This is one of the most striking phenomena of recent decades in higher education: international mobility is now an integral part of a large part of the courses. Only here, significantly complicating travel, the Covid-19 pandemic has put a brake on these exchanges. Both for the reception of foreign students and for the departure of young French people beyond our borders.
France, the sixth largest destination in the world with around 370,000 foreign students, granted 25% fewer visas in 2020 than the previous year to young people wishing to join its training establishments. A reduction after all limited. And that seems to be followed by a rebound. “The first figures for the year 2021-2022 indicate a slight increase compared to 2019, in particular from Africa and South America”, thus advances the Ministry of Higher Education.
In a context of great competition between host countries, the government has set up a health protocol which authorizes the arrival of foreign students, even if they come from a country classified as red, particularly affected by Covid-19. A device is planned to vaccinate them – if they are not already – as soon as they arrive in France.
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Studying abroad, “a compelling reason”
Regarding outgoing mobility this time, “Participation in a university exchange program is one of the ‘compelling reasons’ which allow French students to go abroad to countries in the red category”, indicates the ministry. Provided of course to submit to the rules which prevail on the spot (1).
Here too, the number of French students going abroad for an academic stay or an internship should increase, after two years of decline, suggests the Erasmus + agency (2). “But many establishments are refocusing their exchanges on Europe”, she emphasizes.
The difficulties encountered since the onset of the pandemic have in any case not altered the desire for international openness of the apprenticeship training center (CFA) of Niort (Deux-Sèvres). “Last year, because of the confinement, we had to cancel the stay of one of our groups in Catalonia, barely a week before departure,” says her Erasmus + referent, Nadège Ayrault. This does not prevent him from preparing today for a two-week internship in Rome, in October, for seven apprentice butchers.
Last minute confirmation
Universities, grandes écoles, CFA… Those in higher education and training have learned to be flexible in order to preserve as much as possible a mobility synonymous with openness. “I was to start studying in Moscow on 1er September, but the conditions for entering Russia seemed too complicated ”, testifies Emma, in L3 of history and economy in Paris. “I was able to postpone this stay until the second semester, hoping that the health situation will settle down by then. I will probably only have confirmation at the last moment. “
In this context of uncertainty, more and more establishments are offering “hybrid” mobility. This consists of first following the courses of the partner university at a distance, while waiting for the sanitary conditions to finally allow them to get on a plane and go and sit on their benches.