Campus France: Choisir la France! By: Maya Jarjour for ARABNEWS Higher education in France is recognized worldwide for its excellence.

Higher education in France is recognized worldwide for its excellence.

French successes in manufacturing, technology, science (space, transportation, medicine, mathematics) and the number of Nobel prizes and Field medals that French citizens bring home, demonstrate that France is one of the world’s most dynamic centers of innovation and research. However, very few Saudis choose to study there because a) they are not familiar with France’s education system and b) they don’t speak French.

That shouldn’t be the case anymore, though. With the recent opening of the Campus France office in Jeddah last January, it is now easier than ever for residents of Saudi Arabia to become familiar with the system and pursue their university studies in France.

Campus France, under the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, is students’ contact for studying in France. It can help you choose your program, look for financial assistance and prepare for your stay in France.

The creation of Campus France is part of the policy pursued by the French government to increase the attractiveness of France for foreign students. It aims to promote French higher education throughout the world by offering international students a pathway to success through postsecondary study in France. In France, a Campus France representative is embedded in every higher education and research cluster in France.

Campus France has 117 offices worldwide and 24 branches in 89 countries. The main goal of Campus France’s offices abroad, called “Espaces,” is to coordinate services for international students interested in studying in France, from the initial gathering of information right up to the point of preliminary enrolment.

In Saudi Arabia, the offices’ main goal is encouraging Saudis to study in France. “We aim to give a clear explanation of France’s higher education system to Saudis, as they are our number one priority,” said Salma Atassi-Farhat who is in charge of Espace Campus France in Jeddah.

She added that Saudis with scholarships, either from Saudi government, universities, hospitals, or from the private sector, get many advantages, including an exemption from visa fees.

The Jeddah office is located on the premises of the General Consulate of France and under the direct authority of the Cultural Attaché.

“We provide prospective students with information on universities and the programs available, answers any questions they might have and accompany them through the process of obtaining a student visa. We also help them with regards to learning French, as well as planning their stay in France and their return home,” added Mrs. Atassi-Farhat.

The main website, www.campusfrance.org, has information in French, and English. However, every outside office has a website in the language of that country. “Right now, we have an Arabic website, but we are still developing it,” said Mrs. Atassi-Farhat. Once completed, the Saudi website will ensure the academic success of Saudi students in France.

Nearly 300 students, mostly Saudis, leave Jeddah and the surrounding areas of Madinah, Makkah and Taif every year to pursue their university studies in France.

Even though she helps all prospective students and provides them with the information needed, she does not register the student or apply for him/her. “I want students to rely on themselves because they will be forced to do that in France, I will show them how to choose the right program and how to apply online” she said.

Campus France is for anyone looking to study in France no matter which program. This includes all kinds of degrees from bachelor’s, masters and doctorate to continuing education and professional training. “I have petrol engineers who come to me because they want to get some training in France, and I also get pilots over 40 years of age who want to enrol in flying courses there,” said Mrs Atassi-Farhat.

A common misconception is that you need to know French to study in France. Many people don’t know that they can be granted a student visa to study the language there.

“All they have to do is get an acceptance from a language institute there for more than six months and they can obtain a student visa,” explained Mrs. Atassi-Farhat. “I provide them with a list of language institutes, so they can apply. After improving their language and passing the DELF (Diplome d’Etude de Langue Francaise) exam, they can enrol in a university. This is in contrast to students doing the BAC (French baccalaureate), as they have to go through a different procedure where we follow up with the school and get the answer for them.”

“Either way it is not hard to get accepted. You just need to have all the information in order to open a file,” she added. Then, once the student visa is granted, it must be renewed every year, according to the student’s success.

Even more, Espace Campus France in Jeddah has a partnership with the Saudi-French Centre (Le Centre Franco-Saoudien) in Jeddah. The French Language Institute, under the Cultural Service of the French General Consulate, provides French courses for adults in all levels — starting  from beginner to advanced levels, for men and women.

“Our aim is to cooperate with Saudi people and help students master the French language in order to be able to study in France and then work and study in any of the fields they choose. We do that by developing their listening, writing, comprehension and speaking skills,” said Hakim Aissat, Head Teacher at the Saudi French Center, adding that they mainly have Saudis registering at the center. “Saudis. “In our center around 70 % of the students are Saudis”.

“Even if students learn the basics before they leave to France, it will help them learn the language more quickly there,” added Mr Aissat.

What’s also great about studying in France is that one is not limited to studying in French. “English is definitely an option, as there are many programs taught in English, such as engineering schools, management, business schools, hospitality, tourism and restauration schools and art schools” said Mrs Atassi-Farhat. “Living in France is a rich experience in itself culture wise, educational wise and art wise. It’s a different flavour there, so we encourage everyone to go there.”

Keep in mind that the quality of education is excellent. “The French Government allocates an important budget for education. France has very qualified teachers, good schools, hospitals  etc,” she explained.

Mrs Atassi-Farhat advises students to contact the Campus France office early in their final year of high school, so that they become familiar with what’s needed. That way, they will know when is the deadline for submitting papers. “I also advise everyone to enrol in at least one course of French at the Saudi-French Centre, as knowing some basics will help you get around, and you can continue there.”

For further information, visit www.campusfrance.org or call: (02) 6681550. You can also visit the “Espace Campus France” at the General Consulate of France in Al Shouaraa Street in Al Hamra.

The Saudi-French Centre, which has been around for more than 15 years, has offices in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam. Each level spans a total of 40 hours in a period of six weeks. Classes are given three times a week — Saturday, Monday and Wednesday — from either 6 to 8 p.m. or 8 to 10 p.m. at the French School. Cost is SR 1,650 (SR 1,350 for students) plus SR 250 for books. The institute also offers training to French teachers and provides students with a worldwide recognised diploma from French government - known as DELF/DALF - allowing students to enrol in any French university without taking the previous entrance selection test. The=> Jeddah office can be reached at (02) 6681548.