France is a geographically diverse country in Western Europe and home to beautiful historical sites. It has a long history filled with artistic and scientific accomplishments. A nation defined by its unique culture, France has influenced the world with its cuisine, fashion, and literature.
France is rich with time-honored architectural masterpieces such as the Eiffel Tower, Mont Saint Michel, Chateau de Versailles, and more. Furthermore, France is an international business hub, another reason to visit the charming country. In this article, we will be looking at the best universities in France for international students.
Is France Good for International Students to Study In?
Universities in France have excellent academic reputations. Several have been around since the 13th century and have produced the world’s greatest thinkers and artists. Currently, there are over 250,000 international students in France enjoying top-notch teaching and research opportunities.
Studying in France is more economical than in other countries averaging €200 or USD $250 for undergraduates. Public universities offer affordable tuition since they are funded by the government. On the other hand, private universities (grandes écoles) host scholarship programs. Teaching in French universities consists of great lecture courses and smaller lab discussions, providing both outward and personal learning types.
Living in France may be slightly higher than its neighboring countries. However, students are eligible for subsided rates from accommodation to transportation to museums and more. Most people in France are multilingual. Yet, it is always a good idea to learn French during your study.
Can International Students Work in France While Studying?
International students are allowed to work in France regardless of their level of study. EU/EEA nationals can work in the country as they wish. For non-European Union citizens, you can start working after you have secured a long-term student visa (VLS-TS).
All students are allowed up to 964 hours of work in a year. This period is equivalent to 60% of full-time employment or about 20 hours per week. Internships have a separate contract on their duration, salary, etc., depending on the host.
Most universities host work contracts within their campus too. The job includes tutorials, helping out PWDs, assistance with sports activities, and other school-related work. Within the semester periods (September 1st to June 30th), students are allowed up to 670 hours of work. During breaks (July 1st to August 31st), it is up to 300 hours.
Can International Students Stay in France After Graduation?
After graduation, EU/EEA and Switzerland citizen graduates can work immediately and stay in France. For non-European graduates, you must first secure an employment contract with a salary of one and a half times the minimum wage.
While still seeking employment, non-EU/EEA graduates may request a temporary resident permit or Autorisation Provisoire de Séjour (APS). This permit is valid for twelve months for job seeking or starting a business. When your APS is near expiry, you can change your status to a residency permit closest to your occupation, such as employee, entrepreneur, or researcher.
Best Universities in France for International Students
1. Paris Sciences et Lettres University (PSL Research University / PSL)
Paris Sciences et Lettres University is the best university in France for international students. It was established as a merger of five institutions, including a normal school, an engineering institute, and an observatory. PSL has grown significantly into 11 constituent schools across broad academic disciplines like physical sciences, life sciences, economics, humanities, creative arts, and more. For specific subjects, PSL ranks among the highest in Mathematics, Physics, and Ecology. The university has produced notable thinkers through the years, including Louis Pasteur, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault.
PSL Research University places consistently in major university rankings in teaching and research. The university has then cultivated close relationships with international universities like Cambridge, Berkeley, and NYU, to name a few.
2. École Polytechnique
École Polytechnique, one of the best universities in France for international students, was established in 1794 as a military academy under Napoleon I. It has been a driving force in the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution in France. Presently, it is one of the most selective universities in France, known as grandes écoles. The military aspect has lessened with time, but the prestigious institution continued with a high reputation in science, technology, and engineering teaching and research.
École Polytechnique is a multidisciplinary institution. It engages the Sci-Tech fields with humanities and social sciences to promote responsible scientific and economic development. Its entrepreneurial spirit and international outlook offer broad opportunities for students all over the world.
3. Sorbonne University
Sorbonne University was established as an official public research university in 2018 as a merger of several French institutions. It traces its roots to the college of Sorbonne in 1201 as an institution for disadvantaged schoolchildren. Presently, the university retains its name and legacy as creators of futures by providing high-quality education and research to international students. It is organized into three faculties: Humanities, Science & Engineering, and Medicine.
Bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in Sorbonne University are renowned in France and around the world. It also partners with equally prestigious universities like King’s College London and McGill University. The university is well-known for its extensive scientific collections displaying minerals, wax anatomical items, neurology collections, and many more.
4. University of Paris
The University of Paris is a comprehensive university with a longstanding reputation in philosophy and theology. It is one of the oldest higher education institutions in France. Together with another time-honored university, the University of Bologna, they awarded the first doctorate degrees in the world. Today, this top university in France offers innovative courses in several fields, including Science & Technology, Medicine, Social Sciences, and Arts, Humanities & Languages.
The blend of history and modernity is evident in the university’s multidisciplinary approach to teaching and research. Also, it spans around 14 campuses in Paris and maintains an international outlook with various global partnerships.
5. Paris-Saclay University
The Paris Saclay University, one of the best universities in France for international students, is part of the Paris-Saclay academic and business cluster mainly for training and research. The university comprises five facilities: Medicine, Sciences, Sports Sciences, Pharmacy, Law, and Economics & Management. In subject rankings, this grande école placed first globally in Mathematics, followed by Physics in the 9th place. It is among the top 25 in Agriculture and Medicine.
A key player in science and technology, the Paris-Saclay University has over 300 research units governed by its doctoral schools. Some of its research focuses are on electrical engineering, planetary science, and communication sciences. At the master’s and doctorate levels, the university emphasizes students from different backgrounds and nationalities.
6. Télécom Paris (ENST / Télécom)
Télécom Paris is a public university dedicated to engineering research. Nicknamed as the MIT of France, Télécom Paris provides multidisciplinary and specialized training for engineers at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. This top university in France organizes its teaching into four departments, namely Electronics and Communication, Signal and Image Processing, Computer Science and Networking, and Economic and Social Sciences. Research in ENST includes user experience design, artificial intelligence, and data processing improvements.
Like other French grandes écoles, Télécom has a selective admission process, and over one-third of them are international students. Télécom has gone through several name changes through the years, but its longstanding dedication to productive networking and technology remains.
7. École des Ponts ParisTech (ENPC / Ponts)
École des Ponts ParisTech was established in 1747 to train engineering officials in providing efficient control over the ongoing infrastructure works in the state. Today, this prestigious institution expands from just civil engineering to computer science, mechanics, applied mathematics, economics, urban studies, and more. Also, it recently launched a design school that focuses on innovation and startups.
From undergraduate to master’s degrees to PhDs level, École des Ponts is one of the best universities in France for international students by providing world-class teaching facilities and research laboratories. The university maintains close collaborations with French and international universities such as Georgia Tech and Berkeley. There are also double-degree agreements with several of these institutions.
8. École Normale Supérieure de Lyon (ENS de Lyon / ENSL)
École Normale Supérieure de Lyon is a public university devoted to teacher education. It also focuses on training professors, scientists, and public officials. The university is located on two campuses that separate its arts and science units. Overall, there all eleven departments among the two areas. Its Monod Campus houses the natural and experimental sciences departments. Arts, Humanities, and Social Science departments can be found at the Descartes Campus.
Many students in ENS de Lyon work as public servants after graduation in exchange for financial support during their studies. Besides its civil responsibilities, the university hosts start-up business innovations, particularly in computer sciences and medical technology.
9. University of Montpellier (UM)
The University of Montpellier is one of the oldest universities in France and the world. This top French university for international students was established in 1220 as a faculty of arts. The school of medicine was founded afterward by scholars who trained in Spanish medical schools. Since then, the university grew to accommodate allied disciplines such as humanities, law, science, and technology. During the French Revolution, Montpellier was split into three institutions, but two of them reunited to form the university as it is known today.
Montpellier University has about 50,000 students, including over 7000 coming from countries around the world. Its broad disciplines make a great academic experience for all students. In terms of subject rankings, Montpellier University is especially notable in law and ecology.
10. Aix-Marseille University (AMU)
Aix-Marseille University, one of the top French universities for international students, was founded in 2012 by a merger of three universities in Provence, Southern France. Since then, its total student population of 80,000 made it the largest university in the French-speaking world. Over 10,000 of them are international students. The university has a comprehensive offering of disciplines, including Health, Economics & Management, Law & Political Science, Arts, Literature & Human Science, and Science & Technology.
Aix-Marseille University excels in social and natural sciences and naturally gained an international reputation in these fields. It is distinguished in French linguistics and literature study, too, in addition to the standard subject areas. With longstanding academic excellence, AMU boasts several Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize laureates, government leaders, and ambassadors.
Conclusion: Studying Abroad in France
To be honest, I would like to study abroad in France just to learn the native language. Personally, I think French is very beautiful to hear due to its romantic flow when speaking, and by going abroad in France, you get a chance to learn the French language while completing your academic education at the same time. Before you start packing for France, make sure to have enough financial support so that you don’t go bankrupt during your stay at this beautiful country.
I hope that this article on the best universities in France for international students was helpful. You can also find more information on different European universities and scholarship opportunities on the Europe Scholarships Page!