Is France's international student recruitment strategy flawed?

France’s share of the international student market has consistently declined over the past five years. In a bid to reverse this downward spiral, the French government launched an ambitious new recruitment strategy, Bienvenue en France. 

The campaign aims to attract 500,000 international students by 2027.  To hit this figure, France needs to double its annual overseas growth rate year upon year, and then some.

As if this target wasn’t challenging enough, the French Council of State controversially ordered universities to hike up their non-EU tuition fees too. 

Before 2020, international students only had to pay a few hundred euros in administrative fees to study in France. But, under the new rules, non-EU students must pay €2,770 a year for a bachelor’s degree and €3,770 per year for a master’s degree. 

The move was opposed by lots of universities, and it’s not difficult to see why. Rather than attracting new pupils, many worried that the charges would actually deter them and drive them to alternative destinations. 

The end of diversity? 

France’s diverse international student population has long been the envy of its rivals. Rather than depending on the world’s top source countries, 45% of France’s overseas enrolments come from less competitive markets, like those across Francophone Africa. These include: 

  • Morocco

  • Algeria

  • Tunisia 

  • Senegal 

  • Cote d’Ivoire 

  • Cameroon 

Although these supply nations have served France well up until now, rising tuition fees could jeopardize these relationships. There are concerns that many African students simply couldn’t afford the increased fees, meaning your enrollment rate could essentially be halved. 

Before the price spike, lots of pupils already struggled to pay for their flights and had to work alongside their studies to fund their living expenses. Now, they’ll be forced to consider cheaper destinations, either within Africa or beyond. 

The French government’s pledge to increase scholarships for African students will only paper over the cracks. Unless it can rebuild ties with its most valuable supply region, Bienvenue en France could fail before it’s truly begun. 

France plummets in popularity 

The aftershocks of France’s tuition fee increases have already been felt across the global higher education landscape. Once the second-most popular study-abroad location in 2019, France had fallen to seventh-place by 2020. 

Far from boosting the country’s popularity, it looks like degree-seeking students have been put off. 

To survive, your university must find a way to make up this shortfall and regain its overseas attractiveness. Here’s how: 

  • Advertise your financial support schemes: Making students aware of the scholarships and tuition fee exemptions available could sway their application and enrollment decisions. Be sure to promote them on your website and in any other marketing materials. 

  • Invest in English-taught programs: France trails behind its competitors because it lacks English-taught degrees. Consequently, your university’s reach has probably been limited to French-speaking imports. To make your university stand out to a wider range of students, consider running more courses in English. 

  • Personalize your recruitment process: Students are more likely to enroll if they feel valued as a human and not just a number. It’s important to communicate with them on a one-to-one basis and support them throughout the admissions process. Every pupil using Studee has their own student advisor. We’re the only website offering this kind of tailored service. 

  • Understand why students aren’t choosing your university: You can’t improve your recruitment strategy unless you can identify its current weaknesses. Once you find out why students aren’t enrolling, you can take steps to address the issues. 

  • Improve your sales skills: To successfully recruit, you need to know how to build trust and relationships. Go back to basics and sharpen your skills. 

  • Become expert interculturalists: Cultural norms and identities can have a huge influence on students’ enrollment decisions. So, if you want to widen your pool of prospective pupils, you need to know how to communicate across cultures. Our NAFSA-trained advisors speak to students on a daily basis and have developed some of the best intercultural communication techniques in the business.

  • Offer financial education: Money is the number-one reason students drop out of university. If you can ease their financial and budgeting anxieties, you’ll have a better chance of keeping them on campus. 

  • Work with Studee: Thousands of students visit  studee.com every day to find their ideal institution and program. By partnering with us, you’ll gain access to a whole host of new markets and leads. Better still, we’ll match them with your admissions criteria, so you only receive the best-suited pupils. Book a free, non-obligatory meeting now to see how we can help. 

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