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Improving the attractiveness of France for international students

Some countries, such as the United States, Canada and Germany, retain more than 60% of foreign graduates. France is distinguished by a lower retention rate. This is a weakness for a country that is seeking to reindustrialise, says El Mouhoub Mouhoud.

Despite progress in “talent passport” entries, France’s attractiveness for global skills remains much lower than that of major industrialized countries. However, the reindustrialization and relocation policies in vogue today are closely linked to issues of training and also of attracting international students. In the United States, the first country far ahead of all the others for the international demand for AI skills, the international attractiveness of students is a powerful vector for technological innovation and the conquest of competitive advantages. A true strategy to attract global talent largely involves attracting and retaining international students. More than 60% of international graduates stay in Canada, the United States or Germany to be employed. France is distinguished by a lower retention rate.

Fighting against wage downgrading

Three objectives must be defined. The first must be to promote the impact of France’s attraction for international students. It is necessary to increase the retention rates of international graduates, to promote integration into employment for a minimum period of five years and to aim for ten years from the outset for research and strategic sectors. Secondly, correct the threshold effects of hiring salaries to combat salary downgrading, which hinders eligibility for the talent passport. The salaries distributed to potential candidates are too often below the required threshold, disqualifying qualified candidates.

“Globalization in situ

The second must be to benefit from the expertise of OECD countries. First of all, we need to improve our English courses to attract foreign students. Universities are already introducing incentives for this, but it is not enough. Internationalisation objectives for universities must be included in the contracts of objectives and means signed with the Ministry of Higher Education and Research. It is also necessary for our higher education institutions to organize an “ in situ globalization” of international students. This will create links with their students who can then study in France. Creating campuses abroad is a way to strengthen our international position in both education and research. The continuing education exported to our campuses abroad is a powerful means of creating economic and cultural links with the host countries. This must be a priority.

The third objective is to promote the sharing of the benefits of brain drain with the countries of the South and to promote co-development. Opening campuses in Africa, whose population will double by 2050, is the best link with African populations eager for knowledge and training in a context of growing geopolitical decoupling with France. Simple proposals can be put forward. Retaining international students for a minimum period of 5 years in France promotes feedback to the country of origin. Companies in the South as well as subsidiaries of multinationals have understood that this return of skills must result in salaries aligned with French salaries for the same qualifications. There is also a need to increase the number of work-study programmes and apprenticeships. To keep local elites in place to promote economic development, it is necessary to build high-quality master’s degree training in work-study/apprenticeship in association with the local economic fabric.

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