If you’re keen to visit France not just as a holiday-maker but as a student, read on to find out about French universities, student cities, and how to get started with applications, costs and visas.
These are some of the answers to questions that international students coming to France are always eager to find out.
1. How tertiary education is structured in France
All French universities belong to a single association for universities in France known as pôles de recherche et d’enseignement supérieur (Center for Research and Higher Education). Known as PRES, this body coordinates the activities of all universities, research centers/institutes and specialized higher institutions.
Since PRES coordinates most higher education activities, the body is responsible for awarding degrees and diplomas to graduating students in France.
2. Number of tertiary institutions in France
There are about 250 specialized universities outside the structure of the French university system known as grandes écoles. In addition to that, there are over 80 public universities. Between the two groups of tertiary institutions, they provide about 80% of the education for university students.
There are also smaller but prestigious colleges for specific programs such as fashion, architecture, journalism, film, social work and performing arts.
3. What are grandes écoles?
Universities and institutions in this system are known to be elite prestigious schools. Most of them have the following things in common:
- They admit only a small number of students
- Admission is very competitive
- They offer single specialized programs mostly in engineering or business; many though offer several courses
- They are the institutions of choice for top politicians, civil servants, business leaders, scientists and researchers
4. Types of degrees offered in France
Like most countries, universities in France award degrees in 3 main categories
- The first degree or licence that typically lasts 3 years
- The Masters which takes at least 2 years
- Doctorate which has 3 year duration.
The master’s degree is subdivided into two categories:
- Research – for those intending to go for a Doctorate
- Professional – for those who would rather work than continue to doctorate level
5. Applying for Universities in France
There are two categories on how to study in France.
In this category, students from 33 countries need to apply online through the CEO process made available by Campus France, the government agency in charge.
The application using that portal covers both university application and visa processing.
This covers students that are not in the first category. Students in this category should apply for admission directly to the institutions they wish to attend. They can do this on the official website of the university of choice.
6. Do you need a visa to study in France?
Intentional students from EU and EEA countries do not need a visa to study in France. But those outside these two zones need a visa to study in France.
They should apply for an extended-stay visa with a residency permit, known as VLS-TS. They can get this through the CEF process of Campus France or from the French embassy in their country of origin.
7. What do officials look out for in Visa applications?
Apart from the necessary documents, visa officials consider the following
- Academic background of applicant
- Applicant’s level of preparation
- Applicant’s study plans
- French proficiency
- Applicant’s financial resources – applicants must be able to show they have enough money; at least €600/month.
8. Is French the only language of study?
Most undergraduate level courses are taught in French. So students must be able to show proof of proficiency in French. This can be through showing evidence of completing a degree in French or by taking language tests such as DELF or DALF.
Though most courses are taught in France, there are several English language courses especially at postgraduate levels. The website of the government agency Campus France is a good place to search for a comprehensive list of English-taught programs.
Students wishing to enroll for English language courses must also show evidence of proficiency in English. This can be through proof of a degree in an English course or via English language tests like IELTS or TOEFL.
9. Tuition fees at French universities
This universities charge relatively low tuition fees. Rates can vary from year to year for both international and domestic students.
The basic rates are as follows
- First degree – Starts at about €200
- Master’s – from about €300
- Doctorate – starts at about €400
Fees are considerably higher for private tertiary institutions. But relative to other western countries, the fees are still modest.
Tuition for these Universities should be in the range of €3000 – €10000 per year. However the leading business schools are known to charge up to €30000 per year.
10. Average student’s cost of living in France
Like in other parts of the world, cost of living depends on location and lifestyle of students. Naturally, living costs would be higher in big cities like Paris than elsewhere.
A monthly budget of about €1000 is recommended for students living in Paris and about €800 for students living outside the capital city.
Expect the cost of living to be lower for students living and studying in other cities in France.
11. Can international students work and study in France?
EEA students and students from Switzerland are allowed to work and study in France without any restrictions.
For other students though, there are certain limitations. International students outside the EEA can work part-time for up to 60% of the normal working year of French workers. This is part of the permissions granted in the VLS-TS visa and residency permit.
Student interns are not regarded as workers.
12. Can you get scholarships to study in France?
There are numerous scholarship options available to study abroad students in France. Apart from several private international scholarships, qualified students can get funding through the Eiffel Excellence Scholarship Programme, Erasmus Program, and scholarships provided by research agencies in partnership with regional councils and individual universities
13. Is living and working in France after graduation possible?
The short answer is yes. For that to happen though, one must apply for a change of residency status through the local Council once you get an offer of employment.
Alternatively, master’s level graduands or above can apply to extend their student residency permit for a further one year. With this permit, they can work for up to 60% of the normal French work period.
However, if your earnings exceed 150% of the minimum wage, you must apply for a change of status to a permanent resident giving you the right to work as a full-time worker