The Cité internationale universitaire de Paris campus, a haven of peace providing accommodation for university students from more than 150 countries, was at the forefront of the turmoil caused by the 2020 health crisis. The university closures announced on 17 March 2020 effectively resulted in strict lockdown on site for most of the students and researchers housed there, two-thirds of whom had chosen not to return to their homes: some 4,000 residents, from a total of 7,000 beds at the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris, remained on site at that time. At the start of the following academic year, the residences filled up once again, housing around 6,000 students and researchers, one third of them French and two thirds of various nationalities.
As time passed, another source of concern emerged: the rapidly increasing number of students in precarious situation, resulting in a ten-fold increase in requests to the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris for emergency support.
The suspension or cancellation of internships and student jobs (courier work, child care, private tuition, bar work, etc.) with those involved unable to claim partial unemployment, the ending of family assistance due to the crisis affecting certain emerging countries, the devaluation of currencies and the increased cost of living following the closure of university restaurants are all at the root of this dramatic situation.
The Cité internationale universitaire de Paris reacted without delay to put emergency measures in place - reducing student rents, launching a donation campaign which raised nearly €136,000, and increasing the Covid emergency fund to help 189 students in partnership with the Île-de-France region.
Despite the measures implemented (meals for 1 euro in the Crous student restaurants extended to all students, the meal distribution network set up by the City of Paris, distribution of food by the Restaurants du Coeur involving around 700 students, or 10% to 15% of Cité internationale universitaire de Paris residents) and the return to normal life allowing young people to potentially find internships and jobs again, precarity remains a reality today!
In 2021 and 2022, the number of requests for emergency assistance from young people on the campus is still strong. One quarter of requests are motivated by the loss of family financial support during the academic year, 18% by the depletion of savings put aside for their studies and 17% by the loss of paid work. In many cases, going to work while dealing with a personal situation, particularly in terms of mental and physical health, is difficult for them.
A strong link between mental exhaustion and precarious financial situation was observed by the campus’ social hub. Many students no longer have the personal resources to overcome their difficulties! The CIUP’s "Excellence" scholarships, which every year enable more than 70 residents to have their living expenses covered thanks to benefactors, companies and institutions, do not provide an appropriate response to these situations of great fragility.
This issue has been the subject of reflection and discussion between the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris and the Bolloré Group, for the past two years a sponsor of the "Excellence" scholarships which are based on academic and social criteria. These scholarships are not designed for the situations of genuine social deprivation faced by some students in the Cité Universitaire.
Following this process of reflection, Laurence Marion (General Delegate at the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris) and Dorothée Van Der Cruyssen (Head of the Solidarity Commitment and Corporate Philanthropy Department at the Bolloré Group) co-created a new scholarship programme in response to this challenge, which they hope will be short-lived.