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Study estimates economic impact of foreign students in France at €5 billion

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • International students studying in France offer a significant net economic benefit for the country (on the order of €1.35 billion based on 2020/21 enrolment levels)
  • Most students rely on a combination of self-funding, employment earnings, and public subsidies to meet the costs of their study programmes in France

A new study from Campus France calculates that foreign students had a direct economic impact of slightly more than €5 billion annually as of 2021. The study uses a base enrolment of 303,000 foreign students for this estimate, suggesting the actual spending of foreign students in the country this year is somewhat higher still (the latest enrolment data puts the total number of foreign students in France at just over 400,000 as of this year).

Based on a survey of a representative sample of nearly 10,000 foreign students in France, the study breaks down its projection of total spending as follows.

  • Monthly living expenses: €2,836,000,000
  • Tuition fees: €873,000,000
  • Spending by visiting relatives: €393,000,000
  • Transportation: €461,000,000
  • French-language training: €73,000,000
  • Social security contributions: €375,000,000
  • Expenses for visas and permits: €35,000,000
  • Total student spending: €5,046,000,000

Against this total, the student also estimates the following offsetting public expenditures for international students in the country.

  • Scholarships from the French government: €53,000,000
  • Public funding of higher education for international students): €3,104,100,000
  • Housing aid: €206,600,000
  • Operating costs for Campus France+: €86,900,000
  • Social security expenditure for international students: €247,200,000
  • Total public spending attributed to international students: €3,698,000,000

With all spending and public expenses tallied in this way, the study concludes that visiting students contribute a net direct economic benefit of €1.35 billion.

How do students fund their studies?

Nearly eight in ten respondents (77%) said they relied on financial support from friends and family to support their studies. Another 48% said they used their own savings for study expenses. The survey responses in this section do not add up to 100% as students were allowed to cite multiple sources of funds. However, it’s clear from the pattern of response that foreign students in France are primarily self-funded.

Other important funding sources include: Caisse des Allocations Familiales (a public subsidy for rental housing) (46%), employment earnings in France (34%), and scholarships (either from their home countries or from France) (18%).

Nearly half of students (48%) work during their studies in France, and more than half of those consider their in-country employment to be essential to meeting their expenses.

The bigger picture

“Beyond the direct economic impact, welcoming international students has a real impact on France’s influence,” says the study report from Campus France. “The stay produces direct positive effects on students, for the desire to work with French companies (88% of respondents), to consume French products (80%), or the desire to return to France for tourism (88 %). International students will also be [important advocates for] the country, recommending France as a work destination (84%), vacation (93%), stay for studies (90%), or to live there (75%).”

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