France international students’ visas surpass pre-pandemic level

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The 2022 edition of Campus France’s Key Figures (in French) announced that “student mobility is back – with changes”.  It found that France now has 365,000 international students, giving an increase of 18% over five years earlier.

The report analyses the changing landscape of student mobility as a result of three unprecedented crises – the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and the war on Ukraine and aims to give a snapshot of the situation, as the sector awaits UNESCO figures at the end of the year.

Despite the pandemic, the total number of international students in France remained fairly stable (-1%) in 2020/21, compared to the previous year – a minimal drop compared to how other key markets suffered.

France continued to be pro-active in recruiting from overseas during the pandemic, including through a pre-semester vaccination campaign in 2021, through which international students were offered the vaccination in France ahead of the academic year.


“France’s efforts to continue welcoming international students during the pandemic have paid off,” according to Campus France.

“Whether it be in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic or the consequences of the war in Ukraine, France has been able to assert itself an open and welcoming country over the past two years,” the report said.

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In 2019, Campus France, along with Ministry of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation, launched a new international student recruitment strategy with the goal of attracting 500,000 international students to France by 2027.

North Africa and the Middle East remain the most heavily represented areas of origin for the international student body of France.

Such students make up 29% of the 365,000 international students in France, followed by those from Europe who make up 24%, according to the 2022 edition of Campus France’s Key Figures.

France issued 21,259 visas to international students from Sub-Saharan Africa, a 35% increase on the previous year, while students from North Africa and the Middle East were issued 29,650 visas, giving a 24% increase.

According to the report, groups which showed a particular rise in interest in studying in France were those from Lebanon, who showed an increase in 2,347 visas between 2019 and 2021, and Algerian students with an increase of 2,210 visas.

The same can be said for students from the Democratic Republic of the Congo with an increase of 1,367 visas and from Cameroon, where visas increased by 808.

As students from francophone countries continue to choose France as a study destination, Campus France launched a campaign in 2021 to recruit internationally, particularly from non French-speaking markets.

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The latest report highlights that foreign students account for 13% of all students in France and 40% of doctoral students. The region around the country’s capital city, Île-de-France, is home to more than a third, followed by Auvergne Rhône-Alpes and Occitanie.

The French government provided scholarships to nearly 7,700 international students and trainees between 2020 and 2021.

However, the report found that students from Asian countries have been less likely to go to France for their studies, with a 40% drop in the number of visas granted to students from Asian countries between 2019 and 2021.

“Chinese authorities have a desire to set up more first-class education programs”

The number of visas for Chinese students fell significantly by 3,579 over the years, which the report attributes to strict border controls due to Covid-19 but also to an effort by the government to keep Chinese talent in China.

“The Chinese authorities have a desire to set up more and more first-class education programs to enable the best students to stay and study in the country,” the report noted.

Campus France highlighted the importance of China as a market, for France and globally.

“In the face of Covid, the continued isolation of the top country of origin, China, will be a decisive factor, particularly for countries that rely most heavily on mobility from this country, such as Australia.”

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