Tuesday, September 6, 2011

University in France

Daughter 1 sets off for university in Lyon in less than two weeks, how time flies, it only seems a moment since we were dropping her off at the infant school every morning…but it has made me realise how cunning parents in the UK are.
Students in England complain about having to pay off their fee loans and maintenance loans for the next 25 years,  but their parents are quietly celebrating – they now have no pressure to contribute to the costs of having their child go off to university! So you aren’t about to see parents voting against student loans any day soon…
Meanwhile in France there are no university fees to pay, but of course there are still costs for accommodation, food, books and transport. Guess who has the pleasure of picking up the tab? Woo hoo it’s me!
There are grants for lower earning families, up to about 3000 euros a year maximum I think, which about one in three families apparently benefit from. And it is possible to include a deduction on your French tax return if you have to support a child at university (up to about 5700 euros if my memory is correct).
And finally a percentage of the studen’ts rent can be reclaimed from CAF. This is typically about 200 euros rebate on a  monthly rent of 500 euros, but if you claim this you’ll lose out on any child allowance you are receiving – typically 150 euros a month, but depends on the number of children you have.
So the net result is that parents in France are having to shell out several thousand euros a year, while those in the UK can just smile and hand the lucky student a loan application form, and a balaclava to wear at his next ‘NO MORE FEES’ protest march.
To make matters more complicated, more or less everyone in France who passes their BAC can get a place in university. Instead of a complicated application process, most universities just say ‘everyone can come’ but they also say ‘but if you’re no good we’ll throw you out after the first year’. So a typical university course will have a 50% failure rate at the end of year 1.
So if you think university education for everyone is a great idea – spare a thought for us parents of children in France!

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