Foreign students in France experience greater problems than French students with basic needs such as housing and money, are less confident that their studies will secure them a job and are not very satisfied with the quality of university life, says a report by OVE, the Observatory of Student Life, writes Jane Marshall.
The authors, Saeed Paivandi, lecturer at Paris-8 University, and Ronan Vourc'h of the OVE cast light on the identity and living conditions of "these diverse groups in our universities" whom "we do not know very well".
Overseas student numbers have risen sharply from 149,500 - 7 per cent of students in France - in 1998, to 245,300 in 2003, the year to which the report relates, when they represented 11 per cent of the total student population and 14 per cent of those in the universities.
The report says that a foreign student could be a long-term resident from a foreign family living in France or a political refugee. "The common link between all these students is without doubt their 'foreign' origin, but the conditions under which they do their studies are not the same."
Women account for 46.5 per cent of foreigners compared with 55 per cent of French students. The foreign students' average age is 25.6 years compared with 22.1 for the French. A higher proportion are postgraduates and they are less likely to be single than French students. Some 16.7 per cent of foreign students are under 21 and nearly 50 per cent are over 24 - percentages almost exactly the reverse of the French.
Non-European students are more likely to take science courses than Europeans. Nearly 40 per cent of foreigners study in the Paris region, compared with 23.3 per cent of French nationals.
The report found that "foreign students seem less confident than the French concerning the ease with which their education will allow them to find work." Two thirds thought their studies would help them get a job "very or fairly easily" compared with nearly four fifths of French. Non-Europeans were the most worried.
Asked about aspects of their university life, the report says: "Overall, foreign students are not very satisfied with general study conditions."
They gave satisfaction ratings of below 30 per cent to 11 of the 17 themes, including health services, sports and cultural facilities, timetabling and advice about courses and career opportunities. Only two - geographical location and security - scored more than 50 per cent.
The report says: "Foreign students meet many more difficulties than their French peers in finding accommodation." Most foreigners lack the advantage enjoyed by more than two fifths of French students, who live with their parents.
Non-Europeans face most difficulty making ends meet.