Introduction

France is one of the most popular study destinations in the world, with nearly 300,000 foreign students due to relatively low tuition fees and the chance to live in France. As the fourth most popular study destination in the world, and with 12 percent of the student population hailing from abroad, there is often a dynamic cultural diversity on French campuses. France is home to more than 200 engineering schools and 220 business schools, including the extremely prestigious grandes écoles. Paris ranks as the best city to study in beating out London, Singapore, Sydney, Zurich, Boston and many others. It was declared the best student city for academic resources, bustling nightlife, educational and cultural hub for students from across the globe.

Educational System

If you want to study in a country that is diverse, has an excellent academic reputation, and offers a culture that is revered by almost every other nation, you need look no further than France. One of the most popular destinations for studying abroad, France is an excellent choice for any prospective international student. There are currently more than 250,000 international students in France. In fact, around 10% of enrollments at French universities are international students; many of whom study at graduate level (masters and doctoral studies). The country offers an excellent environment for all international students when it comes to quality of education, lectures and research opportunities.

The French higher education system is one of the best in the world. With dramatically reduced tuition fees in comparison to other leading study abroad destinations, studying in France is more economically viable for international students. Consistently appearing near the top of internationally renowned rankings, French universities offer an academic pedigree that easily competes with other countries. France is particularly a good choice for those wanting to study business related subjects. The country is somewhat of a hub for international business and management education as it has lots of business schools in the worldwide rankings.

France has 83 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. 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.

When it comes to degrees, French universities use a format popular throughout EU: license, master, doctorate. License 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 is usually obtained after the additional 6 semesters (3 years). Higher education includes several systems:

  • Higher education is divided into three cycles or stages: the Premier cycle, two-year course up to DEUG (Diplôme universitaire d’enseignement général) level; the Deuxième cycle, third year up to the license followed by the one-year maîtrise; and the Troisième cycle or higher postgraduate study beginning with the Diplôme d’études approfondies (DEA) or with the Diplôme d’études supérieures spécialisées – DESS (diploma in an applied subject).
  • The Grandes écoles of engineering and business administration. These are competitive-entrance higher education institutions offering either four or five-year courses directly after the Baccalauréat or three-year courses after two years of classe préparatoire (preparatory class) during which students prepare for the entrance examinations to the Grandes écoles.
  • Vocational training lasts two to three years after the Baccalauréat. Courses may be taken in the Sections de techniciens supérieurs – STS (Advanced technicians sections) where students prepare for the Brevet de technicien supérieur – BTS (vocational training certificate for advanced technicians) and are also taught by the Instituts universitaires de technologie – IUT (polytechnics).
  • Some training courses have special entrance requirements and their own organization (study of medicine, pharmacy, paramedical studies, study of art and architecture, etc.).

To begin higher studies in France, foreign students must have a French baccalaureate or foreign equivalent and be able to prove that their command of French is good enough for them to take the course of their choice. Entrance procedures vary depending on the educational institution and the chosen training course. For the Classes préparatoires for entrance to the Grandes écoles, IUTs (polytechnics) and Instituts universitaires professionalisés – IUP (professional university institutes) students are to enroll directly with the institution concerned. For Premier cycle enrolment at a university, students are required to file an entrance application before the start of the academic year. Students are required to take a written examination and an oral to test their command of French.

Small tutorial sizes and heavy instructor intervention are two of the positive attributes that you will find while attending a college in France. The smaller class sizes and involved instructors mean that you have the time and the attention needed to learn, ask questions and get the help that you are seeking. Many colleges in other countries have overcrowded classrooms and it is often hard to find the personalized attention that you need to make the most out of your educational experience. This is not the case with the college and universities that are located in France.

Top Universities

  1. École Normale Supérieure, Paris (ENS Paris)
  2. École Polytechnique ParisTech
  3. Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC)
  4. École Normale Supérieure de Lyon
  5. Université Paris-Sud 11
  6. Université Paris Diderot – Paris 7
  7. Université Joseph Fourier – Grenoble 1
  8. Sciences Po Paris
  9. Université de Strasbourg
  10. Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV)
  11. Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
  12. Université Paris Descartes
  13. École des Ponts ParisTech
  14. École Normale Supérieure de Cachan
  15. Aix-Marseille University

Tuition Fees and Scholarships

One major benefit which students studying in France will enjoy is the country’s fee system. For the majority of courses at most universities you will have to pay only 181 EUR a year for a bachelor’s degree (there are exceptions, e.g.  engineering courses tend to cost more), 250 EUR per year for a master’s course and 380 EUR per year for a PhD.

However, a number of universities have decided to add associated costs related to specific services (e.g. for diplomas related to continuing learning and training). With these additional costs, in some public universities the tuition fees can reach as far as EUR 2.000/year. Students will pay more at Frances highly selective grandes écoles and grands établissements (great schools and establishments), which set their own fees (about 500-600 EUR per year). Some of these operate only at postgraduate level, and some like École Normale Supérieure, Paris require students to either get through two years of preparatory school or to transfer across after two years of an undergraduate course.

Grants are awarded on the basis of financial need to students that are less than 28 years of age. The amount awarded for the need-based grant depends on the assessment of social criteria, and varies between 1,606 and 4,600 EUR per year. The merit-based grant ranges from 1,800 to 6,102 EUR. At the same time, those eligible for a grant receive exemption or reduction in health cover. Health insurance for students is free until the age of 20, so only the costs of living and books have to be added. After the age of 20 the health insurance for students costs 200 EUR a year and covers most of the medical expenses. Loans are also available with a maximum amount of 15,000 EUR, but less than 0.1 % of university students take out such a loan.

Government Scholarships for International Students:

  • The Eiffel Scholarships
  • Erasmus Mundus Scholarships
  • Ile-de-France Masters Scholarships

University Scholarships for International Students:

  • Centrale Nantes
  • The Ecole Central Paris Graduate Fellowship
  • SciencesPo Emile-Boutmy Scholarship
  •  HEC Paris
  •  INSEAD
  • ISM Global Leadership Scholarship

Living Expenses

The average cost of housing in France is 250 to 700 EUR per month, although this rate is greatly affected by the region that you stay in, as well as the exact accommodation that you have selected.

French Universities offer accommodation in residence halls at good rates, in some cases even 120 EUR per month outside of Paris. However, the high number of students studying in France means affordable accommodation is usually difficult to find. Cheap accommodation is often offered on social criteria or reserved for student scholarship holders. Private residences are more expensive, but still provide good deals. Organizations rent shared studios and flats starting with 300 EUR to 600 EUR per month in major French cities and towns, close to university grounds.

Students who want to rent studios from French landlords usually require a “guarantor” – someone who works or lives in France, who can cover the payment of rent if the student is unable to pay. If a student cannot provide a guarantor, landlords might ask you for a 3-6 month rent in advance.

Usually, in Paris, students will not find flats to rent cheaper than 500 EUR, while the highest prices will go as much as 1000 EUR per month for accommodation close to the centre of Paris. Student residences in other city centres, like Nice or Marseille, start at 400 EUR per month. In Lyon, you should be able to find an entire apartment to yourself for 500 EUR, or share it with someone else for 200-400 EUR a month. Food, transportation and spending money would amount to between 350 to 500 Euros per month.

Unlike tuition rates, costs of living in France tend to be higher than neighboring countries. Luckily, students are often eligible to subsidized rates at restaurants and transportation. There is also specialized housing for students which is even available to internationals who wish to study in France. Costs of living are significantly lower in smaller towns, so this is another thing to keep in mind when deciding on where to study in France. The figures below should give you a good idea of what it costs to live in France from day to day.

  • Small apartment (private) : 450 Euros
  • Room in university residence : 240 Euros
  • Studio flat in university residence : 405 Euros
  • Food and meals : 200 Euros
  • Price of a meal ticket in the University restaurants : 3.10 Euros
  • Health insurance : 40 Euros
  • Local Transportation : 31 Euros

A budget of around 800 Euros per month will cover your accommodation, food, transport and cultural activities. Many discounts are available to students in some shops, restaurants, cafés, theatres, cinemas, hairdressers, etc.

For students staying more than 3 months, an accommodation grant is available from the 2nd month (the amount varies according to the rent, for example for a university room at 240 Euros, the accommodation grant is around 90 euros.)

Jobs in France

The major industries in France are aerospace, motor industry, pharmaceutical, industrial machinery, food and drink, and tourism. In recent years, the areas with most jobs were in science and engineering, research and development, tourism (including hotels, restaurants, catering), care giving (home, medical, psychiatric, childcare), retail and agriculture. English-language teaching is also an option.If you’re a graduate, you’re most likely to find work with a multinational or large national employer that has many companies, for example AXA, BNP Paribas, Carrefour, Crédit Agricole, EDF, Michelin, L’Oréal, Orange, PSA Peugeöt Citroen, Renault, Saint-Gobin, Sanofi, Total and Vivendi. You can also try looking for work with a company in your home country that has offices in France.

Work experience is considered vital so if you’re a graduate consider an internship or stage. Be flexible and be prepared to take on a job that you might not consider back home to get you started working in France, give you a chance to brush up your French, and allow to make as many contacts as possible. By gaining more local experience and networks, your job opportunities in France will improve with time.France has a strong tourism industry – it’s actually the most visited country in the world, with over 75 million tourists heading there each year. If you are interested in working in the tourism industry, jobs are available all year round.Each winter, thousands of jobs become available in hotels, restaurants and bars. There’s also a great demand for qualified sports instructors in both the summer and winter seasons.

The French agriculture and industrial sectors are always looking for new recruits to fill a wide range of jobs, many of which are seasonal. The French government is alert to ecological concerns and, as a result, many eco jobs are being created. Jobs involving the environment, or ‘green jobs’ as they are often known, look set to be the future of this sector. Healthcare professionals are in high demand due to an increasing need for medical treatment. One factor causing this increased demand is a rise in life expectancy. France is also influential in the production of aircraft, cars and pharmaceuticals

Students are legally allowed to work up to 19.5 hours per week during the semester and full-time during the holiday period. You can work up to 964 hours a year on student visa. The minimum hourly wage in France is 8,27 Euros gross, that is, before withholding of mandatory social-benefit taxes, which come to approximately 20 percent of the gross payment. Non-EU citizens no longer need to apply for a separate work permit, and can work as long as they hold a valid student visa or residency card, except for Algerian students, who are covered under a separate agreement. Students who have completed a Master’s are also eligible to apply for a six-month temporary work permit to allow them to find a job after their studies, but this provision was recently tightened and many applications were refused.

 

Application and Visa Process

Anyone who wants to attend college in France must complete the application process. The application is reviewed by the college once it is received to determine whether or not the applicant is a good fit for the school. Often, a college will look at backgrounds, so it is important this be free of any questionable incidents. If you are interested in attending college in France but do not currently reside in the European Union, below are the procedures that should be followed in order to attend a college in the country.

First, an application to the school that you wish to attend should be completed. You can find the appropriate application on the website of the college that you wish to attend. You will need to download and print this application and mail it back in with the documentation required to be considered for admission into the college. Transcripts must be provided from all institutions that you have attended in the past. This includes both high school transcripts as well as those from any colleges that you may have attended in the past.

International students wishing to attend a university in France must also provide a copy of their passport as well as a photograph of passport size to the school in which they are applying for admission into. If the college that you are attending is for duration of longer than three months you will also need to apply proof that you have a Visa in addition to the passport.

Some colleges require that essays be written. If this is a part of the application process, ensure that you write the essay to the best of your ability as it is a critical part of your acceptance or denial into the college. You are required to complete the essay on various topic, although you should always do research. State facts in your essay and prove that you can write well thought out information. This will do well in your favor when you want to get into a college.

You will also be required to submit proof of English proficiency. This can be obtained through a TOEFL test. This test can be completed online, on the computer or through a printed exam sent via postal mail. You should complete this test well in advance of applying for college. The results of this exam should be submitted along with your application.

A copy of your birth certificate is needed when you apply to a French university, as well as a certified translation showing the birthplace of both of your parents. This is something that all international students are required to have regardless of their country of origin. It is also a requirement of French law to provide proof that you have enough money to cover all of the expenses you will incur while attending college. They want to make sure that you attend college and can live comfortably.

If you want to study in France, you may be required to get a French visa or permit depending on your nationality and situation. Different application procedures apply depending on what you will be studying in France, and how long you will need to live in France in order to complete your studies. This can be applicable to students studying a degree, taking a short course, or enrolled in a French language class.

There are different types of student visas in France:

Visa de court séjour pour etudes (‘Schengen’ short-stay student visa)

Etudient concours (visa for sitting entrance exams)

Visa de long séjour temporaire pour etudes (temporary long-stay visa)

Visa de long séjour etudes (long-stay visa)

The extended stay VLS-TS’ visa is for all international students who wish to enroll in a course at a French institute of higher education. You have to provide information on your academic background, French language proficiency and adequate financial resources (approximately EUR 615 per month).

On your arrival in France, you must contact the French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII), send them the official form issued by your consulate, possibly have a medical examination and pay a fee of EUR 58 in the form of a tax stamp. Some universities have an agreement with the OFII, whereby you do this through them rather than the OFII (check with your own school or university).

Extended stay research scholar visa

If you have a Master’s degree or higher and want to come to France to take part in research or teach at university level, then the institution can bring you over on an extended stay research scholar visa VLS-TS. You need a hosting agreement from the institution, describing the work you will be doing and its duration, which needs to be stamped by the local prefecture. You then send this to the consulate in your home country along with your visa application. 

Like the normal extended visa, you must report to the OFII on your arrival in France. Two months before the visa expires, you must apply for a residence permit which lasts between one and four years. With this visa, family members (spouse and minor children) are automatically entitled for a residency permit marked vie privée et familiale.

  • Some countries require you to register first with CampusFrance, the French national agency for higher education and international students, in order to apply for admission and get a student visa through the CEF procedure. Otherwise, you should apply for a course via the university website, and get your visa at the French embassy/consulate in your home country.
  • Whether you are taking part in an exchange programme, enrolling at a French educational institution as an independent student, or as part of a programme organized by an institution in your home country, you will need to provide the consulate with:
  1. An official enrolment or acceptance letter on the headed paper of the institution, stating your full details, details of the French institution and specifying the start and end dates of the academic programme.
  2. Proof that you have sufficient funds (currently EUR 615 per month), for example, bank statement, guarantor’s letter, or notice of a grant or funding from an official source.
  3. An airline ticket/reservation showing date of departure or handwritten statement from yourself with an intended departure date.
  4. Proof that you have medical insurance with a minimum cover of EUR 30,000.
  5. Proof that you have accommodation. If you’re staying on campus or student housing, then you’ll need an official letter from the university or college confirming the details. If you’re staying with family or friends then they’ll need to get a certificate of board and lodging (attestation d’accueil) from their town hall.

Living and Culture 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.

There are many extra-curricular activities and social events organised by student unions, or bureau(x) des étudiants (BDE). As the fourth most popular study destination in the world, and with 12 percent of the student population hailing from abroad, there is often a dynamic cultural diversity on French campuses. Most universities make an active effort to welcome them; with international students’ offices, student associations and buddy programs to help ease the transition for international students.

Students attending a France university are exposed to the amazing French culture in their daily student life. While studying, students can look forward to a wonderfully interactive environment that brings students together from across the globe. With the many different people from all around the world attending college in France, it is certainly a new experience that can provide you with a plethora of fun and adventure.

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