As well as being the number one tourist destination in the world, France is also renowned for the quality of its education - so as an international student there's no better place to study
Edunation.com surveyed more than 10,000 students for their 2022 global study abroad country rankings, with France placed eighth overall and fifth in Europe. It also ranked second in the world for experiencing a new culture and lifestyle.
The country's overall placement is unsurprising, as the French higher education system is widely regarded for its teaching excellence, high accessibility and award-winning research - 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 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 30 French institutions appear in the QS World University Rankings 2022, with four making the top 100. Université Paris Sciences et Lettres (Université PSL) leads the way in 44th position, followed by Ecole Polytechnique (49th), Sorbonne University (72nd) and finally Université Paris-Saclay (86th).
Business schools in France also perform particularly well. INSEAD, which has campuses in France and Singapore, is currently joint third in the MBA Business School Rankings 2022, while HEC Paris appears in joint eleventh position.
From MBAs to Doctoral degrees, ISM faculty students and alumni come together from around the globe to facilitate knowledge sharing, learning and networking.
As one of the exclusive 1% of international business schools with triple accreditation, NEOMA stands out as an innovative global business school whose impact stems from its excellent research and instruction. Its Master in Management is ranked 15th worldwide (The Economist, 2021).
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 (July and August).
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 subjects, 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.
To browse all degree courses taught in English, visit Campus France.
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.
Use the Campus France Masters catalogue to search for Masters programmes.
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.
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 is 31 January each year. Grandes Écoles institutions set their own application windows.
You won't need to prove your proficiency in French, as many courses are offered in English.
Courses at public institutions cost around €380 (£324) a year, and if you study privately, it can be anywhere between €3000 (£2,560) and €10,000 (£8,535).
Use the Campus France directory of Doctoral schools to search for Doctoral programmes.
If you're looking for a taster of life in France, you might wish to consider completing a student exchange to supplement studies in your home country.
The Turing Scheme, which is backed by over £100 million worth of funding, enables thousands of students from schools, colleges and universities to gain study and work experience overseas.
The programme prioritises those from disadvantaged backgrounds and people with special needs. Check that your university is involved in the programme and offers the Turing Scheme.
Alternatively, you could enrol on a short programme to learn the language while immersing yourself in the culture. Search available opportunities at Campus France - Programmes.
At public universities, average annual tuition fees in 2022 for EU nationals, EEA (European Economic Area) members, plus those from Andorra and Switzerland, were:
- €170 (£145) for Bachelors/Licence degrees
- €260 (£221) for Masters degrees
- €396 (£337) for PhD degrees.
There are differentiated registration fees for non-EU students, including those from the UK. However, 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 2022 is:
- €2,770 (£2,360) for Bachelors degrees per year
- €3,770 (£2,963) for Masters degrees per year.
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 2022/23 this is set at €380 (£324) per year.
Tuition fees at private universities, Grandes Écoles and on courses for specific subjects are higher than this - for instance, average tuition fees for engineering students at public universities is around €601 (£512) 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 €78,000 (£66,447) for the September 2022 and €80,000 (£68,318) January 2023 intakes respectively.
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 biology and health, engineering, science, political science, economics and management, history, French language and civilisation, and law.
The scholarship is delivered in the form of a monthly stipend - in 2022, this is €1,181 (£1,006) for Masters students and €1,700 (£1,448) for PhD students and included payment of airfare, medical insurance, cultural activities 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.
You can use Campus France's scholarship directory to search for other available funding at all levels of study.
Alternatively, many French universities offer their own scholarships and grants, so approach your institution directly to discover what you're entitled to.
While tuition fees are generally low in France, it's important to factor living costs into your budget, as these can be expensive. You'll need between €800 (£681) and 1,300 (£1,107) per month to get by, including housing, food, transport and leisure activities - the higher end being the cost of living in Paris.
You'll likely also pay a small fee of €91 (£78) to join your students' union.
As an international student, you need to show you have these funds to support yourself, prior to any employment you take on once living in France.
You won't need a visa to study in France if you're from the EU. All you'll need is a valid passport or travel ID document and formal proof of acceptance onto your university course, as well as comprehensive health insurance and evidence of your ability to financially support yourself.
Non-EU students, including those from the UK, will need a visa to enter France. Short term 'Schengen' visas are available, as are visas for sitting entrance exams, but if you're studying in France for longer than six months, you'll need to apply for a VLS-TS visa, which lasts for the duration of your course.
Visit France-Visas for more information.
How to apply
If you're an EU student, you'll apply for a Masters directly to the institution, as French students do. Most universities set a deadline of the end of January in the year you want to start your course.
Be prepared to provide transcripts of your past qualifications and proof of your language proficiency where required, as well as a CV and cover letter. You may also be invited to an interview or have to sit an entrance exam.
Grandes Écoles often set their own deadlines and admissions tests, so you'll need to contact them directly for more information. Due to their elite status and smaller class intakes, the process of applying to a Grandes Écoles is more competitive than a standard institution.
If you're applying for a Licence degree, you'll use the national online platform Parcoursup (in French) to enrol. Registrations typically close in late March or early April for courses starting in the autumn.
Find out more about how your circumstances can affect the application process at Campus France.
Hundreds of courses are taught in English across France, which means learning French isn't an essential prerequisite of studying in the country.
However, if you're enrolling onto a French-taught course and it isn't your first language, you'll need to demonstrate your proficiency by taking a recognised language test. The most commonly used tests are the DELF and DALF, awarded by the French Ministry of Education.
You can take these tests in the UK - use the CIEP search feature to find your nearest centre (Royaume-Uni).
Even if your course is taught in English, it's worth having a good grasp of French to help you navigate the country during your stay. Many institutions offer language courses that can be taken alongside your main studies, or you can learn online with platforms such as RFI Savoirs.
Comparison to UK qualifications
Existing higher education qualifications gained in other European countries will usually be accepted by French institutions. Equally, undergraduate or postgraduate qualifications taken in France should be internationally recognised, including by employers in the UK.
For more information on having your qualifications officially evaluated and recognised, see ENIC-NARIC.
Find out more
- Discover what it's like to work in France.
- Read more about studying in France at Campus France and Erudera.