More than 8 out of 10 French students want to go abroad, according to a study by Campus France, the public agency responsible for promoting French higher education abroad. However, only 3.5% of all 2.1 million students in France dive each year. And one of the main obstacles at the beginning is the imperfect command of a foreign language, especially English.
However, studying abroad does not necessarily mean studying in a foreign language. French is spoken by 274 million people, according to the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie. There are many French speaking countries, especially in Europe and Africa.
Studying abroad and in French is possible. Here is an overview of the top French-speaking countries recognized for the quality of their education.
Belgium, a favorite destination for young French people
Belgium welcomes around 17,000 French students every year. The country of Tintin is thus the number one destination for young French students, according to UNESCO data.
Our neighbor is known for its academic excellence: 7 universities are ranked in the Top 500 of the QS ranking. The Catholic University of Louvain or the Free University of Brussels attract many French people. Belgium has also become a stronghold for French medical students.
Canada: a country open to students
If your desire is to cross the Atlantic, take an interest in Canada! It is no coincidence that 10,000 French students stay there every year, the country is recognized as being particularly welcoming to students from all over the world.
On their “French-speaking side”, Quebec and Montreal are particularly popular. Montreal was also named Best Student City by QS this year. Laval University in Quebec, as well as UQAM, Polytechnique, ETS, HEC Montreal and the University of Montreal offer quality French courses in all areas.
In the suburbs of Montreal, the University of Sherbrooke is also very popular with Canadian students. The English-speaking universities Concordia and McGill remain among the most prestigious, however. Another advantage: the work visa and the permanent residence visa are more easily accessible to young people who have completed two years of study in Canada.
However, tuition and travel costs must be taken into account before diving. Admittedly, these costs remain relatively limited compared to the American neighbor, but they still amount to several thousand dollars, not to mention travel costs. Finally, academic teaching is very enjoyable. Teachers generally enjoy bonding with their students. Dialogue is often in order.
Switzerland: excellence nearby
Switzerland is not far behind and has universities recognized all over the world. More than 8,000 French students cross the border each year and join one of the many French-speaking establishments in the country. Institutes specializing in technology such as the Institut de Lausanne or ETH in Zurich have a very good reputation and are recommended by French expats.
However, pay attention to tuition fees: The Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), among the best in the world, still charges 143,000 euros for 4 years of study.
The cost of living in Switzerland is also one of the highest in Europe. On the other hand, French students will not need to apply for a student visa, although Switzerland is not part of the Schengen area. However, they will have to register with the cantonal authorities once installed.
And other destinations? Pay attention to the quality of diplomas…
Earlier this year, Expat.com launched a call for testimonials on the quality of academic education abroad. In Europe, Romania seemed to stand out. Universities in Cluj and Bucharest offer courses in several languages, including French, and attract more and more students each year. Courses are not high (about 400 euros per year) and student life is very popular. Students often go there as part of the Erasmus programme. As in Switzerland, it is not necessary to apply for a study visa.
As far as francophone African countries are concerned, the feedback is more mixed. On the one hand, there are many French schools that have established satellite establishments abroad to get closer to local students, such as ESSEC in Rabat (Morocco), Kedge in Dakar (Senegal), IPAG in Abidjan (Ivory Coast), Supinfo and the School Central de Nantes at Campus Medina, in western Mauritius… Teaching is generally given in French and the diplomas received are perfectly valid in France. This is also the case of La Sorbonne, which chose to be present in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates.
African universities and schools, on the other hand, still have no wind in their sails: lack of means, quality of education not guaranteed, corruption and lack of international recognition. African students generally prefer, when they have the means, to study abroad.
The continent, however, has great resources and people of good will to advance the cause of education. Fred Swaniker is a perfect example. The young Ghanaian entrepreneur launched the African Leadership Academy in South Africa and aims to create new schools of excellence across the continent. If this is not the case at the moment, will Africa, perhaps, in a few years time, be the most popular destination among French students?
*Expat.com is an interactive network with over 1.7 million members, including over 290,000 French people.