French universities under “threat” from National Rally, academics warn

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In a joint statement with organisations across French higher education, France Universités said that if the National Rally (RN) is elected, it would compromise the reception of international students in France, threaten the independence of higher education and the autonomy of academic research.

“The policy supported by the National Rally endangers our higher education and the opportunity it offers to all young people, regardless of their background, origins and social background.

“It compromises the reception of foreign students, some of whom will become doctoral students and will participate, tomorrow, in the influence of French science in the world,” it stated.

Marine Le Pen’s far-right RN party won an unprecedented victory in the first round of France’s snap general election, securing its place as the biggest political party regardless of what happens in the second round of voting on July 7.

The RN came top in more than half of French constituencies, winning 33% of the popular vote, followed by the leftwing New Popular Front (28%) and President Macron’s centrist Together bloc (21%).

However, political leaders from the left and centre are calling for tactical voting to block the RN from winning an outright majority and current projections suggest that voting could result in a hung parliament.

Student mobility supported by the Erasmus program, which has been popular for many years, is in danger

France Universités

The anti-immigration party is known for its doctrine of “national priority”, giving French citizens priority over non-nationals for jobs, welfare and housing.

The RN’s president, Jordan Bardella, unveiled the party’s manifesto pledges to limit immigration and scrap nationality rights for children born and raised in France by foreign parents.

France’s higher education community highlighted the danger of the RN’s Eurosceptic views, that it warned could create an environment where European universities are no longer welcome “and where student mobility supported by the Erasmus program, which has been popular for many years, is in danger.”

As of 2022, France had the most staff and students taking part in Erasmus+ exchanges of any European country, with almost 53,000 people benefiting from the program.

Fourteen percent of France’s student population currently come from overseas, with Morocco, Algeria and China the top countries of origin for international students.

“Personally, I am concerned about the image that France will have abroad among our partner schools. Already, numbers of foreign students have been dropping… and this will not help,” Susan Gibbs, head of international relations at an engineering school in the west of France told The PIE News.

“It’s a sad moment for the country of Liberté, Egalité et Fraternité but I don’t think that anyone could say it was a complete surprise,” added Gibbs.

Salah Hassanien, co-founder of StudentGator EdTech startup that supports applications from international students, recognised the impact politics would have on its operations, “especially concerning visas – which are already very stressful for students – and the welcoming of international students”.

“We remain hopeful that any new government will continue to recognise and support the essential role of international students in France. Our commitment to facilitating their integration into France will remain unchanged,” Hassanien told The PIE.

As well as student mobility, France’s higher education community warned that the RN would threaten the independence of higher education, “as well as the autonomy of its research and the academic and pedagogical freedom of those who are responsible for the training of young people”.

“We cannot accept the political project of the National Rally without betraying [the values of the Republic] and the spirit of the Enlightenment, which is at the very foundation of the University and our schools,” the statement read.

“It is universal and humanist values that are in danger: openness to others, tolerance, intellectual curiosity and critical thinking,” it added.

The post French universities under “threat” from National Rally, academics warn appeared first on The PIE News.

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