Popular international student markets of France: China, Morocco and Italy

France welcomed 358,000 international  students in the 2018/2019 academic year. The country is now aiming to reach 500,000 international students by 2027 as part of its "Bienvenue en France" strategy. We look at the current interest in studying in France from the most popular student sender countries.


Most popular countries for studying in France

France is the fourth most popular destination for international students behind the US, the UK and Australia - making it the most popular non-English speaking country for international students. In 2018, ICEF monitor released figures showing that Africa accounted for almost 45% of international students studying in France in the 2016/17 academic year. Students from the European Union (19%) and Asia (16%), combined, accounted for an additional 35%. For the best part of a decade these markets have been the top senders to French universities.

The majority of students studying in France from Africa are Moroccan - a steady growing base of students since the beginning of the decade. Europe’s leading country for international enrollment in France has been Italy, and the Chinese market is increasingly looking towards European alternatives to UK or US study, making France a viable option.


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Moroccan student opinion

According to an article by Fanack, pre-pandemic, Moroccan students were already facing increasingly difficult obstacles in order to be admitted to French universities. Systems in place to limit the number of students for certain programs means Moroccan students are looking for different options. In many cases it is now perceived as easier for these students to choose a US, UK or Canadian university and be admitted with less trouble.

France is also being overlooked in some instances for the UK and US due to their business ties. Being recruited by a large global company is appealing to Moroccan students who may want their careers to lead them to Middle Eastern business areas such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Moroccan students also saw a large jump in the international cost of tuition for France which came into effect in September 2019, which could tip some Moroccan students over to studying in different countries. Moroccan World News stated that the proposed increase for a bachelor’s degree registration fee is a rise of 1,529%. Previous fees were €170, with the new price at €2,770. Although few French universities chose to put the new fees in place for this academic year, the news will have had a negative effect on students looking to study abroad from outside the EU.


Chinese student opinion

Campus France estimates suggest that due to the pandemic the number of foreign students will fall by 20 percent this year. Predominantly those from Asia and the Americas will see the largest drop-off. This is hopefully due to students deferring rather than reconsidering France altogether, but it gives French universities a new challenge in enrolling students.

In 2016, The European Institute for Asian Studies claimed that France, along with Germany, were the second most popular countries in the EU for Chinese students looking to study abroad. This is due to Chinese students’ demand for learning about industrial technology. In a more global perspective, the interest in France as a Chinese study abroad destination represents only 3.3% of Chinese students - this is according to a University World News survey. France still has a lot to do to attract a larger proportion of the Chinese market.

A survey of Chinese students by the British Council found out the main concerns of Chinese students when looking to study abroad. They were: 

  • well-being (79%)
  • personal safety (87%)
  • finances (86%)
  • application difficulties (70%) 

If French universities are able to support these concerns, it will only strengthen France’s position as a choice for international study for Chinese students.


Italian student opinion

Case studies from Italics Mag show exactly what it is that can draw Italian students abroad. More and more Italian students have been deciding to study overseas, mostly due to the prestige attached to education in different countries, including France. Italian students see the main perk of getting their degree from outside Italy as employability opportunities.


How French universities can better engage with these popular markets

Be faster with admissions response times

Gen Z are used to receiving fast and great customer service. Unfortunately, this means they can get impatient and uninterested in prospective French universities that don’t respond to them in good time.

Ensuring you’re getting back to interested students quickly gives your French university the best chance of enrolling a student. International students will see your institution as helpful, and supportive.

Also, giving realistic timeframes on how long the different stages of your admissions process takes will enable students to be less frustrated about not hearing back from you on the next stages of their application.


Use different online channels to recruit and engage with students 

Widening your sources of international student enquiries can help get to the right students with the right information to choose your institution, even in a pandemic. Studee recruits students from all over the world through online sources, who are then nurtured by our NAFSA trained student advisors to enroll at their chosen university.


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We make it easy to contact students and are available on email, phone and instant messaging to give prospective students the attention they require, quickly.


Showcase your support services 

With the potential for mental health conditions to be made worse by the pandemic, students will be understandably anxious and curious about how a prospective French university can support and help them.

As a university, you should showcase what you did to support your international students in France during the pandemic - including reviews of studying online or with blended learning. Be very clear in what your plan is if it were to happen again, and the current status of the university.

Explain in full detail to prospective students the support you can offer. For example, what would a student need to do to report a mental health condition, racism, or financial worries and more importantly, what will you as a university do to get them the help they need.


Improve user experience on website

Have information on your website that is targeted specifically at the markets you are trying to attract. Have these sections in an easy to find area of your international site, and ensure information is in the language of instruction for international students.

Make sure that your content is not split across multiple pages and try and ensure that visitors to your website can easily find what they want with good signposting. Try and make text heavy pages easier to digest with engaging images that illustrate the services, campus and student experience you are describing. Check your international pages on multiple devices and web browsers - making sure that whoever visits your website can get the information they need.

An easier to use website will give prospective students the idea that you are helpful, and getting information from you isn’t a struggle. 

If you'd like more support with attracting and enrolling international students, book a free, non-obligatory meeting now. 

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