17 Best Universities in France for International Students

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When it comes to higher education, countries within Europe have already become a popular study destination for prospective students. This comes as no surprise seeing as multiple countries offer an enriching environment for students, coupled with exposure to different cultures and histories within global hubs.

One such example is France. In addition to being a top country for international students to study in, France is a common destination for exchange students who wish to experience studies in one of the most diverse European countries in the continent.

Currently, there are 30 universities in France that are listed in the QS Global University rankings of 2020 as well as 10 universities that are among the world’s top 300. Fortunately, there are many Affordable Universities in France, so you can lower the cost of studying abroad in France.

The majority of the universities tend to be located in and around the city of Paris, introducing a powerful environment for its students with access to several opportunities that this economic hub provides. In this article, we will introduce a series of universities in France that offer the best opportunities for international students in terms of higher studies.


Affordable Universities

If you are interested in studying affordably, here are some most popular destinations for international students!


Universities in France for International Students

1. Paris Sciences et Letters Research University

The Paris Science and Letters University, more commonly referred to as Université PSL is a collegiate and research university based in the iconic city of Paris in France. This university in France for international students was only recently established in 2010 but has undergone rapid development and currently educates well over 20,000 students.

With its collegiate structure, the UPSL actually consists of around 9 members spread across the city. Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral programs are awarded to its member schools and students have access to a wide range of programs ranging from humanities to sciences. Research is high profile at the university and it runs around 181 specialized laboratories and cutting edge research facilities.

International collaborations with universities including the likes of the University of Cambridge, Columbia University and Hong Kong University of Science & Technology enable an effective exchange between UPSL and its global community.


2. Ecole Polytechnique

Located in an alternative suburb of Paris known as Palaiseau, École Polytechnique is a French university that is focused on providing higher education and research. Nicknamed as ‘X’ by the French, this relatively small institution has become one of the leading seats of higher education for its ‘polytechnicien’ engineering program.

This university’s history dates back to the French revolution and has now evolved into becoming one of the top-ranked universities in the entire continent. Its key goal is to train its students to become global leaders in the fields of government, academia, and research and has thus produced around 3 Nobel Laureates and several Presidents of France.

International students are eligible to apply for the 3 year Bachelors programs as well. This university in France is currently ranked among the top 100 universities in the world and its engineering programs are rated among the best in Europe.


3. Sorbonne University

The Sorbonne University is one of the most famous and acclaimed universities in France located in Paris. The university was established recently through a merger of the renowned Paris-Sorbonne University, the Pierre et Marie Curie University, and other smaller institutions.

Providing several different programs of study, the university operates through 3 main faculties which include the Humanities, Medicine, and Science. Additionally, Sorbonne governs 3 campuses which include the main campus in Sorbonne, the Jussieu campus, the Maison de la Recherche campus as well as minor satellite campuses.

With its long-standing history and producing world-class alumni, it comes as no surprise that the university holds a high rank; it is currently ranked among the top 50-100 universities globally and is also among the best universities of Europe.

The university further has a high reputation internationally and provides an enriching environment for its international students. So, you should definitely check out this university in France for international students!


4. CentraleSupelec

Established in 2015, CentraleSupelec or CS is a French institution of higher education that is based in Paris. It is an institute dedicated towards providing education in engineering and technological sciences.

Similar to most upcoming universities in the country, the CS was established through a merger between two universities including the former École Centrale Paris and Supélec.

With its high profile research commitments, the university is also a founding member of the consortium of research universities in France. The CS is heavily involved in student exchanges and regularly recruits students from top overseas partner universities for their programs.

In terms of its rankings, the university is renowned to have one of the top 2 engineering programs in the country. It also offers programs in Mathematics, Physics, Engineering, Industrial Sciences, and Chemistry.

As specific post-graduation surveys have confirmed, alumni from the CentraleSupélec tend to have high salaries when commencing their employment.


5. Ecole Normale Supérieure

The École Normale Supérieure is a prestigious graduate-dominant institution that is located in Paris, France. Commonly referred to as ENDS Paris, it is a member of the elite Grandes Écoles collective of higher educational establishments in the country.

The university was established during the late 18th century. It has trained and produced world-class alumni including the likes of 13 Nobel Laureates and 12 Field Medalists.

An interesting fact about students who study at the ENDS is that they hold the status of paid civil servants. Students further tend to devote at least one year of their education for civil service which can include teaching in high schools or universities. The university currently matriculates around 2400 students of which the majority are graduate students.

Also, the university is regarded as one of the most friendly universities in France for international students. Consisting of 4 campuses in the city, it offers over 100 different programs and courses of study through 7 key departments. The ENS is committed to providing an intellectually stimulating environment for its students.


6. Sciences Po Paris

Officially known as the Paris Institute of Political Studies, Sciences Po is an elite institute of higher education that focuses on providing learning for political, social and administrative sciences. The university was established in 1872 and has since educated countless figures who have reached national and international heights in politics and economics.

Alumni include figures such as Marcel Proust and Paul Claudel. Currently, the university educates around 13,000 students with its main campus in Paris as well as additional campuses across the country. Prospective students have access to a wide range of courses at an undergraduate and graduate level.

Special features include the provision of dual bachelor’s degrees with overseas partner universities such as UC Berkeley, National University of Singapore and the University of British Columbia. In addition to this, the university maintains a high profile for research and is home to a diverse community of international researchers.


7. Telecom ParisTech

Telecom ParisTech is a public research university located in Paris, France. Established in 1878, the institution is one of the top-ranked seats of higher education in the country, particularly for the field of engineering.

ParisTech has a student enrolment numbering 1400 and provides courses at both an undergraduate and graduate level. Around 35% of the student population are foreign students who come to study from across the world. Bachelor’s degrees in engineering tend to have a multidisciplinary approach with the possibility of studying during their final year in a local or international university.

Additionally, Master’s degrees are offered in numerous subjects as well. All courses offered by the university cover the fields of communication engineering and information technology as well as economics and finance.


8. Ecoles des Ponts ParisTech

École des Ponts ParisTech is an institution of higher education and research that provides university-level teaching for students in the sciences, technology, and engineering. The institute was founded in 1747 and currently has a student population numbering around 2000 students in total.

Ponts is a member of the Grandes Ecoles of France and is among the most prestigious universities in France. It has evolved into becoming one of the most international institutions in the continent; approximately 30% of the engineering cohort comprises of foreign students and nearly half of the students tend to pursue a study abroad year.

Admission to the Bachelor’s in engineering program is highly competitive and university tends to recruit the top 4% of the graduating high school class. In addition, several Master’s and Doctoral courses are offered by the university as well.

International partners of the university include Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, Imperial College London and the National University of Singapore which enable students to receive an accredited double degree.


9. University of Paris

More commonly known as The Sorbonne (not to be confused with Sorbonne University), the University of Paris is a public university located in Paris, France.

With a history dating back to the 12th century, it is among the oldest universities in the world and is considered to have a high reputation for the humanities ever since the middle ages. Afterward, the university has been divided into a series of thirteen autonomous institutions that are governed by its main body. These include the Paris-Sorbonne University and the Panthéon University, each of which tends to have their own specific domain of study such as natural sciences or social sciences, etc.

The university is further connected to around 13 Nobel Laureates as well as several other scientists, intellectuals, government officials and religious figures.


10. Université Paris-Sud 11

Although this university falls under the University of Paris, the Paris-Sud University is an autonomous institution of its own.

Established in 1971, it is currently one of the highest ranked universities in the country, particularly for the courses in Mathematics and Science; it is currently ranked the 2nd in France and among the top 50 universities worldwide (based on the ARWU rankings), as well as among the top 20 universities of Europe.

The university is located in Paris with several smaller campuses spread across the city suburbs. Paris Sud currently has a student population exceeding 27,000. This university is regarded as a top university in France for international students.

It offers around 100 different courses under a series of academic schools which include engineering, natural sciences, law, and economics. In addition to this, the university strives to maintain a high image for research and operates several laboratories within its schools which number around 105 research units in total.


11. Universite Paris 1-Pantheon Sorbonne

The University of Paris Pantheon-Sorbonne is a public research university in Paris that was founded in 1971 after the division of the University of Paris. The university is multidisciplinary and offers a wide range of courses including Law, Politics, Economics, Management, Fine Arts and Social Sciences amongst others.

The Pantheon-Sorbonne currently has a student population of 40,500 students which include a high international student population. This also includes academics coming from several foreign universities for teaching.

Acclaimed for being one of the highest ranked universities in the country, the Pantheon-Sorbonne is globally ranked among the top 200 universities in the world (based on the QS rankings) as well as one of the 10 best universities in France. Students have access to double degree programs which are awarded in partnership with several foreign universities.


12. Ecole Normale Superieure Paris-Saclay

The Ecole Normale Superieure Paris-Saclay, commonly known as ENS Paris-Saclay, is a higher educational institution located in Paris. It is a member of the Grandes écoles consortium of French universities and is therefore not a part of the mainstream national framework of universities.

Established in 1892, the institution provides education for over 2000 students and is among the most selective and prestigious universities of the region. Students have the option of electing for study in alternative universities of the Grandes écoles such as Sciences Po and École Polytechnique.

In addition, several student exchange programs with universities such as Oxford, MIT, Humboldt, and Wroclaw University are offered for students to encourage the international network.


13. University of Grenoble Alpes

The University of Grenoble in the Alps, or UGA, is a public research university located in Grenoble in the southeast of France. Many international students rank this university in France as one of the most welcoming to international students.

The university dates back to the early 14th century of its inception and is among the largest universities in the country as it currently provides education for about 45,000 students and around over 2500 researchers. UGA’s main fields of expertise lie in the areas of engineering and natural sciences.

In addition, it’s a convenient location within Grenoble provides the student population with access to the city’s many research opportunities. The university offers courses through 23 departments of study and further operates around 110 different research units. Notable graduates of UGA include former President of South Korea, Park Geun-Hye and former First Lady of the US, Jacqueline Kennedy.


14. University of Strasbourg

Established in 1538, the University of Strasbourg is a public research university based in Strasbourg in the province of Alsace. After undergoing a major, the university combined and currently has around 50,000 students matriculated in its programs.

It is ranked among the best research universities in Europe and consistently rated among the top 100-150 universities in the world. It comes as no surprise that the university has produced around 19 Nobel Laureates.


15. University of Aix-Marseille

Aix-Marseille University, or AMU, is a public research university located in the province of Provence in Southern France. The university’s history dates back to the early 14th century and currently holds the rank of the largest French-speaking university in the world with a student population exceeding 74,000!

The AMU is organized into a series of 5 main campuses spread throughout the region. Its multidisciplinary nature has led to the production of countless AMU graduates in the fields of science, law, politics, business and the fine arts.

A wide population of around 15,000 of the student population comes from foreign countries and this university in France is committed to fostering a multicultural and enriching environment for its students, especially for international students.

This is improved by the provision of programmed in French and/or English that has been organized by the university as means of easing the transition of international students and encouraging their welcome and the integration into the university environment.


16. Ecole Normale Superieure de Lyon

Established in 1987, the Ecole Normale Superieure de Lyon or ENS Lyon is a highly selective institution of higher education that is a member of the prestigious Grande Écoles network.

Based in the city of Lyon, the institute is committed to providing education and training students and research in the fields of humanities and science. Despite its recent founding, the university currently among the global top 100 small universities in the world as well as being ranked 3rd in France (after ENS Paris and École Polytechnique).

As of now, the university has a student population of over 2500 students.

Academically, ENS Lyon operates through 11 main departments governed by the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Humanities. Additionally, the university maintains a strict image for research and has ties with research giants in the country, in addition to operating multiple research laboratories.


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