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France hits 400,000 int’l student mark

France has recorded the highest growth in international students in over 15 years and now exceeds the 400,000 mark, Campus France has announced.

By the end of August 2022, more than 140,000 students from 70 countries around the world had applied to study in France. Photo: Unsplash

France's growth in international student numbers is driven in particular by an increase of students coming to France from neighbouring European countries.

This week – the week of ‘la rentreé’ in France, when the new academic year begins – Campus France shared the news that, according to latest statistics from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the number of foreign students enrolled in France increased by 8% in the academic year 2021/22.

Now, the total number of international students in France, including apprentices in higher education, sits at 400,026, due to the highest growth seen since 2005.

A 2018 strategy has a target of attracting half a million international students to the country by 2027, and launched an international campaign in 2019.

“All along the pandemic, France has shown itself to be an open and welcoming country towards international students, which can have a lasting impact on some international communities,” said Olivier Marichalar, head of studies at Campus France.

This growth is driven in particular by an increase in the number of international students coming to France from neighbouring European countries.

Marichalar told The PIE that he believes this is due to “the high rankings of an increasing number of French higher education institutions in international rankings”, along with the quality of hosting services which institutions have been committed to following the ‘Welcome to France’ national strategy.

Among the top 10 countries of origin of students, Morocco remains the highest number of students with 46,371 in France.

The number of Italian international students (totalling 19,185) studying in France has increased by 16% in the past year. The number of Spanish students has reached 11,256, an increase of 25% from last year and up 51% from 2016.

Meanwhile, the number of Lebanese students (10,469) has also significantly increased by 30%.

As for countries of origin which previously saw a decrease in numbers are now growing, the US, with 6,179, saw a 50% increase from 2021, while Germany increased by 17% to hit 8,186.

Marichalar also noted that such students are attracted to France because of competitive rate of tuition fees and quality of life.

However, as a result of pandemic restrictions, mobility from two countries remains down – China with a decrease of 2% to 27,479 students and Vietnam with a decrease of 4% over the past year to 5,259 students, but Marichalar expects these numbers to pick up.

“We have seen for instance an increase in the number of applications compared to the previous year in both countries, +40% for Vietnam and +12% for China, yet the level of applications remains inferior to 2019,” he said.

Figures also show that, in the past year, Europe, the Americas and MENA are the regions which have shown the most significant growth – with the Americas leading the way.

Notably, students from North America increased by 43%.

Behind the Americas, Europe showed the second highest growth with a 13% increase, now sitting 10% higher than before the pandemic. More specifically, Non-EU countries are up 25% while EU countries experienced a 9% increase.

Student numbers from the MENA region grew by 10% over one year, and 32% over the past five years. Within this region, the Middle East saw significant growth with a 17% increase.

Despite Sub-Saharan Africa experiencing a below average increase of 5% over one year, the increase in the number of African students has increased by 40%.

According to Campus France, students from Asia-Pacific countries remain most affected by mobility restrictions linked to the pandemic and therefore experienced only 1% growth over a year. However, following a 9% drop in 2020-21, this small growth is a signal of the situation beginning to stabilise.

The agency also shared promising figures which further confirm the sectors rebound for the academic year 2022/2023.

By the end of August 2022, more than 140,000 students from 70 countries around the world had applied to study through Etudes en France – the admissions and enrolment platform for higher education in the country – which is an increase of 18% in applications over pre-pandemic levels.

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