Consistently ranked among the top destinations for international students, France isn't just about sophisticated culture, food and stunning scenery - it also has world class universities
More tourists visit France each year than any other country and it's the most popular non-English speaking nation for international students, making it a great place to get to know people from all around the globe. As an added bonus, tuition fees are very low.
France has a deserved reputation for excellence in higher education. For example, it was the first European country to offer the MBA (Master in Business Administration) qualification and its business schools remain some of the most prestigious in the world.
When you're not studying, you can enjoy multicultural cities such as Paris, beautiful beaches on the Mediterranean coast and dramatic mountainous landscapes in the Alps or Pyrenees.
The French higher education system can be divided into three main categories:
- Public universities - government-funded institutions offering a wide range of courses.
- Specialist institutions - including business schools, engineering schools, and schools of art and architecture.
- Grandes écoles - illustrious but relatively small institutions specialising in areas such as engineering, sciences or business. They are highly selective, with students usually admitted only after completing a two-year preparatory course and an entrance exam.
There are two French universities in the top 100 in the world, according to the QS World University Rankings 2016-2017 - École Normale Supérieure, Paris, and École Polytechnique. These are also the best-placed French institutions in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016-2017.
French business schools, such as INSEAD and HEC Paris, typically perform very strongly in global MBA rankings.
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Students attending a UK university who want to study in France can take part in the European Union's (EU) education, training and youth support programme, Erasmus+. The scheme offers study, training, work experience and voluntary placements to many young people, with opportunities lasting from three months to one academic year.
Financial support is available through the Erasmus+ initiative for any UK public, private or not-for-profit organisation that is actively involved in education and training. However, your university must have a formal agreement with a partner university in another EU country, of which France is one. Speak to your institution for information on how to apply.
This information remains valid following the UK's decision to leave the EU and will be updated if any changes occur.
Degree courses in France
The French equivalent to a UK undergraduate Bachelors degree is the Licence programme. A course at this level will take three years to complete. Entry requirements for a Licence programme include a French baccalauréat or international equivalent (such as A-levels).
You will be able to find programmes in all subject areas. Search for French degree courses at Campus France and apply directly to the university you are interested in.
French Masters degrees typically take two years to complete, with the academic year running from September to June. Their longer length means French Masters courses can be less intensive than their UK counterparts.
Programmes may be focused on independent study (research Masters) to prepare you to take a PhD, or taught modules (professional Masters) designed to provide the skills and knowledge required to enter employment. However, many courses now combine both taught and research elements.
Masters courses are typically taught through project work, discussions and workshops. You will usually have to write a dissertation or undertake a research project, which forms the method of assessment along with coursework and exams.
Entry requirements are set by individual institutions but generally include a recognised undergraduate degree. Search for French Masters degrees at Campus France.
France has a strong intellectual tradition and commits 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP) to research. There is a network of around 300 doctoral schools, mostly within universities, and there are 70,000 doctoral candidates at any one time - a third of them from outside France.
A PhD in France, known as a Doctorat, will usually take three years to complete and you'll need to have studied a Masters degree to be eligible. You can apply for an advertised research position or submit your own research proposal.
To successfully achieve a PhD you will need to produce a thesis then present it to a jury in a public forum. Search for French doctoral programmes at Campus France.
At public universities, annual tuition fees are the same for international students as for French students. In 2015/16, fees were set at:
- €184 per year for Licence programmes;
- €256 per year for Masters programmes;
- €391 per year for doctoral programmes.
You will pay significantly more to study at a private institution such as a school of business or management - between €3,000 and €10,000 per year. Studying for an MBA at a leading business school will cost considerably more. Check the websites of individual institutions for more details.
Funding to study in France
The French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs offers grants to international students from a budget of around €100million, while the Ministry of Higher Education and Research provides needs-based finance to those who have lived in France for at least two years. You can use Campus France's funding search to see what's available at all levels of study.
Individual universities often offer some scholarships to international universities - check their websites to find out more.
How to apply
To study a Masters degree in France you will need to apply directly to the institution you are interested in. Most set a deadline of the end of January in the year that you want to start your course.
In addition to completing an application form and providing academic transcripts, you may also be required to attend an interview. Entrance exams are used for some courses - notably MBAs and programmes at grandes écoles.
Almost 1,200 courses in France are taught in English, meaning it's not essential to have strong French language skills in order to study in the country.
However, to study a course taught in French you will need to demonstrate your proficiency by passing a recognised language test such as the Ministry of Education's DELF and DALF.
Even if your course is taught in English, immersing yourself in France's lifestyle and culture requires at least a basic understanding of the language. Universities will offer courses that you can take alongside your main studies.
As an EU citizen you're permitted to live in any EU country while studying, without needing a visa, as long as you:
- are enrolled at an approved university/other educational institution;
- are studying for more than three months;
- have comprehensive health insurance cover;
- have sufficient funds to live without needing income support.
This visa information remains valid following the UK's decision to leave the EU and will be updated if any changes occur.
Most non-EU students will require a visa to enter France. Short-term visas are available, but if you are studying for more than six months you’ll need to apply for a VLS-TS visa, which also acts as your residence permit. How you obtain a visa differs depending on where you are from - see Campus France for full details.
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.
Find out more
- Discover what it's like to work in France.