Immigration bill: incoherent measures reducing France's competitiveness

20/12/2023 - 20/12/2023
Last night, French Parliament adopted the Immigration bill, notably endorsing the principle of a deposit for foreign students wishing to study in France.

French Engineering Schools, represented by CDEFI, deplore measures likely to significantly harm the international attractiveness of French higher education in general, and Engineering schools in particular, in a context of a strong international competition to attract talents.

While the "Bienvenue en France" plan, started in 2019, envisaged welcoming 500,000 foreign students a year by 2027, to put France back among the most attractive countries, this bill takes a diametrically opposite direction. Combined with the end of the possibility of waiving tuition fees for certain foreign students, this text is the very opposite of the humanist and merit-based values that underpin the reputation of our higher education system. It also deprives France of a real talent pool.

CDEFI points out that France needs more 15,000 engineering graduates a year to meet the challenges of ecological transition and sustainable reindustrialisation. Foreign students at Engineering schools, selected on the basis of difficult competitive exams, currently account for 18% of enrolments, including 16% from outside the European Union. These foreign students contribute to strengthening the economic and cultural ties between France and its international partners. For our companies, both in France and abroad, these links open up new opportunities for partnerships and innovation.

France is also short of PhDs, as highlighted by the recent mission launched by the French Ministers of Higher Education and Research and Industry, Sylvie Retailleau and Roland Lescure, whose aim is to "increase the proportion of PhDs among researchers in companies and the proportion of engineers undertaking a doctoral thesis". At a time when Foreigners account for half of all doctoral students enrolled in Engineering schools (48%, -5 points over one year), these measures run counter to the declared political objectives. 

The French engineering schools are opposed to the various measures concerning foreign students, and reiterate their call for an ambitious, humanist public policy to welcome foreign students wishing to pursue higher education in France. CDEFI is calling for these measures to be abandoned, and maintains that it is not possible to shine by shutting oneself away or shutting oneself at home.

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