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France has emerged as a leading destination for international students, welcoming over 412,000 students in the 2022/23 academic year. This marks a significant milestone for the country, solidifying its position as the sixth most popular host nation for international students globally. The latest figures represent a 3% increase from the previous year and a substantial 17% surge over the past five years. This growth highlights the resilience and attractiveness of France’s higher education sector, even amidst challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Several factors contribute to France’s rising popularity among international students. We have listed some factors in this article Top Reasons to Study in France in 2024.

Source Countries for French International Students

The source regions for French higher education institutions were Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, and North Africa. Between 2017 and 2022, these were the regional trends:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa: +34% for a total of 95,285
  • North Africa: +10 for a total of 91,865
  • EU: +24 for a total of 73,310
  • Asia/Oceania: -3% for a total of 51,992
  • Europe (non-EU): +12% for a total of 29,605
  • Middle East: +50% for a total of 22,445
  • South America: +1% for a total of 15,220
  • Central America/Caribbean: +40% for a total of 9,875
  • North America: +8% for a total of 8,965

Student mobility in sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is a demographically dynamic and young region. It has nearly 92 million people of higher education age in 2020. However, only 9.6 million Sub-Saharans are pursuing higher education in 2021, or 10% of the age group

A growing and mobile student population 

Demographic forecasts estimate that the entire population may double by 2050. As a result, training challenges are becoming more significant. This growth in the students’ numbers, which not all countries’ establishments can accommodate, explains high international mobility. In 2021, more than 460,000 sub-Saharan students enrolled in international diploma courses, or 13% more than five years ago. Mobility in Sub-Saharan Africa even appears to have resisted the pandemic, as it increased by 8% between 2020 and 2021.

Conversely, sub-Saharan Africa welcomes the fewest mobile students: 140,000 in 2021, up 20% compared to 2016. The top destination countries in the region are South Africa (34,000 ), Senegal (15,400) and Cameroon (9,300). Students from Nigeria form the first contingent of mobile students from sub-Saharan Africa, with 84,800 mobile students in 2021. This figure is, however, down 12% since 2016, while it is increasing in the vast majority of sub-Saharan countries. This is explained in particular by the drop in oil prices over this period, the profits from which are used to finance study scholarships abroad. Nigerians represent 18% of the 463,000 mobile sub-Saharan students, with a strong impact on the ranking of destination countries, choosing overwhelmingly English-speaking countries (UK, USA, Canada).

Top Reasons to Study in France

Several factors contribute to the rising popularity among international students. Here are a few key points:

  • Affordability: Compared to other popular study destinations like the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, France offers relatively affordable tuition fees for international students.
  • Employability Focus: French universities emphasize practical experience through internships and apprenticeships, equipping graduates with valuable skills for the job market.
  • Cultural Diversity: France boasts a rich culture and history, offering an enriching experience for international students.

In France, the largest group of international students comes from Sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for roughly a quarter of the total student population. Morocco, Algeria, and China are among the top source countries. However, there has also been a notable rise in students from Italy, Spain, Lebanon, Congo, and India.


The goal to attract 500,000 international students by 2027 is part of its Bienvenue en France national strategy. With its continued focus on affordability, quality education, and a welcoming environment, France is well-positioned to achieve this target and solidify its place as a top destination for international students worldwide.

France has recorded a relatively gradual expansion of its international student population. Its more moderate growth curve may allow it to avoid the boomerang-type policies imposed in 2023 and 2024 by Australia, Canada, and the UK – policies aimed at rapidly curbing the surge of international students to lower net migration and to ease pressure on public infrastructure that has not kept up with population growth. Students are reconsidering where they would like to study because of these policies.

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Author Chinwe

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