France awards first “Bienvenue en France” quality designations

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • France is moving forward with an ambitious strategy to significantly expand its foreign enrolment
  • The next step in this process unfolded this month with an initial group of 25 higher education institutions awarded a new designation for the quality of their international student services

France’s Minister of Higher Education, Frédérique Vidal, has awarded an initial round of “Bienvenue en France” quality labels to 25 higher education institutions. The announcement was made at an 8 July Campus France event in Paris.

The “Bienvenue en France” label is a pillar of the country’s new international education strategy designed to attract 500,000 foreign students by 2027. The label is awarded to institutions that meet newly defined national standards of student services for foreign students.

The first 25 recipients of the “Bienvenue en France” label at the announcement event in Paris, 8 July 2019, with Minister Frédérique Vidal in the foreground
The first 25 recipients of the “Bienvenue en France” label at the announcement event in Paris, 8 July 2019, with Minister Frédérique Vidal in the foreground.

To earn the label, an institution must demonstrate – through an evidence-backed self-evaluation process – that it meets Campus France requirements for a minimum of 10 service standards (out of a total field of up to 20 indicators).

Those key indicators are broadly grouped in five categories:

  • Quality and accessibility of information for international students (e.g., multilingual website, clear programme information)
  • Student orientation and welcome services (e.g., reception desk, orientation documents)
  • Academic programmes (e.g., courses offered in English, French language training, preparatory programmes)
  • Housing and campus life (e.g., housing services, student counselling)
  • Post-graduation follow-up (e.g., career supports, alumni services)
Bienvenue en France

Beyond the initial group of 25 recipients for the new quality mark, another 135 French institutions are currently at various stages of the application process.

“You are the forerunners,” Minister Vidal said to representatives from the first 25 designated institutions. “[The “Bienvenue en France” label is a] guarantee of the quality of welcome offered by your institutions to international students and guarantee of confidence for all those who choose you.”

Based on student research

The “Bienvenue en France” label, and the institutional requirements it emphasises, derive in part from a 2017 Campus France survey of international students and foreign alumni of French institutions.

That survey, along with similar research efforts in 2011 and 2013, demonstrated that foreign students recognise France for its cultural influence, its rich history, and the quality and prestige of its academic programmes. The same survey, however, revealed key areas for improvement, particularly in terms of student services, cost of housing, administrative processes, career supports, and alumni networks.

Among the first 25 institutions to win the “Bienvenue en France” designation are Aix Marseille Université, École Polytechnique, Université́ Paris-Sud, and the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne.

“The quality of the reception of international students is a fundamental issue for the internationalisation and attractiveness of our university,” said University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne President Guillaume Gellé. “The ‘Bienvenue en France’ label confirms the international strategy, initiated several years ago by our institution. We must continue this process in order to attract more and more students and international researchers, who contribute to the development and the influence of our university and France in the world.”

The list also includes three Grandes Ecoles de Management: ESSEC Business School, IMT Business School, and Burgundy School of Business (BSB).

“It is an honour for BSB to be one of the first institutions to be accredited,” said Marie-José Albert-Batt, director of international relations at the institution. “But more than that, this label testifies to BSB’s excellence in terms of welcoming the 500 international students who come to our campus each year. It validates our strategy and efforts in this area, and provides us with an additional element of outreach.”

Both the “Bienvenue en France” label programme and the country’s overarching recruitment strategy aim to strengthen France’s position in global education markets. France has lost ground in the international student market over the last 15 years or so, mainly because several other destinations have seen their foreign enrolments grow more quickly since 2000. France is now the seventh-largest study destination worldwide, whereas in the early 2000s it was the fourth-ranked destination.

To reach its target of 500,000 foreign students by 2027 (from a base of 343,000 students in 2017/18), France will have to maintain an average annual growth rate of roughly 5% over the next decade. This is more than double the average annual growth rate for the country over the last ten years.

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