Many young people in France dream of pursuing university studies
Many young people in France dream of pursuing university studies

For young refugees and migrants in France, studying can be expensive. The lack of resources can hinder their academic career, and even threaten their graduation. But there are bursaries available. InfoMigrants provides an overview.

Jonathan is a young man from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who arrived in France in 2019 without having completed middle school. In France, he excelled at school and managed to obtain a positive reply from each of his 25 "desired" universities. (Note: In France, high school students select their top 25 preferred institutes of higher education, the institutes then decide whether to accept the student).

His academic results led him to receive a medal from the Academy of Rennes in a ceremony in July 2022.

However, Jonathan's future is uncertain. Having turned 18 this year, the high school graduate is still waiting for his residence permit to be issued by the prefecture. Without this document, it is much harder for him to obtain the assistance he needs to finance his studies at the National Institute of Applied Sciences (INSA) in Lyon.

But some scholarships, depending on status, are still accessible for refugees to continue their studies.

1)    Bursary based on social criteria

Profiles concerned: Refugees, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, people with a residence permit, and Ukrainian refugees (with Ukrainian nationality) benefiting from temporary protection.

Children of refugees who arrived in France through the family reunification process are not eligible for this grant.

Read more: 'It hurts to admit I never went to school': Magdi, a Sudanese refugee in Paris

Issued by regional student centers (Crous), this bursary based on social criteria is "granted to students facing material difficulties that do not allow them to undertake or pursue higher education. It constitutes a complementary aid to what the family provides", explains the Ministry of Higher Education.

It is awarded to any foreign student under the age of 28, whose fiscal household has been in France for at least two years.

To apply for this bursary, you must create a Social File for Students (DSE) between January 15 and May 15 during the last year of high school on the portal, before the beginning of the school year in September/October. You can also apply for the bursary through the Ministry of Higher Education’s website if you don't apply straight after high school. At the same time, you can make a housing request at a residence for students.

Uploading a certificate issued by the establishment where you will study activates the first payment. The certificate is automatically sent to the Crous by the establishment where you are registered. 

Your rights if you are accepted:

- Payment, in the beginning of each month, of a fixed amount according to the level of necessity

- Exemption from university registration fees

- Exemption from the Contribution de Vie Étudiante et de Campus (CVEC), an annual tax collected by the Crous which amounts to 95 euros for the academic year 2022/2023

- Priority for the Crous de Paris student housing

- Meals for 1 euro at Crous university restaurants

Students are are expected to fulfil certain obligations, such as submitting homework, taking exams and carrying out internships. The institutions of higher education carry out an attendance check each semester. They then send the lists of absent students to the Crous, which can decide to suspend the payment of the scholarship and/or ask for a refund.

If you ever have to miss a class or an exam, you must provide a justification of your absence to the appropriate office at your educational institute.

Read more : France: Inclusive schooling helps migrant children to 'build a future' 

To supplement your finances, you can take a side job alongside your studies or during the holidays. You will have to continue regularly attending courses and register with Pôle Emploi (a French governmental agency which registers unemployed people and provides them with financial aid).

Note that Crous scholarships are retroactive. For example, if you apply for this aid three months after the beginning of the academic year, the three months preceding your application will be paid. You can use up to seven scholarship rights while completing your higher education. The curriculum to obtain a license as well as any other course lasting less than or equal to BAC+3 cannot allow you to have more than five scholarships.

Bonus: if you obtained the grade of "very good" in the baccalaureate, you can receive merit aid in addition to your scholarship which is based on social criteria. This will be assigned to you after you complete your DSE. The final decision to award merit-based aid is made by the rector of the host institute. Next, you will be notified and paid in nine monthly instalments of 100 euros.

2)    An annual allowance

Profiles concerned: This applies to people under the age of 35 who are eligible for the bursary based on social criteria, but who are in an even more precarious situation due to their isolation: the student no longer benefits from the material support of his or her parents, is experiencing problems within the family, or is raised by a family member (aunt, uncle, grandparents). A social evaluation will be carried out to see if the student meets the criteria. This annual allowance offers higher payments than the bursary.

For students with a disability recognized by the Commission for the Rights and Autonomy of Persons with Disabilities, there is no age limit.

To benefit from the annual allowance, you must also make your request via the Social File for Students (DSE), where you are required to explain your specific situation. A commission will decide whether you are eligible.

Your rights, in the case of a positive response: 

-The annual allowance will be paid from September to June, in 10 monthly instalments. Its total corresponds to the levels of the bursary based on social criteria.

- Exemption from university registration fees

- Exemption from Contribution de Vie Étudiante et de Campus (CVEC) fees

Students are are expected to fulfil certain obligations, such as submitting homework, taking exams, carrying out internships and diligence in class.

A new annual allowance may be awarded the following year under the same conditions and within the limit of a total number of rights foreseen for higher education scholarships based on socio-economic criteria.

Please note: The annual allowance cannot be added to a bursary based on social criteria. It can, on the other hand, be combined with aid for international mobility, emergency aid and aid based on merit.

3) Ad hoc aide

Ad hoc aid "makes it possible to take into account new, unpredictable situations that arise during the academic year," according to the website of the Ministry of Higher Education. Such situations require an emergency aid to allow the student to continue his or her studies. This type of aid, like the annual allowance, is given following an assessment of the student's situation.

Profiles concerned: All non-French students. Refugees, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, people with a residence permit, asylum seekers and students without documentation.

To benefit from this emergency grant, you must contact the Crous social service which your establishment depends upon. You cannot do the application online.

Once your file has been compiled anonymously, a commission examines your request. If necessary, a preliminary interview can take place with a Crous social worker who assesses your overall situation, particularly your university career and any difficulties you are encountering.

For Rudi Osman, founder of the Union of Exiled Students, this procedure is not the most suitable for some. "When you have serious money problems, it's hard to talk openly about it with someone who doesn't know you or your story. And proving your motivation can be just as complicated" said. The daily life of an undocumented student is exhausting, so sometimes there is a lack of energy. This can be interpreted as a lack of motivation".

Documents confirming your expenses may also be requested.

Again, says Rudi Osman, "the procedure is disconnected from the reality experienced every day by exiles. Many undocumented students who pay their rent informally do not have a receipt. To feed themselves, these people - like many asylum seekers – depend on Restos du Cœur (a French charity) or benefit from the donations of various associations and individuals. How can this be proved to the Commission?"

After examining a file, the Commission issues a notice of the grant award or refusal and proposes an amount to the director of Crous, who decides on the final amount of aid to be awarded.

This will be transferred in one payment. The maximum amount of ad hoc aid corresponds to the annual amount of level 2 bursaries based on socio-economic criteria, which is 2,597 euros paid over ten months. If several ad hoc aids are granted during the same academic year, their cumulative amount cannot exceed 5,194 euros.

4) The Foundation of France grant

This scholarship is awarded as part of the free "Déclics Jeunes" competition, organized each year by the Foundation of France. For the 2022 edition, registration opened from December 1, 2021 to February 2, 2022.

Profiles concerned: All foreign students, regardless of their status. They must be between the ages of 18 and 30, reside in France, and demonstrate a good knowledge of the French language. Above all, this aid is intended for those who "wish to carry out an original project..."

Candidates can apply on the Foundation de France grant application platform to complete an application file. You must explain your project in detail, which should be complementary to your studies, as well as add two signed letters of recommendation. Your projects must be related to the fields of ecology or the digital transition. "Special attention will be given to candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds or who have had significant hurdles in their lives", the Foundation of France stipulates.

The decision is then submitted to a Selection Committee which designates 20 winners, who are then notified by e-mail.

This year, Armel won the scholarship. His digital project now has more than 250,000 subscribers across Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram. The Foundation de France provided him with 1,700 euros. A welcome aid for the young exile, who was able to buy a computer to help develop his early social media career. "This money also helped me pay my rent and buy food," he said.

You can call 0 806 000 278 Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. An adviser will inform you about available support and how to get assistance from CROUS.


> Amadou's story: Realizing his dreams

> The story of one Kenyan student fleeing Ukraine

> Ayoub's story: A long and winding road to independence


More articles