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Continued student interest in France despite Covid

Keeping borders open and visa centres processing has been credited with allowing France to continue pursuing its aim of attracting 500,000 international students by 2027 despite the Covid-19 crisis, according to speakers at a Class of 2020 virtual summit.

FranceThe number of intl students entering France dropped 20%, though many continued studying online from home. Photo: Pixabay

50% of Asian students did not come to France

However, France still faces challenges in hosting international students, with many struggling to find suitable housing.

In June, the country announced that students would be able to enter the country regardless of their county of origin, and their visa and residence permits were given priority.

“We have seen a slight decrease of mobility but it’s limited to 20%”

“We have seen a slight decrease of mobility but it’s limited to 20%. What we saw is that we have a difference between Asia, the Americas, Africa and the Gulf,” said Campus France communication director Florent Bonaventure.

“Mainly 50% of Asian students did not come, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t register and start their classes online.

“The same thing goes for the Americas because of either the pandemic or economic crises. We have a drop of 50% coming from the Americas.

“But we have the same number of African students coming to France and a higher number of North African students and Gulf students.”

France somewhat bucks the trend of other top destinations for international students due to the country of origin breakdown of its cohort.

Although it has seen its number of international student decline as a proportion of the global whole, it continues to attract large amounts of student from other French-speaking countries.

Whereas most destinations see students from Asia, and more specifically India and China, forming large segments of their cohort, 46% of international students in France come from Africa.

As such, the country has weathered declines in Chinese and Vietnam enrolment of 1% and 11% respectively and recently grew its international student numbers by around 4.5% year on year.

Sharing data on student accommodation searches from Student.com, the website and company’s general manager EMEA Dan Baker said they had seen interest in France bounce back quicker than other destinations.

“France jumped up in the July period to be way ahead of where it was back in the pre-Covid period,” he said.

“It took the UK until August really to get back to that. The other one that stands out is Germany. We have seen Germany increase massively in the last few months, perhaps because of their handling of Covid.”

However France still faces challenges in hosting international students, with many struggling to find decent housing, particularly in Paris, which is the top destination for international students nationally.

“There’s a structural imbalance between supply and demand [in housing]”

“I think it’s a bit of an unknown that this market follows track with the residency market,” said Michael Neuman, vice president investments Europe at Ivanhoé Cambridge.

“There’s a structural imbalance between supply and demand, and that applies to students as well as young professionals that are looking for a decent place to live in the greater Paris region.

“Quality is very low for this category of the population and that creates a real need for simplicity, services and access. Frankly, these guys have purchasing power, [but] there is a huge need for more beds.”

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