Brexit, COVID, Ukraine war drive student mobility to France

African countries have become key drivers of student mobility to France, according to datasets published by Campus France, the national agency that promotes French higher education internationally and welcomes foreign students and researchers in the country.

Last year, 11 out of the top 25 countries with the highest representation of foreign students in France were in Africa. These African countries had about 146,000 or 40% of the total 365,000 foreign students that were enrolled in tertiary institutions in France.

Morocco, with 44,933 students, was the country with the highest number of foreign students in France in 2021, followed by Algeria with 29,333. Senegal was in fifth position with 14,566 students below China (27,950) and Italy (16,482).

According to the 2022 figures edition of Campus France’s key figures of student mobility in France, or Chiffres clés: La mobilité étudiante dans le monde, in the past five years, international students from Sub-Saharan Africa in France have increased by 41%.

Highlighting Africa’s rising numbers of international students in France, Judith Azema, the director of communication at Campus France, attributed the emerging scenario to a concerted effort to offer quality education and affordable tuition to international students.

Anglophone students

“Programmes taught in English have become more common in French universities and foreign students from anglophone countries, especially those from Sub-Saharan Africa, have been taking that advantage,” Azema told University World News.

She noted that, whereas enrolments from some global regions dipped marginally because of COVID-19, enrolments from North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa remained stable.

“North African countries led by Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia (13,162) are now sending 24% more students than they did five years ago, while those in Sub-Saharan Africa have, in total, been increasing their share by about 8% each year,” said Azema.

In this context, Azema said international mobility is back and, in France, it is being fuelled by three unprecedented crises, namely, the COVID-19 pandemic, Brexit and the war in Ukraine.

Sustaining a steady flow

She noted that, during the pandemic, France remained open and kept numbers of international students stable, managing only a slight drop of 1% as compared with the previous year.

“Openness to student mobility during the pandemic enabled France to keep the flow of foreign students steady, effectively prefiguring a large-scale return of international students to the country,” said Azema.

There are also indicators that some students from Sub-Saharan Africa who fled the war in Ukraine, as well as others who are keen to study abroad, are finding their study destinations to be French tertiary institutions.

According to Campus France, most of the students from Sub-Saharan Africa come from Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire (10,357), Cameroon (8,329), Republic of Congo (6,421), Gabon (5,700), Madagascar (4,614), Benin (4,260) and Guinea (4,173).

For instance, in the past five years, Ivorian students in French tertiary institutions increased by 74% while their Congolese counterparts increased by 65%.

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