Cover of higher education & research in France, facts and figures

📄 Source:MENESR-DGESIP/DGRI-SIES.

 Coverage:Metropolitan France + overseas departments (DOM).

In order to distinguish those foreigners who have come to France specifically to pursue their studies (international students), only foreign students who do not hold a baccalauréat and who enrolled via a diploma recognised as equivalent were considered. This figure is an approximation as it is possible to sit the baccalauréat examination abroad. Nevertheless, these students can only be isolated in the fairly limited area of the universities and not in higher education overall.

Included in universities are students in University Centres for Education and Research (Centre universitaire de formation et de recherche - CUFR) and those at the University of Lorraine (which became a major institution in 2011) where for the most part the courses offered resemble university courses.

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13 foreign students in higher education

This page has been updated. Read 15. foreign students in higher education in Higher education & research in France, facts and figures 10th edition - June 2017

In higher education in France, 295,100 students are foreign nationals, or one student in eight. Over the last ten years, foreign students account for almost a third (29%) of growth in student numbers. Three quarters of foreign students study at university. Proportionally there are more foreign students in the Master's (18%) and PhD (41%) programmes than in the Bachelor's degree (11%).

From 2003 to 2013, the number of foreign students in higher education in France increased from 244,300 to 295,100, a rise of 21%. This growth accounts for 29% of the total increase (+8%) in student numbers in higher education for this period: without it, total student numbers would have increased by only 6%. The number of foreign students in 2013 was an increase of 2.2% over the 2012 figure, a slightly higher rise than for total student numbers (1.8%).

Over this ten-year period, the proportion of foreign nationals in the student population rose from 11% to 12% (chart 13.01). This increase does not concern the advanced technician's section (Section de technicien supérieur - STS) or classes preparing students for admission to Grandes Écoles (Classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles – CPGE), where the proportion of foreign students remained very low (3%). The increase was highest in business schools and engineering schools (between 3 and 5 percentage points). In universities, change was at a more moderate pace (+1 point). In 2013, numbers of foreign students on these courses were above the average, with a maximum of 16% in business schools and 15% in universities (11% studying for Bachelor's degrees, 18% for Master's and 41% for PhDs).

Three-quarters of foreign students were enrolled at universities, compared with 60% of French students. In the universities, the proportion of foreign students who do not hold a French baccalauréat but who have an equivalent diploma has risen by more than 20 points in the last 15 years. Today it stands at almost 80%, which gives a good indication of the attractiveness of French universities abroad (table 13.02).

Almost half of foreign students were Africans (43% in 2013), although this percentage has fallen back over the last ten years (chart 13.03). This drop was due mainly to the downturn in the number of students from Morocco: they remained the largest contingent of foreigners, but the percentage of Moroccan students dropped from 14.3% in 2003 to 11.5% in 2013. The proportion of Asian students increased rapidly with the Chinese now the second most numerous nationality, accounting for 10.2% of foreign students, against 4.5% in 2003. A quarter of foreign students came from a country within the Bologna process.

In universities, foreign students tended to enrol mainly in PhD programmes (12% of them against 3% of French students) and Master's programmes (44% against 34%). However there were differences according to geographic origin (chart 13.04). For example, more than 16% of Asian and American students were enrolled in PhD programmes, compared with fewer than 8% of African students (excluding the Maghreb).

Choices of study area differed between French and foreign students and also by nationality among the foreign students (chart 13.05). Like university students in general, almost a third of foreign students chose the Arts and Humanities study track. It was in the Economics, Economic and social administration and University technology institute (Institut universitaire de technologie - IUT) subject areas that there were greater differences: in 2013, 20% of foreign students chose the Economics, Economic and social administration study track compared with 11% of French students. Students from the Maghreb chose healthcare studies in almost the same proportion as French students (11% and 16% respectively), whereas few of the other foreign students chose this study track. They also preferred sciences: more than a third of Maghreb students enrolled in sciences compared with a quarter of foreign students overall. Lastly, more than half of American students enrolled in Arts, Humanities and Social sciences compared with less than a third of foreign students overall.

 Coverage:Metropolitan France + overseas departments (DOM).

How to cite this paper :

DAUPHIN Laurence. Foreign students in higher education. In: Higher education & research in France, facts and figures - 49 indicators [online]. KABLA-LANGLOIS Isabelle (dir.). Paris: Ministère de l'Éducation nationale, de l'Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche, 2015. 8th ed. Chapter 13, 36-37 [Accessed 12/13/2019]. ISBN 978-2-11-139433-9. https://publication.enseignementsup-recherche.gouv.fr/eesr/8EN/EESR8EN_ES_13-foreign_students_in_higher_education.php

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In order to distinguish those foreigners who have come to France specifically to pursue their studies (international students), only foreign students who do not hold a baccalauréat and who enrolled via a diploma recognised as equivalent were considered. This figure is an approximation as it is possible to sit the baccalauréat examination abroad. Nevertheless, these students can only be isolated in the fairly limited area of the universities and not in higher education overall.

Included in universities are students in University Centres for Education and Research (Centre universitaire de formation et de recherche - CUFR) and those at the University of Lorraine (which became a major institution in 2011) where for the most part the courses offered resemble university courses.

 

Key figures


Number of international students in universities
169,329
 international students
2013-14
Metropolitan France + overseas departments
 
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Extract from the chapter "13. foreign students in higher education".

Source: MENESR-DGESIP/DGRI-SIES
Number of foreign students
295,100
 students
2013-14
Metropolitan France + overseas departments
 
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Extract from the chapter "13. foreign students in higher education".

Source: MENESR-DGESIP/DGRI-SIES
Share of foreign students in Bachelor's degree programmes
11%
 
2013-14
Metropolitan France + overseas departments
 
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Extract from the chapter "13. foreign students in higher education".

Coverage: at university
Source: MENESR-DGESIP/DGRI-SIES
Share of foreign students in Master's degree programmes
18%
 
2013-14
Metropolitan France + overseas departments
 
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Extract from the chapter "13. foreign students in higher education".

Coverage: at university
Source: MENESR-DGESIP/DGRI-SIES
  See more key figures  
Share of foreign students in PhD programmes
41%
 
2013-14
Metropolitan France + overseas departments
 
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Extract from the chapter "13. foreign students in higher education".

Coverage: at university
Source: MENESR-DGESIP/DGRI-SIES
Share of foreign students in engineering courses
13.5%
 
2013-14
Metropolitan France + overseas departments
 
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Extract from the chapter "13. foreign students in higher education".

Source: MENESR-DGESIP/DGRI-SIES
Share of foreign students in business, management and accounting schools
16%
 
2013-14
Metropolitan France + overseas departments
 
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Extract from the chapter "13. foreign students in higher education".

Source: MENESR-DGESIP/DGRI-SIES
Share of foreign students in Advanced technician's sections (STS) and classes preparing for admission to Grandes Écoles (CPGE)
3%
 
2013-14
Metropolitan France + overseas departments
 
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Extract from the chapter "13. foreign students in higher education".

Source: MENESR-DGESIP/DGRI-SIES
  See more key figures  
Share of foreign students at university
14.5%
 
2013-14
Metropolitan France + overseas departments
 
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Extract from the chapter "13. foreign students in higher education".

Source: MENESR-DGESIP/DGRI-SIES
Share of foreign students in higher education in France
12.1%
 
2013-14
Metropolitan France + overseas departments
 
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Extract from the chapter "13. foreign students in higher education".

Source: MENESR-DGESIP/DGRI-SIES

13.01 Change in the proportion of foreign students in the main higher education courses (%)

  
University
of which IUT
Engineering courses
STS and CPGE
Business, management and accounting
All
 
 
 Coverage: Metropolitan France + overseas departments (DOM).

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13.02 Change in numbers of foreign students in universities

 
1985-86 1990-91 1995-96 2000-01 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 1 2009-10 2 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14
Student numbers 128,141 131,901 126,366 137,505 208,007 204,290 206,475 214,252 218,364 219,939 216,055 217,926
of which international students 79,487 84,990 74,746 83,987 160,701 159,368 162,687 169,896 173,761 173,987 169,078 169,329
Annual variation (%) -0.7 -1.8 +1.5 2 +3.8 +1.9 +0.4 -1.8 0.9
Proportion of foreign students (%) 13.5 11.4 8.7 9.8 14.9 15.0 15.4 15.5 15.2 15.1 14.8 14.5
 

1 Figures do not include students enrolled in courses at teacher training colleges (Institut universitaire de formation des maîtres - IUFM).
2 The trend from 2007-2008 to 2008-2009 is calculated on a constant scope, i.e. without students in IUFMs and engineering schools who were taken out of the scope of universities in 2008-2009.

 Coverage: Metropolitan France + overseas departments (DOM).

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13.03 Breakdown of foreign students according to their continent of origin in 2003 and 2013 (%)

Africa 2003
 
Asia and Oceania 2003
Europe 2003
Americas 2003
Other 2003
 
 
Africa 2013
Asia and Oceania 2013
Europe 2013
Americas 2013
 
Other 2013
  
Morocco
Algeria
Tunisia
Senegal
China
Germany
Italy
Spain
Russia
Other
 
 
 Coverage: Metropolitan France + overseas departments (DOM).

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13.04 Breakdown of students in university programmes according to their continent of origin in 2013 (%)

French
Foreign
Europe
Maghreb
Africa excl. Maghreb
Asia-Oceania
Americas
OECD 1
Bologna Process 1
  
Bacchelor's degree
Master's
PhD
 
 

1 excluding France

 Coverage: Metropolitan France + overseas departments (DOM).

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13.05 Breakdown of students in university study tracks according to their continent of origin in 2013 (%)

French
Foreign
Europe
Maghreb
Africa excl. Maghreb
Asia-Oceania
Americas
  
Law
Economics, Economics and social admin.
Arts, Humanities
Sciences, STAPS
Healthcare
DUT
 
 
 Coverage: Metropolitan France + overseas departments (DOM).

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Other editions

Etat de l'enseignement supérieur et de la rechercheHigher education & research in France, facts and figures 10th edition - June 2017
15 - foreign students in higher education - Elisabeth Algava
In higher education in France, 310,000 students are foreign nationals, or one student in eight. Since 2000, the proportion of foreign students has increased from 8% to 12%. Three-quarters of foreign students study at university [Consult the following page]
Etat de l'enseignement supérieur et de la rechercheHigher education & research in France, facts and figures 9th edition - November 2016
14 - foreign students in higher education - Elisabeth Algava
In higher education in France, 300,000 students are foreign nationals, or one student in eight. Since 2000, the proportion of foreign students has increased from 8% to 12%. Three-quarters of foreign students study at university [Consult the following page]

Translation

 Etat de l'enseignement supérieur et de la rechercheL'état de l'Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche en France n°8 - juin 2015
13 - les étudiants étrangers dans l’enseignement supérieur - Laurence Dauphin
Dans l’enseignement supérieur français, 295 100 étudiants sont de nationalité étrangère, soit un sur huit. En dix ans, les étrangers ont contribué à près d’un tiers (29 %) de la croissance des effectifs. Les trois quarts des étudiants étrangers étudient à l’université. Ils sont proportionnellement plus nombreux dans les cursus Master (18 %) et Doctorat (41 %) qu’en Licence (11 %) [Consult the following page in french]


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