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Trajectories of French students in Canada

Trajectories of French students in Canada cover photo

This study seeks to map the different trajectories of citizens of France who come to Canada as international students. The main aim is to understand the motivations that bring them to Canada; the temporal intention of such mobility (short or long term); and their actual trajectories (whether they stay in Canada, return to France, or move to a third country). We are also interested in understanding the outcomes of the period spent in Canada in terms of additional human (education/professional skills); social (networks) and material (income/resources) capital acquired. The study is of particular importance in assessing the brain circulation and brain-drain dynamics between France and Canada.

  • What are the motivations of French citizens choosing to come to Canada to pursue their studies?
  • Which factors influence their trajectories post-study (whether they stay in Canada, return to France, or move to a third country)?
  • How does their time spent in Canada impact their human, social and economic capital?

In the 2021 census data, France was shown to be the eighth most frequently reported country as the place of birth of recent immigrants in Canada (at 2%, up from the position of ninth in the 2016 census), with 121,525 individuals, the majority of whom (93,160) reside in Quebec, followed by 15,240 in Ontario, 7,025 in Vancouver and the remaining in other provinces.

In 2022, French students represented 3% of the total of international students in Canada, with 16,725 students.  France is the fourth largest country of origin for international students, after the Philippines and before Nigeria. This number has seen a three-fold increase in the past two decades. Notably, at some Quebec-based universities, such as Université du Québec à Montréal and Université de Montréal, French students constitute more than half of the international student population. This pattern has been catalyzed by several bilateral agreements between France and Canada, particularly with Quebec, fostering a diverse mobility between the two nations.

In this context, it is important to examine what are particularly the drivers of international student mobility from France to Canada and what are the pathways that these students follow after their studies.

  1. Desk research will review policies, analyze statistical data and relevant literature to map French student mobility in Canada since 2000.
  2. An online survey of 160 French citizens aged 18-45, who are studying or have studied in Canada, will provide a quantitative understanding of their motivations and decisions.
  3. Qualitative interviews with 40 individuals from the same demographic, including 20 each from Quebec and other provinces, will provide insight into their experiences. Additional interviews with stakeholders (5-10) from academia, government, and private sectors will add context to the findings.

The project commences on September 1st, 2023

August 2024

CERC Migration and French Embassy in Canada

 International students, student mobility, France, Canada