Universities: How Foreign Students Face French Strikes

french strikes

They are English, Spanish, or Czechs and have chosen to study in France in prestigious schools like the Sorbonne or the University of Paris VIII. This year they have improved their French skills but mostly learned how to deal with one of the most famous French specialty: the strike.

During months, tens of thousands of students took the streets in cities across France to protest against job cuts and status changes. In 83 universities, teaching has stopped for several weeks and now that the semester is almost over everyone is getting anxious about year-end exams. The Higher Education and Research Minister, Valérie Pécresse, announced several measures to guarantee fair examinations which should take place in July and September instead of June.

But for foreign students, strikes are not just a great opportunity to spare time in museums. They are a huge logistic problem:

  • Some had already booked their flight to go back home,
  • Others don’t have any place to stay after June
  • But the worse situation is probably for those who have a grant or visa that depends on the diploma validation

Paris deals with more than 600 exchange agreements and tries to reassure all its partners that, whatever happens, students will leave the country with evaluations done. The goal of these reforms was initially to cut costs and modernize the higher education system. But now it represents a serious risk for the system itself and for French education prestige internationally.  Today France is the third welcoming country worldwide for foreign studies after USA and UK, with more than 260 000 students coming from other countries every year, that is to say 15% of students*.

* Source: Campus France: http://editions.campusfrance.org/catalogues/formations_en/intro.pdf

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