Student mobility in the world: Campus France publishes its annual report

Every year, the Campus France report presents the major trends of student mobility in the world, in Europe and in France. It’s based on figures from the previous year and two years ago, and from different sources. But the report of 2021 is also characterized by the pandemic context which has been affected the international student mobility since spring of 2020.

The impact of the Covid-19 crisis on international student mobility

The partial or total closure of higher education institutions in the vast majority of countries, the international travel restriction, and also the closure of borders, have had major impacts on the students and the international student mobility. In France, in spite of this context, the political will to continue hosting international students, supported by CDEFI, and the efforts of higher education institutions to host them in the best conditions, have limited the negative impact of the crisis on the number of international students who came to study in France at the beginning of the academic year 2020-2021. If the number of delivered visas has decreased by 25% in France in September 2020 in comparison with September 2019, the number of new international students on the campuses in the United States has dropped by 72%, the number of new international students enrolled in the Australian universities has fallen by 63%, and China, for example, hasn’t been allowing the international students to enter into its territory since the beginning of the crisis. However there are major disparities about this decrease of 25% , with - 60% of students coming from regions of Asia/Oceania and America, and on the contrary, + 6% of students coming from the region of North Africa/ Middle East.

Student mobility in the world before the Covid-19 crisis

The key figures of student mobility in the world, based on the UNESCO figures of 2018-2019, so before the pandemic, reveal an unchanged top three of international students host countries and show that France has dropped a place. Indeed, the United States (in stagnation since 2017), the United Kingdom (+ 4%) and Australia (+ 17%) remain the three main host countries. Germany keeps its 4th position and France become the 6th host country of international students, just after Russia. According to the report, this slight drop would be based on a change of the counting method as now only student mobility for diploma trainings has been taken into account. In addition, South Korea, Turkey and China continue increasing, with respectively + 20%, + 17% and + 13% of international students in a year.
Observing the figures by region, the European Union remained the first host area of international students in the world (1,8 million) in 2018, before Asia/Oceania and America with respectively 1,25 million and 1,21 million international students. The three main countries of origin of international students in Europe are China (one international student in ten), Germany and India.

Erasmus + program in 2018-2019
  • More than 350,000 Erasmus + students went abroad for a period of studies or internship (+ 23% in the last five years)
  • Spain is the first host country of Erasmus + students (+ 3% since 2017-2018, + 30% in the last five years)
  • Around 30,000 Erasmus + students went to France to study (+ 4% since 2018-2018, in stagnation for the last five years)
  • France is the biggest sending country of Erasmus + students (+33% in five years)

We observe a similar trend in the world as the Asian students, and specifically Chinese and Indian students, remained the most mobile students. The report underlines a major increase of Vietnam which recorded a growth by 94% of students who went abroad to study. It ranked 4th country of origin of international students while it was only in 10th position in 2013. France remained in the 6th position but continued increasing, with + 30% of French students who went abroad to study in the last five years and + 11% last year.

Student mobility in France and in the French engineering schools

So, in 2018, France was on the 6th position of host countries and countries of origin of students who went abroad for diploma trainings: there were 230,000 international students in France and almost 100,000 French students abroad.

If we consider the students who go abroad to attend a diploma training or an exchange program and the foreign students who live in France, there were more than 370,000 international students in France in 2019-2020 (+ 23% in the last five years). The top three of countries of origin of these students is still the same : Morocco, China and Algeria, but the number of students from Sub-Saharan Africa is increasing strongly : +74% of Ivorian students and +65% of Congolese students in the last five years. On the contrary, the number of European and Asian students is increasing slightly and even decreasing in some cases : -6% of German students, -2% of Romanian students, -1% of Vietnamese students and stagnation of number of Chinese students in the last five years.

In the French engineering schools, there were more than 26,500 international students in 2019-2020, representing 16% of students in the French engineering schools and + 22% in the last five years (+ 30% from 2013 to 2018). Morocco remains the first country of origin of international students : Moroccan students represent 20% of international students in the French engineering schools.

Students from Sub-Saharan Africa, and specifically from Ivory Coast, Benin and Cameroon, and students from India (+ 103% in the last five years) are amongst the highest growths of international students in the French engineering schools. However, the trend is the same as at national level amongst the most significant decreases of international students, with only + 4% of European students and + 15% of Asian students hosted in the French engineering schools in the last five years.

Despite a moderate growth in the number of international students in French engineering schools, French engineering trainings are still attractive. However CDEFI and its members remain cautious. The slight increase, and even decrease, of students from some European and Asian countries requires an accurate analysis so that the French engineering schools continue hosting international students from different areas and countries and raising their influence in Europe and all over the world. 

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