A look at France’s legion of foreign students

With around 300,000 international students set to begin the new university term in France, we look at who they are, what they're studying, and where you're likely to find them.

A look at France's legion of foreign students
Most students went back to university this week after the summer break. Photo: AFP
Are you a foreign student in France? You're not alone this year (and keep reading, we may want to talk to you).
Judging by the latest statistics gathered by Campus France, an online portal run by the French government that assists students in their university applications, there's likely to be close to 300,000 international students in France this year. 
Here's a closer look. 
France – a top destination

France is the third most popular destination for international students, following hot on the heels of the US and the UK (which had 740,000 and 428,000 international students respectively). Australia comes in fourth with 250,000. These stats (pictured below), are from Unesco research in 2011.

(Photo: Campus France)

The relatively huge number of international students in France – 295,084 in 2013-2014 – makes up 7 percent of the world's foreign student population.

France welcomes four times as many students as it sends off 

So where do they come from?
In 2013-2014, the most represented country among the foreign students in France was Morocco (34,000), followed by China (30,000), and Algeria (22,000). Students from these countries made up 40 percent of the total population of international students. 
In Europe (see map below), the most popular origins were Italy (9,322), Germany (8,978), and Spain (6,963).
Meanwhile, there were 4,909 who came from the US and 3,982 from the UK. 

(Photo: Campus France)
Where do they study?
Paris is the most popular study destination, with almost 59,000 students burying their noses in textbooks there. Next most popular was nearby Versailles and Créteil. These cities had foreign student populations in 2013-2014 of 24,000 and 22,000 respectively. 
Indeed, Paris has a stellar reputation worldwide as a student city, topping the QS 'best student city' rankings for years running. 
Other common destinations for students included Lyon (22,000), Lille (15,000) and Toulouse (15,000) – which was recently ranked as the best place to be a student in France. Many cities could boast more than 10,000 students, including Marseille, Montpellier, Bordeaux, Nantes, Rennes, Grenoble, and Strasbourg (see map below).

(Photo: Campus France)
What exactly do they study?
A total of 73.8 of the international students are enrolled in university courses. The most recent stats from Unesco say that there were 24,269 Erasmus students in France in 2011-2012. 
Foreign students in France make up 12.1 percent of the total undergraduate population, and 41.4 percent of the doctoral students.
As for what they actually study, the graph below shows that most opt for courses in languages, arts, and humanities. The second most popular field was sport sciences, followed by economics. 

(Photo: Campus France)
So what next?
Well, now you know what you can expect and who you might meet – and you can always click the link below to find out more about visas and student life. But wait, there's more. 
We are making a push to provide more content for our readers who are international students. If you're a foreigner and you're spending this semester studying in France – then we want to hear from you. Especially if you're keen on getting some of your writing published, or feel like letting us know what's going on around campus. 
What are you waiting for? Introduce yourself to us via: [email protected] And best of luck this semester. 

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Schools to close as French teachers strike over Covid rules

Around three-quarters of French teachers plan to go on strike onThursday to protest the government's shifting rules on Covid testing for students, forcing the closure of half the country's primary schools, a union said Tuesday.

Schools to close as French teachers strike over Covid rules
Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP

The strike led by the Snuipp-FSU union, the largest among primary school teachers, comes after the latest of several changes on testing and isolation requirements for potential Covid cases announced by Prime Minister Jean Castex late Monday.

After seeing long lines of parents outside pharmacies and labs in recent days to test children in classes where a case was detected, Castex said home tests could now be used to determine if a student could return to school.

But teachers say class disruptions have become unmanageable with the spread of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant.

“Students cannot learn properly because attendance varies wildly, and a hybrid of in-house and distance learning is impossible to put in place,” the Snuipp-FSU said, adding that absent teachers are not being replaced.

It is also demanding the government provide facemasks for staff, including the more protective FFP2 masks, and CO2 monitors to check if classrooms are sufficiently ventilated.

“Not only does the current protocol not protect students, staff or their families, it has completely disorganised schools,” the union said, claiming that classes have effectively been turned into “daycare centres.”

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has said the government is doing everything possible to avoid outright school closures that could cause havoc for parents and jeopardise learning for thousands, especially those in low-income families.

“I know there is a lot of fatigue, of anxiety… but you don’t go on strike against a virus,” Blanquer told BFM television on Tuesday.

As of Monday some 10,000 classes had been shut nationwide because of Covid cases, representing around two percent of all primary school classes, Blanquer said.