A bill in France’s parliament that would allow French universities to increase the number of courses taught in English is running into fierce opposition, the international news channel France 24 reports. Lawmakers have denounced the bill as a signal of France’s “waning influence,” a “humiliation to French speakers,” and a “suicidal project,” with criticism coming even from members of the party of the higher-education minister, Geneviève Fioraso, a Socialist, who introduced the measure.
The bill, offered as a way to raise the country’s profile in international higher education, would allow some university-level classes to be taught in English if they were part of an accord with a foreign institution, or if they had financial backing from the European Union.
Ms. Fioraso argues that more English-language instruction would allow French universities to compete better for the world’s brightest students, many of whom come from the English-speaking world. “India has one billion inhabitants, including 60 million computer scientists,” she recently told a group of students, but French universities enroll only 3,000 Indian students. “We look ridiculous,” she said.
A number of distinguished French academic leaders and scientists, including two Nobel laureates, recently argued in favor of the bill in a commentary in Le Monde. English is already the lingua franca that scientists use to communicate, the authors write, and the language of choice for most scientific conferences and publications. Allowing more English-language instruction would make France more attractive to foreign students and scholars, they argue, thus promoting the country’s position in the world.