The report, Au-delà de l’influence: l’apport économique des étudiants étrangers en France, estimates that the 295,084 foreign students who studied in France in 2013-14 cost the state around €2.84bn in tuition subsidies and €55m in scholarships.
The report concludes that international students are “certainly a very profitable investment in the future for France”
However, these costs are far outweighed by an estimated €4.6bn in living costs, travel and tourism.
The report also notes that 41% of international students work during their stay, thus making an additional contribution to public health and pension funds, which they rarely use themselves.
With 11% growth over the last five years, international students are “certainly a very profitable investment in the future for France”, it concludes.
The study, which was carried out by marketing firm BVA, puts the monthly cost of living for an international student at around €920, adding up to a total average spend of €20,000 over an average stay of 22 months.
Daily consumption of goods and services makes up the bulk of spending (€3.25bn), with €563m spent on tuition fees and €364m on French airline operators.
Also included in the figure is €466m generated by relatives visiting students.
Of the 4,200 students who took part in BVA’s online poll, 55% said that the cost of living and studying in France is “difficult” and 18% said it is “very difficult” to bear.
Additionally, half of the students surveyed said that studying abroad had required a “significant personal sacrifice” by themselves or their families.
Despite these responses, 70% said they feel that their study abroad experience has been a profitable investment.
They also tend to develop a positive view of the country and act as “excellent ambassadors… who are prepared to promote France in all fields”, the report notes, with 90% saying they would recommend France as a place to live, visit or study.
In fact, international alumni continue to contribute to France’s economy even after they have left, with 85% saying they intend to visit as tourists in the future.
Moreover, 70% of students surveyed said that studying in France would encourage them to buy French products and almost 80% said it would have a positive impact on their desire to work with French companies.
International students act as “excellent ambassadors… who are prepared to promote France in all fields”
The study also provided insight into international student demographics.
Higher education is by far the most popular option for foreign students, three quarters of whom are enrolled at a French university.
Of those students, half are studying on postgraduate or doctoral courses.
Africa is the biggest source region for incoming students, providing 43% of the total number, followed by 26% from Europe, 19% from Asia, 8% from the Americas, and 4% from the Middle East.
Students from North Africa adapted most easily to French society, with 77% saying they felt that they had integrated well, followed by 73% from the Caribbean.
In contrast, 47% of students from Australasia and 44% from the Middle East said say they have had difficulty integrating.
Unsurprisingly, Paris – which was recently named the best student city in the world by QS for the third year running – is the most popular destination, attracting 28% of students, while 26% head instead to the southeast region.