With COVID-19 ravaging the world and leaving many universities reeling in its wake due to loss of revenue from international students, a French agency has reported that the country has only suffered a moderate decline in interest to study in France. The 2021 edition of the Key Figures by Campus France studied the effects of COVID-19 on student mobility.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted international student mobility. Successive lockdowns, difficulty in travel and closed borders have slowed down travelling,” said Campus France. “Despite the challenging context, France has asserted itself as a destination of choice. Students have responded, showing a renewed desire to study in France, particularly those from sub-Saharan Africa, the Maghreb, the Middle East and Europe, as shown in the first part of Key Figures.
“The moderate decline in the number of international students this year (-25%), compared to that of neighbouring countries, is the result of the voluntary and joint action of the government and institutions,” it said.
Before the pandemic, France was the sixth most popular country to study in, behind Germany and Russia but ahead of Canada. The number of foreign students — 370,000 — is still growing by 23% over the last five years, but at a slower rate than the world average and competitors, it explained. France was also the sixth country of origin for students heading in particular to French-speaking institutions in Quebec, Belgium and Switzerland.
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Campus France projects that student mobility could resume at the end of the year. “France should see its ties with Africa strengthen and will likely be able to count on a resumption of European mobility in the fall semester,” it said.
The report added that Indian students appear eager to study abroad again. Fewer Chinese students plan to do the same, either to France or the rest of the world. “In the medium term, there seems to be an increased interest in more regional study plans, particularly in Asia. While this is of concern to Anglo-Saxon institutions (in Australia, the UK and the US) that are often dependent on Chinese mobility, it is also an opportunity for French universities to deepen their ties with their European counterparts and to renew ties with the major emerging countries of Latin America and Asia,” it said.
Throughout the pandemic, the country has continued to welcome international students and researchers, but procedures to enter vary depending on countries of origin. More details can be obtained from Campus France. French president Emmanuel Macron recently announced that schools in the country will close for at least three weeks, and travel within the country will be banned for a month after Easter to curb the surge in COVID-19 cases.