Pursuing a doctorate in France is an excellent studying opportunity, as French universities have a long tradition of research in the social sciences, humanities and arts, as well as science and technology. There are a wide array of universities offering interesting PhD opportunities from an entry level, or otherwise in continuation of a Master’s degree.
The large majority of French students tend to pursue a five-year course of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees together, and then either continuing on to the PhD within the same university or going into the workforce. Alternatively, it is quite common for a Master’s student to continue a PhD at the same institution and sometimes with the same tutor. However, universities will accept entry applications directly at PhD level.
For European Union students, tuition fees are very low or non-existent in public universities, however living costs can be quite significant, especially in large cities like Paris and Lyon. For students from outside the EU, tuition fees are generally under 1,000€ per year. There are many options for funding through scholarships, and below we look at a few of the best available.
Top Scholarships for Pursuing a PhD in France
1. Eiffel Excellence Scholarship
The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs supports funding for international students coming to France to study at undergraduate and graduate level, including doctoral. They manage the Eiffel Excellence scholarship which is merit based and aims at attracting the best international students for PhDs in French universities. Regardless of where you’ll be studying, you can apply for this PhD scholarship in France through the university directly. To be eligible, you must be under 35 years old and enrolled for 10 months’ study. You will receive an allowance of 1,400€ per month to go towards your expenses and a return ticket for travelling from and to your home country as well.
2. Erasmus Mundus Scholarships
While the Erasmus program is well-known for offering exchange programs at undergraduate level for students within the European Union, it also manages a doctorate-level scholarship for both EU and non-EU international students. To be eligible, you have to apply to one of the Erasmus Mundus Joint Programs so studying in two universities, of which one can be in France.
The scholarship supports doctorates in a broad range of fields such as humanities, arts, sciences, business and law. Full-time scholarships are covered and vary in amount depending on the duration and field of study. The amount available is higher for non-EU international students, and they are the first category targeted with these PhD scholarships in France.
3. Université Côte d’Azur Scholarships
The Université Côte d’Azur is an association of universities and institutes in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. It brings together universities of great tradition such as the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis, business schools, the Conservatory of Nice and many others.
The group offers some fully-funded PhD scholarships for international researchers, looking to make use of the research laboratories at the university. You would receive a service-free contract with a gross salary of 2,500€ per month guaranteed for three years, as well as up to 1,500€ per year to support participation at international conferences and workshops.
4. Excellence Scholarships for International Students at University of Limoges
The University of Limoges is based in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of France and offers degrees in law, economics, literature, humanities, medicine, pharmacy, sciences and technology. It has five major research laboratory institutes covering the areas of its departments, and also supports the activity of the NGO Europa, which is based in Limoges and is focused on European public policy.
The University of Limoges runs an annual award program for international students at undergraduate and graduate level. For PhD students, you can receive up to 2,500€ per semester to cover your costs.
This PhD scholarship in France is based on academic excellence and motivation for doctoral training so you will be expected to submit a lot of information to this effect. You must first be admitted at the university and find a thesis supervisor, with whom you have agreed a research project.
5. University Paris-Saclay International Scholarships
The University Paris-Saclay has been created to bring together a large number of research and teaching institutions focused on science and technology research, and now based in the Plateau de Saclay area near Paris. They are keen on promoting doctoral-level research alongside their scholarships for international Master’s students. As such, for students looking to complete their PhD in one of their laboratories, they will make available scholarships of 1,000€ per month for a period of 6 to 12 months.
You can apply once you’ve been admitted to one of the institutions part of the Paris-Saclay group and have found your thesis coordinator as well as subject of research.
6. Victor Hugo Scholarship at Université de Franche-Comté
This scholarship is specifically aimed at students from Central and South America looking to study at the Université de Franche-Comté for their Master’s or PhDs. It has financial support from the city of Besançon where you would be based, as well as the region, and covers: tuition fees, accommodation in a university residence in a private en-suite room, half board at a university restaurant, internet fees in residence for 12 months, an intensive French-language course of 2 months. This PhD Scholarship in France is the equivalent of c. 7,000€ for the 12 months.
7. Paris-Sud University International Scholarships
The University Paris-Sud, also known as Paris XI, is one of the most prestigious universities in France, particularly focused in science and mathematics.
They offer international students a scholarship which would cover in part their costs for studying at Master’s or doctoral level, where students study or research part of their degree in their university. As such, for PhDs, 4,800€ per year is available for a research and study visit of at least 4 months in one of their laboratories. There are up to 25 such scholarships offered each year. To apply, you must be looking to study in one of the eligible disciplines and already enrolled in a PhD program from where you would be visiting Paris-Sud.
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