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.
Check Also: Programs in Europe for International Students
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.
11. Sciences Po
Proclaimed as a “driver of innovation”, Sciences Po is a prestigious university with only a 21.57% acceptance rate. It brands itself as a university that is open to all as 49% of its students are foreigners. The university offers 62 dual degrees to choose from, 42 of which are offered overseas, at the campuses of its partner universities.
As a progressive university, Sciences Po vows to combat all forms of sexual and gender-based violence and ascertains accessibility for students with additional needs and refugees. Sciences Po has a groundbreaking 478 partner universities all over the world. Check out their application guide here.
12. University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
The University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne claims 287th place in the QS World University Rankings. Considered one of the most outstanding public universities in Paris, it excels in the fields of Art & Humanities and Social Sciences & Management. Seven of the fields of study it offers belong in the world’s Top 50.
Applications for international students are open until May 30 (for the first semester) and October 30 (for the second semester) every year. Instructions will be relayed on the university’s Primoweb site. Like other universities, it is mandatory to present a certification of French mastery with at least a level of B2.
13. Grenoble Alps University
The Grenoble Alps University (UGA) pledges the highest degree of social and environmental responsibility as reflected by its projects and activities for students and teachers. UGA was also awarded the “initiative of excellence” by the French government last 2016, cementing its reputation as one of the best universities in France.
The university continues to be one of the best in France, ranking 101st in the Academic Ranking of World Universities, also known as the Shanghai Ranking.
14. University of Strasbourg (UNISTRA)
The University of Strasbourg (UNISTRA) is founded on the tenets of Humanism when it was established by Johannes Sturm in the 16th century. To impart knowledge is the university’s goal then, which still remains true now. UNISTRA is one of the leaders in scientific research, locally and globally. It ranks 421st in the QS World University Ranking and 501st spot in 2021 THE World University Ranking. Its alumni have already earned four Nobel Prizes.
About 20% of the student body is made up of international students. UNISTRA provides safeguards against discrimination and harassment by creating the Equality, Parity & Diversity Task Force. With this, international students need not worry about their safety.
15. University of Bordeaux
Studying at the University of Bordeaux comes with unhindered access to history, culture, and art thanks to the UNESCO-awarded location. The QS World University Ranking placed the university in the 501st spot, while 2021 Times Higher Education considers the university in the 301st place.
The University of Bordeaux has also partnered with more than 250 international universities. In this top French university, almost 12% of the student population are foreign students studying short-term or long-term international study programs. Some of their academic specializations include Law, Political Science, Economics, Management, and Life and Health Sciences.
16. University of Tours (UT)
The University of Tours (UT) is hailed as one of the best universities in Tours, France. It is at the forefront of research and development. The university allocates 36 of its laboratories for research. With its annual budget of € 240 million, students from the fields of Economics & Social Sciences, Arts & Humanities, Medicine, and Law are adequately supported through world-class facilities and classrooms.
Out of 31,510 students, 3,255 students are international students—composing more than 10% of the whole student population. UT boasts of its cultural pride, part of it because of the cultural diversity existing within its walls.
17. University of Burgundy (UB)
The University of Burgundy (UB) is a welcoming university that is home to students from over 100 countries. It is among the top 500 universities in the world according to the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking. The university welcomes students from all over the globe with its fun-filled activities and meaningful interactions during the International Student Welcome Days. This event is one of the highlights of the academic year for local and international students alike. Every campus of the UB also celebrates its Campus Days as a way to acquaint the students with the cultural and learning environment.
To ensure that a student can comprehend the lessons, this top university in France requires at least a level B2 in French and English. Registration opens during January and September every year. Some of the requirements include a filled-out enrolment document, an exchange program admission letter, and a certificate of enrolment or a student card.
18. Nantes University
The Nantes University prides itself on its accessible university libraries and natural environment within its walls. The Loire estuary and the Atlantic Ocean surrounds the Saint-Nazaire campus’ west. Being the 22nd best university in France and amongst the top 800 in the World University Ranking 2021, the university upholds sustainable development in all its undertakings.
International students also benefit from the university’s energy-saving facilities. Nantes University has established connections with 460 institutions on over 5 continents.
19. Lumière Lyon 2 University
The Lumière Lyon 2 University is a public university in Lyon, France, that ranks among the top 1200 universities in the world, according to the QS World University Rankings. The university founded the COMUE Université de Lyon, a circle of advanced universities and higher education institutions. Guided by the principle of critical thinking, the university aspires to become one of the purveyors of understanding society.
Lumière Lyon 2 University is home to 5000 international students. Although they do not require the submission of a certificate of proficiency, having a minimum level of B1 or B2 in French is highly encouraged.
20. Leonardo de Vinci University Center
The Leonardo de Vinci University Center, also Devinci Higher Education, is a state-of-the-art, modern campus located at the center of Paris-La Défense. This is an ideal location, as it is easily accessible by public transportation. It has three distinct schools: EMLV (Business School), ESILV (Engineering School), and IIM (School of Digital Communication & Multimedia).
International connection is one of the reasons why Devinci is known as one of France’s top universities. It has more than 120 partner universities across the globe and more than 500 international students. Annually, the university begins its selection process during the fall and the spring semester.
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 find more information like this by checking out the Programs in Europe for International Students!