Dr Daniel Gordon, History Erasmus and Study Abroad Tutor

On 10 May 2019 I was invited to the French Ambassador’s Residence in London to a reception to mark the launch of Campus France UK. This information office is a branch of the French government agency promoting opportunities in France for foreign students and researchers, as part of a strategy of welcoming half a million international students to France annually by 2027, including by developing more programmes taught in English.

Béatrice Khiat, Director-General of Campus France, after emphasising France and the UK’s shared values at a time of immense geopolitical challenges, pointed out that although France is the number 1 destination for outgoing British Erasmus students, they number only 4,000 per year, compared to 11,000 French students coming to the UK. A brochure was distributed with some fascinating facts on international student mobility: France is already the world’s most popular non-anglophone destination country. It also sends far more students abroad, ranking 6th among sending countries, while Britain is far outside even the top 20. There is room for growth in both directions given that the UK has been overtaken this decade by Belgium and Canada as the leading destination for French students.

Other speakers, including past UK students in France and the Director of Universities UK International, testified to some of the many benefits of studying abroad: understanding that your viewpoint is not naturally the viewpoint of everyone around you; learning how to disagree well; the time to explore another culture; access to primary sources; and exposure to different teaching – the special rigour of the French system stays with you your whole life.

It is incredibly helpful for Edge Hill to have a regular seat at this milieu of French ambassadorial receptions where Oxbridge and Russell Group universities are massively overrepresented (one Erasmus tutor present sends as many as 73 students to study in France a year, from one department). For example, I met representatives of Franco-British Connections, a cross-Channel student network, who offered to come to speak at Edge Hill to encourage future students. This peer-to-peer support is vital, because it was pointed out that one of the biggest barriers to participation is students worrying about the mundane practicalities of living abroad, so getting information from and making connections with peers in advance can make all the difference. I also caught up with the Vice-President of the University of Rouen, one of our Erasmus partners, who was delighted to hear of the achievements of current Rouen History and English students at Edge Hill.