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Renewing Canada’s IES - Sectoral papers: French language institutions outside Québec

Published on March 1, 2023


French-language institutions outside Quebec play an important role in maintaining Canada’s French language minority communities by attracting international students who choose pathway programs as a route to permanent resident status. These institutions help to advance the Government of Canada’s objective to better preserve and protect bilingualism in Canada. These institutions’ interests are represented by several associations including l’Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne (ACUFC), le Réseau des cégeps et des collèges francophones du Canada (RCCFC) and Avantage Ontario.


International student enrolment

The worldwide Francophone community represents a population of 300 million. There are also over 380,000 students attending 552 K-12 institutions (lycées français) abroad. These institutions are accredited by the Agence pour l’enseignement français à l’étranger (AEFE) and teach French national curriculum outside of France.

According to ACUFC, there are currently between 4,000 and 5,000 international students studying in French language colleges and universities outside Quebec.

Since COVID-19 border restrictions were lifted, institutions have experienced an increase in the number of international student applications from Francophone countries.

Government of Canada support to Francophone minority communities

The Government of Canada is committed to supporting the vitality of Francophone minority communities and increasing the proportion of French-speaking immigrants outside Quebec, particularly under the Action Plan for Official Languages 2018-2023: Investing in Our Future.

In January 2023, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced that Canada achieved its target of 4.4% of French-speaking immigrants outside Quebec in 2022 , one year ahead of its projected timeline.Footnote 1

International student contributions to Francophone minority communities

Francophone communities outside Quebec benefit from international students who offer long-term contributions to the communities where they study, often filling labour gaps in areas such as education, early childhood education, culture, and healthcare.

Many post-secondary institutions report a high interest from international students in business administration programs. Since most of their resources are allocated to meet that demand, it becomes challenging for these institutions to fill other programs and thus maintain a diverse program offering.

Some stakeholders have called for an even more comprehensive strategy for welcoming, integrating and retaining Francophone international student populations, including further supporting this population towards pathways to permanent residency.Footnote 2

Priority target markets

French-language institutions have reported recruitment challenges in African countries due to high study permit refusal rates. Study permit approval rates for most sub-Saharan African countries have been slowly improving over the past three years. IRCC has made efforts to increase awareness of eligibility requirements and therefore increase acceptance rates.

Although Canada attracts a high number of international students from France, they tend to choose to study in English when attending institutions outside of Quebec. French students tend to favor Quebec when studying in French, considering the exemption Quebec offers from differential tuition fees. In addition, qualified Walloon (Francophone Belgian) students and select students from some 40 Francophone countries may also take advantage of exemptions from differential tuition fees under bilateral student mobility agreements with the government of Quebec.Footnote 3

Among non-Francophone priority markets, there has historically been less interest in targeting Asian markets for student recruitment. Due to increased interest in French in Latin American countries, a growing number of opportunities are being explored, especially in Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico.

GAC’s annual digital advertising campaign has been helpful in raising awareness of French-language institutions outside Quebec. These campaigns run in collaboration with ACUFC. The advertisements target prospective students and direct them to to find program offerings at ACUFC member institutions.

Since the start of the IES, GAC has run two campaigns and has another currently in progress. Combined, they received 236 million ad impressions (to Feb. 5, 2023). The first campaign generated over 6,054 leads directed towards institutions and the following two have generated over 13,800 visits to institutions’ websites. Campaigns have targeted Belgium, France, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Senegal, and Tunisia.

Current and future issues

It is recognized that French language Institutions outside Quebec have unique needs that must be taken into consideration:

  • Limited to specific target markets to attract French-speaking international students
  • Increased pressure due to labour shortages in communities where the demand for minority language capacity is high
  • Limited resources to support recruitment and internationalization

GAC is actively working to increase the interest and uptake in its scholarship programs from French-language institutions outside of Quebec.


  • Which target markets should be prioritized in the new International Education Strategy for Francophone international student recruitment and institutional partnerships?
  • How can GAC and the Trade Commissioner Service work with the institutions accredited by the AEFE outside of France to attract francophone students to French-language institutions outside Quebec?
  • How can GAC and the Trade Commissioner Service better support the unique needs of French-language institutions outside Quebec?
  • What are some of the future issues that will face French language institutions outside
  • Quebec? What are your recommendations to address these issues?
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