Study in France
France is a beautiful country with a long history of higher education. Located in Western Europe, it occupies a geographically diverse area from the Mediterranean Sea to the North Sea and the English Channel. This gives France stunning natural beauties you may wish to explore. Culturally, France is a country with a long history as well as rich artistic, philosophical and scientific tradition. France is one of the major centres of culture, cuisine and literature. All these reasons make it an exciting destination for international students across the world.
The top tourist attractions in France include:
• Eiffel Tower (Paris)
• Chateau de Versailles (Versailles)
• Mont Saint Michel (Normandy)
• The Cote d’Azure
• The Louvre (Paris)
• Mont Blanc (Western Europe’s largest mountain)
France is particularly a good choice for those wanting to study business related subjects. The country is a hub for international business and management education, and has lots of business schools in the worldwide rankings.
France has 71 public universities and they are all funded by the national government, offering excellent education at a very affordable price to all students, domestic or international. There are also a number of private universities (grandes écoles). The academic year begins in September or October and ends in May or June, depending on the program and institution. There are two semesters, divided by a break following final examinations at the end of the first semester. There are two main types of courses offered at French universities: large lecture courses, where the professor speaks and students take notes, and sections & labs, designed for smaller groups of students where the material covered in lectures is explored in greater detail. Usually, attendance in sections & labs is mandatory. Some career-oriented programs also require internships and practical training.
When it comes to degrees, French universities use a format popular throughout EU: licence, master, doctorate. Licence refers to undergraduate studies and it lasts for 6 semesters (3 years), with 180 ECTS earned. Master studies last for an additional 4 semesters (2 years), for a total of 5 years of study and 300 ECTS earned. Doctorate can be obtained after the additional 6 semesters (3 years). Find out what the ECTS is from Anna, our study abroad expert. It’s also important to know that every university has an internship referral system and a career services office. This means you will always know of the most recent internship and job opportunities available to you.
France uses the Euro (€) for its currency. Tuition rates at public institutions are set by the government and they are very affordable. In fact, tuition rates at France’s public institutions of higher education are identical for domestic and international students.
Tuition costs are set every year. In 2017, average annual tuition costs for undergraduate studies were less than €200 (under US$250). For master’s studies, the rates are around €259 (around US$305) and for doctoral studies it’s around €393 (US$460). Students are often required to pay certain administration fees which raise tuition costs slightly. Despite these fees, studying in France remains one of the most affordable options for international students who seek a quality higher education.
These rates apply to public institutions only. If you wish to study at a private institution, the rates tend to be much higher and go up to €10,000 (US$12,000) per year.
There are also certain scholarships and mobility schemes available for those who wish to study abroad in France. Some of the most popular ones include grants from the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research, funding made by National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), awards from regional councils, Erasmus and Erasmus Mundus programs.
Unlike tuition rates, costs of living in France tend to be higher than neighbouring countries. Luckily, students are often eligible to subsidised rates at restaurants and transportation. There is also specialised housing for students which is available to international students who wish to study in France. Costs of living are lower in smaller towns, so this is something to keep in mind when deciding on where to study.
International students will have several choices for accommodation in France. You could live in university accommodation for around €120 per month. The demand for these is very high, however. Selection is based on social criteria and given to exchange or scholarship students. Renting a private studio apartment will cost around €457-€542. Homestay is another option for international students. This will cost around €200-€800 per month depending on the location. Homestay also includes at least one meal per day provided.
Students have the option to apply for a grant from their local Caisse d’Allocation Familiale (CAF). It is free to apply for, and if you are eligible you can get up to 35% of your rent back monthly.
Other living costs may include:
• Electricity, gas, internet – €60 per month
• Study materials – €50 per month
• Travel card or transport pass – €70 per month
• Return train ticket – €25 (in advance)
• Groceries – €250 per month
• Eating out – €12 on average
• Gym membership – €38 per month
Many galleries and museums are free to people under the age of 26. France is one of the best countries for student discounts, so it always worth asking about this when you go out.
How is higher education in France organized?
In addition to around 250 “grandes écoles” (see question 2), France has 83 public universities. These provide courses in a comprehensive range of subjects, catering for around 80% of tertiary-level students. France also offers a selection of highly respected art and architecture schools, as well as colleges specializing in fields such as fashion, film, hospitality, journalism, performing arts and social work.
Many French universities and other higher education providers are organized into clusters, known as PRES (short for pôles de recherche et d'enseignement supérieur), which bring together universities, research institutes and specialized schools. Members of each PRES share resources and collaborate on both research and course provision, with degrees sometimes conferred by the overall PRES, rather than a single institution.
What is a “grande école”?
One of the most distinctive elements of higher education in France is the system of “grandes écoles”. There are elite institutions typically characterized by a relatively small intake, highly competitive admissions, specialization in a single field (often business or engineering, though some grandes écolescover a wide range of subjects) and reputation for educating a high proportion of the country’s leading politicians, civil servants, business leaders and researchers. Examples of prominent grandes écoles include Ecole normale supérieure (ENS Paris) and Ecole Polytechnique – France’s two highest entrants in the QS World University Rankings® 2014/15.
What types of degree do French universities offer?
In line with the Bologna Process, French universities offer three levels of degree: the licence (completed in three years), the master (requiring an additional two years) and the doctorate (usually an additional three years). Master’s degrees are classified as either ‘research’ (designed for those intending to progress to a doctorate) or ‘professional’ (for those intending to enter the workplace).
How can I apply to French universities?
Students from 33 countries (listed at www.campusfrance.org) are required to apply using the online CEF process provided by government agency Campus France. This covers both university and visa applications. Students from other countries should apply directly to the institutions they are interested in, following the process detailed on the official website.
Do I need a visa to study in France?
Students from EU/EEA countries do not need a visa to study in France. Those from elsewhere will need to apply for an extended-stay visa with residency permit (VLS-TS), either via the CEF process (see question 4) or from their nearest French embassy. When considering visa applications, officials are required to consider applicants’ academic background, level of preparation, study plans, and proficiency in the French language. Applicants are also asked to show they have sufficient financial resources – around €615 (US$670) per month, the equivalent of a base-rate monthly governmental scholarship.
Do I need to be fluent in French?
While most undergraduate programs are taught in French, the country offers a large selection of English-taught courses at postgraduate level. Government agency Campus France offers a searchable online database of English-taught programs, and you can also search for relevant courses in France using QS Course Finder.
Depending on the language in which the program is taught, students may be asked to submit proof of proficiency in either French or English. This can be through evidence of completing an earlier degree in the relevant language, or by taking a language test such as the DELF, DALF, IELTS or TOEFL.
How much are tuition fees at French universities?
France’s public universities offer higher education at a very low cost, with only nominal fees charged. Rates for each year are set nationally, with the same low fees charged to both domestic and international students. As of 2014-15, annual rates are €189.10 for licence programs, €261.10 for master’s programs, €396.10 for doctoral programs and €615.10 for programs leading to the diplôme d’ingénieur (a range of approx. US$200-670). At private institutions, fees are significantly higher, though still fairly modest in a global context. Private fees are likely to be in the range of €3,000 to €10,000 (US$3,200-10,900) per year, though leading business schools may charge up to €30,000.
How much are living costs in France?
As you may expect, living costs are higher in Paris than elsewhere in France. Campus France recommends a monthly budget of €1,000 for students in Paris, and €800 for those outside the capital. Even so, the relatively low tuition fees go a long way towards offsetting higher living expenses even in the capital – this overall affordability is one of the factors underlying Paris’ position at the top of the QS Best Student Cities index, a position it has now held for three years running.
Can I work in France while I study?
Students from within the EEA and Switzerland are free to pursue work alongside their studies without any restrictions. Those from other countries can work up to 965 hours per year (equivalent to 60% of a full working year), as part of the permissions granted with the VLS-TS visa and residency permit. Internships completed as part of a study program are not counted within this.
Can I get a scholarship to study in France?
Talented international students may be able to obtain funding via the Eiffel Excellence Scholarship Programme. This provides an allowance of €1,181 per month for 12-36 months at master’s level, and €1,140 per month for up to 10 months at PhD level. Other funding options available to international students include grants via the EU’s Erasmus program, awards from individual universities and funding provided via regional councils, usually in partnership with public research agencies such as the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).
Doctoral students can also apply for a contrat doctoral, which means they legally become an employee of the university, receiving a regular salary in return for research and teaching work. These contracts are for three years, with a nationally set minimum salary of at least €1,685 (US$1,830) per month.
Can I stay and work in France after I graduate?
In order to stay on and work in France after graduating, you’ll need to apply for a change of residency status; this can be done via the local prefecture once an offer of employment has been received and accepted. Alternatively, international students graduating at master’s level or above can seek permission to extend their student residence permits for up to a year. During this time they can work for up to 60% of the legal working week without applying for a change of status, unless their earnings exceed 150% of the minimum wage (€9.61 per hour as of January 2015); if this is the case they must apply for full-time employment status.
Got more questions about studying in France? Visit our country guide or ask a question in the comments below.