International human rights law requires States to provide equal access to higher education without discrimination and to ensure the progressive realization of the right to free higher education. Although France outperforms many countries at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on many metrics regarding higher education, there remains significant problems, particularly ensuring equal access for students based on their place of origin. The opportunities students have, are not equal across all regions of France. Part of this inequality can be attributed to the socio-economic status of individual students. However, regional differences operate independently, and can exacerbate socio-economic inequalities, in determining participation in higher education.
This policy brief shows that the unequal distribution of higher education institutions across the country results in students having to move across regions to access higher education, thus incurring costs (mainly housing and transportation), which are harder to meet for those who do decide to move, due to regional differences in standards of living. Coupled with the stagnation of budget allocation to higher education and the general rise in tuition fees, these indirect costs of education constitute a significant barrier to the enjoyment of the right to free higher education on a non-discriminatory basis.