Ready to Study in France: What to know
Widely regarded as a country of great artistic, scientific and cultural significance, studying in France is an attractive prospect for those looking to enhance their employability.
More than 20,000 international students were surveyed by Educations.com for their 2019 global study abroad country rankings, with France placed ninth overall and fourth in Europe, ahead of popular destinations such as Germany and the UK.
This is unsurprising as the French higher education system is renowned for its excellence of teaching, high accessibility and award-winning research – with the country having nurtured talent in a range of fields, including maths, anthropology, political science and medicine.
In addition to historical names in the latter field, such as Marie Curie and Louis Pasteur, France is also home to the world’s most iconic fashion brands including Dior, Louboutin and Givenchy.
Away from your studies, you’ll find plenty to explore in your downtime when living in student cities such as Paris, Lyon and Toulouse. For instance, in the capital you can visit famous museums, art galleries and landmarks such as the Musée du Louvre, Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, while top restaurants, cafés and bakeries will be right on your doorstep.
France is home to more than 3,500 public and private higher education institutions. These include:
- Universities – catering to nearly 75% of the country’s 250,000 international students, these publicly-funded institutions offer courses in all areas, from science and sport to humanities and medicine.
- Specialist institutions – including schools of business and management, engineering, architecture and arts and applied arts.
- Grandes Écoles – these prestigious institutions are typically smaller than universities and nurture the talents of only the brightest students. They’re highly selective, with students only usually accepted after completing a two-year preparation course and passing an entrance exam.
A total of 31 French institutions appear in the QS World University Rankings 2020, with three making the top 100. Université Paris Sciences et Lettres (Université PSL) leads the way in 53rd position, followed by Ecole Polytechnique (60th) and Sorbonne University (77th).
Business schools in France also perform particularly well against the competition. INSEAD, which has campuses in France and Singapore, is currently fourth in the Financial Times Global MBA Rankings 2020, while HEC Paris appears in ninth position.
Degree courses in France
The French academic year runs from September or October until the end of June, and is comprised of two semesters, a two-week break over Christmas and a summer holiday of at least two months.
Undergraduate degrees in France, known as Licence degrees, take three years to complete and correspond to a UK Bachelors. They’re available in a range of topics, from global communications and international economics to art history and sociology.
Unless you hold a French Baccalaureate qualification (A-level standard), you’ll need to get in touch with your chosen institution for details on entry requirements and how to apply.
Postgraduate degrees in France are typically divided into four semesters across two academic years. Their increased length means French Masters courses can be less intensive than in the UK.
Courses are delivered through workshops, discussions and independent project work, leading to the submission of a final extended research project or dissertation.
Other types of Masters degrees offered in France are Specialised Masters and Masters of Business Administration (MBA). These prestigious courses have varying structures, stricter entry requirements and are heavily focused on advanced professional training.
Completing a PhD in France takes around three to four years, although some courses can take up to six. You’ll submit a thesis under the supervision of a director, who you’ll need to approach and gain the approval of before the course begins.
Once written, you’ll have to give a public oral presentation of your thesis, before it’s assessed by two rapporteurs.
By studying a French PhD, you’ll join a strong network of more than 250 Doctoral schools that provide planning and development support systems to help you in moving to the next stage of your career. As part of your studies, you’ll receive an additional 150 hours of training in areas such as business creation, research and communication.
You need a Masters or equivalent, or to be studying one at the time of application, to progress onto a PhD. To apply, submit a research proposal to the Doctoral school of your choice, or check university websites for advertised project assistant posts.
The deadline for PhD applications at public universities nationwide is 31 January each year. Grandes Écoles institutions may set their own application windows.
You won’t need to prove your proficiency in French to study a PhD in France, as many courses are offered in English.
At public universities, average annual tuition fees in 2019/20 for EU nationals, EEA (European Economic Area) members, plus those from Andorra and Switzerland, were:
- €170 (£157) for Bachelors/Licence degrees
- €243 (£224) for Masters degrees
- €380 (£350) for PhD degrees.
The state has also agreed to pay two-thirds of the cost for non-EU students applying to study for their first Bachelors or Masters degree.
The maximum registration fee you’d be expected to pay in 2019/20 is:
- €2,770 (£2,555) for Bachelors degrees
- €3,770 (£3,478) for Masters degrees.
At Doctorate level, the French government will pay most of the costs for non-EU students, as you’re not subject to the new differentiated tuition rates. Therefore, for 2019/20 this was set at €380 (£350) per year.
Tuition fees at private universities, Grandes Écoles and on courses for specific subjects are higher than this – for instance, average tuition fees in 2019/20 for engineering students at public universities was around €601 (£555) per year. Grandes Écoles tend to set their own fees, so contact them directly for specific figures.
Business and MBA students are also subject to much higher fees. For instance, the HEC Paris MBA costs €72,500 (£66,878) for the September 2020 and January 2021 intakes.
Funding to study in France
The French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE) offers grants to international students through its embassies, while the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation (MESRI) provides needs-based finance to those who will have lived in France for at least five years by the end of their course.
The Eiffel Excellence Scholarship Programme, established by MEAE, is designed to encourage students from foreign countries to study at Masters and PhD level, in priority areas such as engineering, science, political science, economics and management, and law.
The scholarship is delivered in the form of a monthly stipend – in 2020, this is €1,181 (£1,083) for Masters students and €1,400 (£1,285) for PhD students and included payment of airfare, medical insurance and a housing subsidy. Some grants also offer language training.
To find out more, contact the international department at your French university, or the French embassy in your home country.