The French embassy in Cambodia has announced that Schengen visas are now available for Cambodian alumni who graduated from French universities with Master's or Doctoral Degrees.

The visa would allow them to travel freely through the 29 Schengen visa-recognised countries in Europe.

The announcement came as the embassy hosted a reception for alumni on the evening of May 24. In attendance were Minister of Education, Youth and Sport Hang Chuon Naron and around 500 alumni members. The gathering took place as part of France's second World Alumni Day.

Fabrice Etienne, Chargé d'Affaires of the French embassy, announced that the visas will be valid for one to five years and may also be offered to spouses and children of alumni who have graduated from France.

For France, the visas will allow alumni and their families to stay in France for 90 days. Applicants can apply at the TLScontact in Phnom Penh with a valid passport and a photocopy of their Master's or PhD degree, and register on the France Alumni Cambodge website.

The France Alumni Cambodge network was launched in November 2015 and currently has more than 900 alumni members.

According to the embassy, ​​France is a popular study destination; each year 150 students from Cambodia go to study in France. Currently, there are more than 800 Cambodian students pursuing their studies there.

Around 500 Cambodian alumni of French higher educational institutions gathered at the French embassy in Phnom Penh to mark France's second World Alumni Day on May 24. In attendance was education minister Hang Chuon Naron (centre). Niem Chheng

Most of them receive scholarships from programmes such as France Excellence, which has about 30 students a year, the Excellence Eiffel programme, with about 10 students per year, the Erasmus + programme, receiving about 15 students a year, and medical scholarship DFMS/DFMSA, which accepts approximately 70 students per year.

In addition, some students from the Cambodian Academy of Digital Technology (CADT) have also been sent to study in France.

Meas Len is a professor of mathematics at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, who studied in France for 5 years from 2012 to 2017 through the PGSM (Paris Graduate School for Mathematical Sciences) scholarship programme.

He spent two years pursuing a Master's Degree in mathematics in Paris and three more years for his PhD in the same major, in Nice.

He explained that he applied multiple times for the scholarship until he was successful. The professor noted that this scholarship is more competitive than the ones offered by the French government. He was the first Cambodian student to be accepted into the programme.

Len encouraged those who wish to receive scholarships to France to develop a strong and solid foundation in their respective fields. Knowledge of both French and English is also important, as some programmes are bilingual.

"No matter what you want to study, it is important that you build a strong foundation in your field while in Cambodia. This foundation first helps us to get a scholarship; secondly it makes us feel comfortable and under less pressure when we get to school,” he said.

According to the French embassy, ​​France has ranked third in the world for the fourth consecutive year on the Academic Ranking of World Universities, known as the Shanghai Rankings. Several French educational institutions are among the top 20 on the list.