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France Plans English-Language Boost to Increase International Student Numbers

Universities in France will offer more courses in English, in a bid to attract even more international students -- it hopes at least 50 percent more in the next decade.

France, currently the world's top non-English-speaking destination for international students, is home to some of the world's top universities and business schools, including the Sorbonne.

According to Reuters, the prime minister Edouard Philippe said the international student population fell by 8.5 percent between 2011 and 2016, and that it faces increasing competition from Germany, Russia, Canada, and China.

Philippe said, "Many countries are already building global attractivity strategies, linking studies, the job market, tourism, which explains the influence of Asia or monarchies in the Gulf. In this field just as in other economic ones, the world's balance of power is shifting. That's why we need to welcome more foreign students."

How will the plan work? France will simplify student visa regulations but also increase tuition and fees for students outside the European Economic Area, so as to provide better facilities. The fees will still be lower with Britain and will be competitive with other European countries.

Philippe added, "We are constantly compared, audited, judged among 10 other possible destinations. In an age of social media, no one can rest on its reputation only."

Reuters reported that current fees of about $195 per year for a bachelor's degree in France -- the same amount that French students pay -- is misinterpreted by students in other countries as a sign of lower quality.

Starting in September 2019, non-EU students will pay about $3,000 for a bachelor's, and more for master's and PhD degrees.

Philippe explained, "That means France will still subsidize two-thirds of the cost of their studies. And the fees will remain well below the 8,000 euros to 13,000 euros charged by the Dutch or the tens of thousands of pounds paid in Britain."

The efforts to push the country as an international study destination appear to be working, as last year foreign student numbers in France increased 4.5% on the year before.