The French government has a longstanding policy of hosting foreign students of outstanding ability, not just attracting as many foreign students as possible -- and Taiwanese students are welcome to study in France, a French education official said on Friday.
The French Institute in Taipei issued more than 700 visas to Taiwanese students last year, a 15 percent increase year-on-year.
This is an encouraging sign that Taiwanese students have noticed the advantages of studying in France, said Gerard Binder, President of the CampusFrance (CF) Agency.
CF, an inter-agency government institution, provides a one-stop service for foreign students who are interested in studying in France, Binder said.
Taiwanese students perceive France as a country that has been responsible for great achievements in culture, literature and the arts, he said.
While France has done well in those categories, he said, people tend to ignore its strong performance in technology, communications and aerospace, Binder said.
He encouraged Taiwanese students to explore "the other side of France."
With an annual education budget of 2.5 billion euros (US$3.63 billion), every university in France is funded by the government.
This means that local and foreign students can receive higher education "almost free of charge," Binder said.
Students also have a large number of schools to choose from, he said, as some may prefer to enroll in specialized schools with good reputations in, for example, cooking, business management or design.
Binder said that although students can get courses in English, they are encouraged to learn basic French.
English is one of the most used languages in the world, but Taiwanese students can learn French as a second foreign language, he said.
In the coming years the French government intends to work on various joint degree programs with Taiwanese institutions to increase bilateral exchanges, Binder said.
France is ranked No. 3 in the world in the number of foreign students, behind the US' 560,000 and the UK's 275,000.
The French government is not looking to attract more foreign students to make money, he said, but rather to host outstanding students, a deal that can benefit both sides.