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France becomes favoured destination for students from Kerala seeking to study abroad

Indian students used to prefer English-speaking nations; this trend is changing now

Representative image | AP Representative image | AP

A recent study by academicians Bhagat R.B. and Sulaiman K.M. of the International Institute of Population Sciences made an interesting observation about Kerala youth. The study, which had a sample size of 491 students, said two out of three youths from the southern state aspire to migrate abroad for a job and related activities. The study also predicted that in the coming 10 to 20 years, migration will continue as a potential life choice for achieving life goals for youth in Kerala.

The increasing number of migrant students from Kerala does substantiate the observations and predictions made by the academicians. In the last four-five years, students migrating abroad for higher studies almost doubled to over 30,000. Even small towns in Kerala now have education consultancies that arrange admissions and accommodation in foreign universities. Some of them even arrange part-time work for students. 

Language institutes teaching European languages and English are also mushrooming in the state. A lot of these students migrating to the West take educational loans. The statistical data from State Level Bankers Conference (SLBC), says the total outstanding education loans in banks in Kerala have gone up to Rs 11,061 crore in March 2022.

In October itself, Kochi witnessed multiple educational fairs. On October 9, UpGrad conducted its 'Global UniExpo 2022' in the city. Two days later, a French government initiative, 'Choose France Tour 2022', was held in Kochi. On October 18, Kochi will host another education fair in which representatives of 19 Australian universities will be present to answer the queries of students.

Traditionally, Indian students preferred English-speaking nations like the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand for higher studies. However, now, countries like France—which has more than 3.6 lakh foreign students and 1,700 academic programmes in English—are also enthusiastic now to receive students from Kerala. “We are trying to position France as a valuable alternative to English-speaking nations,” says Lise Talbot Barré, Consul General of France in Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. “There are three advantages if a person chooses to study in France. First is the high-quality higher education in France. If you take QS/Shanghai University Rankings, we have two French universities in the top 50 and six universities in the top 200. 

Fifteen French business schools have triple crowns from Financial Times. And, we have many Nobel laureates and Fields Medals. It all shows the high quality of our system. The second reason is that you do not need to study French to come to France. Over 1,700 programmes are taught in English. Also, the University fee structures are cheaper compared to the US or the UK. It is not because the quality is less, but it is a government policy to make higher education affordable.” 

France targets to have 20,000 Indian students in French universities by the year 2025. French universities are also coming up with partnership plans with local colleges and universities to have more exchange students. “We hope that in the future there will be more joining scientific and research programmes, too,” said Barre. 

Mr François-Xavier MORTREUIL Attaché for Scientific and Academic Cooperation, French Embassy, South India, says Kerala is a promising place that produces good students and that France wants to see more students coming there. “Students who are going for a post-graduation can have a 1+1 stay back VISA after PG or he can come back to India and find a job in a French company in India,” he says. “We will be more than happy to recruit an Indian student who graduated from a French school, knows French culture, and used to be in a French (work) environment.”

After China, India sends the maximum number of students abroad for studies. An estimated five lakh students are abroad, and Kerala is a major contributor to this pool. Migration fever is on; but experts in the domain note that even now there is no proper system to facilitate student mobility at the Centre or state levels, and that most migrants depend on private consultancies.

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