education policy expert Catherine Paradeise suggests that the reforms may also lead to a shift toward vocational education and an overall “better distribution” of students.

Read more about studying in France.



Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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