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CampusFrance: Update on international students in French universities

Interested in the most up-to-date data on international student enrolment, by university, in France? A new publication from one of ACA’s two French members – CampusFrance – is the resource for you. Thanks to statistics provided by the French Higher Education Ministry (specifically, the Direction de l’évaluation, de la prospective et de la performance du Ministère français de l’Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche), the newest edition of Les Notes de Campus France (n°36 – janvier 2012) is devoted to an overview of where international students go to study in France (i.e. in which French universities), and the evolution of these numbers in the period 2005-2010.

According to UNESCO 2010 data, France is the fourth most popular destination in the world for internationally-mobile students, after the US, the UK and Australia. In all, France hosted 284 600 international students in 2010, with nearly 220 000 enrolled in French universities.

Universities in France are spread throughout the French territory and it is interesting to note which regions and universities are the most popular. Predictably, the Ile-de-France region – including Paris (with 36 406 international students), Créteil (18 360) and Versailles (15 517) – hosted more than 32% of the country’s international students in 2010. Other major cities (such as Aix-Marseille, Lille, Lyon, Montpellier, Strasbourg and Toulouse) each welcomed more than 9 000 international students per year in the five-year period from 2005 to 2010. Absolute numbers tell one side of the story, but proportions are also revealing. For example, nearly 20% of the total university population in the universities in Clermont-Ferrand and Nice was comprised of international students in 2010. 

Other figures give insight into the distribution of international students in France in relation to students’ nationalities of origin. The 2010 data show that the most common countries of origin for international students in France are Morocco (21 590 students), China (20 752) and Algeria (20 617) and that these students are mainly hosted by the three major cities of the Ile-de-France region (Paris, Créteil and Versailles). However, they are also well represented in all the other main French universities, such as Lyon, Lille, Amiens, Clermont-Ferrand, Dijon, Grenoble, Nantes and Toulouse for the Chinese students; as well as Aix-Marseille and Rouen for the Algerian students.

Finally, Paris stands out as a special case in the French context given that this city attracts students from all over the world. Notably, 39% of all American students in France chose the French capital for their study experience in 2010. The same goes for 30% of the Italian students in the country, and more than 20% of the Romanians, Russians, Spanish and Lebanese. Chinese students have discovered Paris, as well, increasing their enrolment figures from 1 600 in 2005 to 2 380 in 2010.

CampusFrance (in French)