The survey of 1,015 students globally showing interest in studying in the country, carried out by European study choice platform, Study.eu, also identified Paris as the most popular city for 71% of respondents, ahead of Bordeaux and Marseille.
The next most common reason for studying in France was the career prospects it offers, with 57% of respondents saying it was a pull factor.
It was followed by the French culture, which 33% noted as a reason for studying in the EU’s second most populous country.
Work opportunities are also important for prospective students, with 66% expecting to work part-time during their studies and 63% saying they are planning to stay and work in France after their studies.
Self-funded study and help from family was the second most common source of finance, ahead of scholarship, which 44% of respondents indicated.
Some 11% also said they would take a loan out to fund their education and associated costs.
“The exceptional qualities of a French education are a great way to attract smart minds”
French universities are seen as a gateway to a career in France, Study.Eu said.
“In the global competition for talent, the exceptional qualities of a French education are a great way to attract smart minds,” commented Gerrit Bruno Blöss, CEO of Study.eu.
“And the fact that a large share of students wants to work part-time while they study is a chance to successfully integrate them in the French labour market before graduation.
“Quality of education is generally the most important motivator for degree-seeking students, but we were surprised to see it that far ahead of other factors,” he added.
Lyon, Strasbourg and Toulouse were all noted by surveyed students as cities they were interested in studying in.
France recorded the highest growth in international students in over 15 years in 2022, exceeding the 400,000 mark, making it the world’s sixth most popular destination.
Blöss noted the survey indicates that France’s brand is “strong and closely associated with quality education”, but added that individual French universities can do more to stand out.
“At the moment, it’s the business schools that invest the most in marketing and recruitment,” he told The PIE.
He also said that if UK universities were to heed suggestions to focus on Francophone Africa as an “untapped market”, French schools could see increased “competitive pressure”.