Studying in France
A thematic guide to France
to university in France ...
pay up to £9000 a year fees in a UK university,
when French or German universities charge less than a twentieth of that?
Tuition fees: updated for 2013-2014 academic
Basic standard student tuition fees in France for the 2013 - 2014
€uros per year
for a first degree, and 254 € per year for masters degrees -
plus a few other extras that can push the price up by a small
top of this. Add to this subsidised student restaurants,
cheap public transport, subsidised halls of residence, and what are you
waiting for ? If you can get by reasonably well in French
there's a whole alternative university system waiting for you ! And in
French universities there are no caps on student numbers, except in
certain courses such as Medicine. If
you can't get by reasonably well in French, there are even some Masters
taught largely in English (though fees may be a bit higher on these).
Or else get learning French fast!!
Information below concerns universities
does not concern "Grandes
", a peculiarly French system of specialist
super-universities, most of which are both very expensive and selective.
are hundreds of language schools offering French for foreigners.
Full details are
Full time studies - enrolling in a French university
can apply, and how?
- For prospective students from non-European
Union countries, For enrolment as a first-year
undergraduate, you must apply through the
French Embassy in your country.To enrol directly in the third or higher
levels of university, apply
directly to the university. In all cases, visa requirements may apply.
- For school-leavers with British
(or other E.U. or Swiss) nationality
, enrolling in a French university is usually quite simple –
long as you have a reasonable command of French. We recommend
that prospective students should take one of the officially recognised proficiency tests in French
such as the DALF. For more on this contact the French
Institute or Alliance Française in your country. (Click for French Institute in UK). Some
universities may require this; others - specially smaller ones that are
keen to attract students - will not be too bothered.
France has recently set up an online application
system similar basically to UCAS, but free. The "admission-postbac.fr"
website, which is of course in French only, is an online portal where
sixth-formers (final year high school students) can apply to any French
university, and many other higher education courses
in France. For university admission, this online application is
optional; it is obligatory for many specialist and vocational
further/higher education courses, such as courses in IUTs.
You can view and download instructions for foreign students here
(PDF format - in French).
As with UCAS, sixth-formers should apply
taking their A levels or equivalent. The Admission-Postbac portal is
open for preliminary applications from 20th January to 20th March or
thereabouts. Filling in the form is not too complicated as long as your
French is good. However the system also accepts late applications, from
20th June to 20th September. About-France.com checked out the working
of this system, and our applicant was provisionally
accepted into a large French university within 50 minutes, as would
have been the case for any French student having just passed their
baccalauréat.. Since, with a few exceptions, there is no
restriction on the number of students enrolling in first year at
university, your application should automatically be provisionally
rules demand equal treatment for all EU nationals).
- Once A level (or other
high school graduation) results have been obtained (for A levels, you
should probably have to have passes in at least three subjects), you
then have to follow up your online application, or preferably write to,
or go to, the university and UFR (faculty) in
which you wish to enrol, and request a "dossier d'inscription"
(enrolment forms) and a "demande de validation des acquis" (to obtain
French validation of your UK diplomas), or fill in the documents
online. While your application is being
processed, contact the university's International office for
information about accommodation, etc, and then come along at the start
befrore you bin that UCAS form, weigh up the pros and the cons of
packing up your bags and heading across the Channel for three years or
more on the other side.
Pros and the Cons of studying in France
- You've got to be fairly competent
in French before you start; so unless you already are,
you'll probably need to spend a gap year in France, getting competent
in the French language.
That, however, will give you a chance to get the know the country
first, and decide if you really are ready for the big plunge. It will
also give you the chance to check out on a few universities.
- Depending on the course you follow, you may
find that it does not
really help you find a job in
the UK afterwards. That depends very much on what you study.
- You'll be living a long way
But with low-cost flights available to and from many French
universities, particularly outside holiday periods, that may not be too
much of a
problem. But take care... students acquire a lot of luggage, and excess
baggage can be expensive.
- Less social
campus. French universities are really mostly about studying, and far
less about campus life than UK universities. There are lots of hours of
classes each week, and the going can be tough. There is a high dropout (or
chuckout) rate – though generally speaking if you are ready
hard and put in the hours, or you're brilliant, you'll sail through.
- The administrative
hassle; in any country, administrative hassle is greater
for foreigners than for locals, and France is no exception.
fees are about £200 per year in French universities (2011
student residences and restaurants are heavily subsidised. Public
transport in French cities is half the price of the equivalent in
British cities, or less. And if you want social life, of course the
wine and the restaurants are relatively cheap too.
the standard tuition fees apply in all French universities; they do not
however apply in the "Grandes Ecoles" (specialist undergraduate or
postgraduate schools), in schools of commerce or other private
institutions authorised to award degrees or their
After 3 years in a French university, you'll be virtually bilingual
skill that is very useful in a country like the UK where so few people
speak a second European language properly.
Besides, if you want to get a job with international prospects and
travel, experience of
living in at least two countries for good lengths of time is always a
bonus on any CV.
- The chance to study in a UK
for one year of your course, without paying exorbitant UK tuition fees!
Indeed, if you enrol in a course that has a Socrates or Erasmus link
with a UK university, you may be able to come over to the UK
for a year (subject
to availability of places) and study as a "French" student back home!
What's more, you should get a grant ! Further details below
choose is "English"…..
or at least, not unless your aim is to become a secondary school
teacher in France or in England. The UK graduate teacher training
programme currently recruits in French universities, so if you want to
become a qualified secondary school teacher in the UK, you can get into
the system with a degree from a French university as easily as with one
for a UK institution.
If you have a bent for languages,
and have A level in French and Spanish or French and
another language, try "LEA"
(Langues Etrangères Appliquées - Applied foreign
languages), which is a
joint degree course run in
about 50 universities, and is basically two languages and business. The
business content tends to vary from university to university, but it
can be quite substantial, and graduates are well placed for applying
jobs in the international departments of companies in the UK or France,
or an MBA or a specialised masters course in the field of business.
Here are two or three university links: Aix-en-Provence,
Otherwise, if you are looking for an arts qualification,
why not study for a degree in French
(called "Lettres" in France) or (French) history.
This is certainly a good preparation if you want to become a French
teacher back in the UK; and even if you do not, your bilingualism will
be a big asset if you complete your French degree with some short
postgraduate professional qualification.
There's no point in studying law,
unless you want to work in international law.
tend to be far more theoretical than in the UK system.
are fine – but as with many courses in French universities,
find yourself rather swamped in first year classes, which are often
less specialised than in UK universities.
take at least five years, and though there are plenty of places in
first year, the fight for places in second year and beyond can be
Other subjects that can be studied equally well in the UK or in France
sociology, linguistics, pharmacology, and various other
less common disciplines.
Points to consider:
a) Transport connections b) Size of university and town
Click here for list of French towns and cities
ranked by population
Click here for an overview of Higher education in France
Almost all French university
cities are easily accessible from the UK
either by low-cost flight, or by Eurostar, with connections to the
French TGV system at Lille. You can connect at Lille (same platform) to
direct TGV's from Besançon in the east to Rennes in the
west. But if
you plan on driving back and forth to the UK, you'll be better off
staying within 400 miles of Calais. that puts you within 8 hours drive
of London. That puts the limit at an arc running through Strasbourg,
Besançon, Dijon, Poitiers, Angers and Rennes.
university town ?
In short, the
answer for most candidates will be "anywhere but Paris".
While a degree from the Sorbonne carries weight, getting into the
Sorbonne can be hard, as Paris universities operate a redistribution
system for excess candidates. You may apply for the Sorbonne, then be
told you have to study at "Nanterre", a sprawling campus in the
northern suburbs, between high rise housing estates and railway tracks.
Paris has more than a dozen universities, most of them in the suburbs;
so if you really want to study in Paris, apply rather to another
central university (such as Paris III, good for languages), or to one
of the more attractive suburban universities such as Creteil. And be
warned, accommodation in Paris is not cheap! Even for students!
a provincial French university
a foreign student, you will find it easier integrating into French
student life and society by enrolling in a provincial university. There
are big universities in big cities like Lyons, Lille or Toulouse. There
are big universities in medium-big cities like Bordeaux,
Grenoble, Montpellier, Rennes, Nancy and Strasbourg. And there are
smaller universities in a lot of lesser known, but attractive, regional
centres such as Aix-en-Provence, Amiens, Angers, Avignon,
Caen, Clermont Ferrand, Dijon, Orleans, Le Mans, Limoges, Nice, Pau,
Poitiers, etc. In many respects, it is in the smallest university towns
that integration is easiest.
A word of warning however…
Universities in the south of France get a lot of applications from
foreign students, and thus tend to be less responsive, and less
generous in the way they treat them. There are accommodation shortages
for students in many towns, and in recent years they have affected,
among others, Aix en Provence, Montpellier and Grenoble.
you're interested, get onto the universities' websites, read up about
them, write (in French) to the department you are interested in, and
even go over and visit.
Let's build tomorrow's Europe today. What are you waiting for?
between French and UK universities:
French universities have a
different ethos to UK
universities; they are run on much tighter budgets, and they
less concerned about "prestige" than UK universities. There are few
French universities in the "Top 100" rankings of worldwide or European
universities because, to put it bluntly, they do not have the research
funding that so-called "top" universities have. Their mission is not
principally to turn out small elites of research students, but
educate as many students as possible to a good first degree level, and
increasingly to the level of a Masters degree; and on this score (which
is not measured by any international league tables) they do relatively
That is not to say that French
universities do not have good research laboratories; they do. And given
the relatively limited funding available to many French university
research laboratories, they often produce surprisingly good results.
year in a French university
There is plenty of opportunity for students in other countries to
undertake a year of their degree course in a French university, under
the Erasmus or Socrates programme. But in order to benefit from this EU
funded programme, and the grants that go with it, a student must be
enrolled in a university department (or faculty) that has an Erasmus /
link with a French university department. The Erasmus/Socrates
programme operates on the basis of bilateral exchanges betwen
university departments, and in most cases French universities
only enroll students who are sent as an officially recognised Socrates
student by a partner institution.
Note that most French Grandes Ecoles also participate in the Erasmus
programme, so it is even possible in some cases to study for a year in
one of these elite institutions instead of a year in a French
university. However Erasmus programmes involving Grandes Ecoles tend
only to be found in top-ranking UK and European universities
In the absence of an appropriate departmental Erasmus programme, it
is often possible for students to take up unused places available in
other departments; but
this is entirely discretionary, and each department and university has
its own rules.
If you plan to study chemistry at university,
but like the idea of a year in France, it is would be a good idea to
find out first, and apply to a UK chemistry department that has an
existing and operating exchange programme with a French university.
Generally speaking, UK universities do not fill all the exchange places
that they have negotiated with their French partner institutions.
Note that a year on an Erasmus programme is not a way of
year's UK fees; the principle of the whole Erasmus programme is that
students always pay fees in their home institution, never in the host
institution in which they spend a semester or a year.
STUDENT EXCHANGE PROGRAMMES
Many French universities participate in the ISEP
(International student exchange program) scheme, which is a worldwide
student exchange program. Many French universities also have
bilateral student exchange agreements with other universities in other
parts of the world.
Language Courses in France
Before choosing a language course in France, you should ask the
1. Paris or provincial France?
2. Private school or course run by a university or
an official organisation?
3. Course offering accommodation
4. Private tuition, or very small group, or
traditional language school classes
5. Course offering just tuition, or tuition and
cultural and sporting activities.
or the provinces? Some
of the relative advantages and disadvantages of studying in Paris are
dealt with above.
The disadvantages of Paris are far less when it is a matter of a short
stay, and of course with language courses, it is you, the student, who
will choose where to study. However, Paris is still a big city, still
expensive, and if you are thinking of a summer course in August,
remember that Paris can be very hot.
school, university or public organisation?
Obviously, the choice of locations is far greater if you decide to
choose a private school. Some are excellent, but others - notably those
that just open for the summer months - may employ relatively
inexperienced teachers. If you are thinking of choosing a private
school, check its credentials first.
Apart from private schools, the
best-known choice is the Alliance
the French equivalent of the British Council, which has been in the
business of teaching French and French culture for generations. Then
there are three or four reputed centres attached to universities; the Centre
de Linguistique Appliquée at
at Vichy, and the CAREL at Royan, on
the Atlantic coast.
Schools situated in university towns and
often have the advantage of being able to offer cheap subsidized
student accommodation in halls of residence, notably during the summer
vacation period. There is also hostel
available in most French cities.
For a fairly full list of links to language schools in France, visit
For all other criteria,
it is best to check out the individual websites of different schools.