France is one of the world’s most popular study abroad destinations is surely no great surprise. Read our guide to find out everything you need to know about joining the 6.3% of all international students (as of 2010) studying there.
France occupies a distinct place in our collective imagination. From the urbane sophistication and history of its cities, to its legendary food and wine, to the spectacular scenery – think rugged mountains and verdant forests, golden beaches and azure seas, rolling pastures and mighty rivers – everyone has their own idealized conception of France.
Consequently, it is also the world’s most popular tourist destination by far, according to the United Nations World Tourist Organization.
Perhaps your personal image of France involves its proud intellectual and artistic heritage. This is the nation, after all, which produced thinkers such as René Descartes and Jean-Paul Sartre, authors like Marcel Proust and Albert Camus, filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard and Jean Renoir, and artists like Claude Monet and Paul Cézanne.
On top of these names we can add a whole host of scientists, mathematicians and other researchers, whose names are slightly less familiar, but whose achievements are no less spectacular for it. A total of 49 Nobel laureates places France fourth in the world.
This academic and artistic tradition continues to this day – there are few countries which invest quite as much money into research and education as France. QS’s rankings reflect this: a total of 35 French universities make the 2012/13 edition of the QS World University Rankings, 22 of which are in top 500.
The nation’s two leading universities, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris and Ecole Polytechnique ParisTech, both make the top 50, cementing their reputation’s as two of Europe’s and the world’s h6est institutions. What’s more, tuition fees at France’s leading universities are among the cheapest in the world, with annual fees averaging under US$1,000 per year for domestic and international students alike.
So is France for you then? Well, if you want to attend a high-quality institution in a nation with a proud intellectual heritage which will have the added benefit of making everyone you know jealous, then is the answer could well be ‘yes’.
Facts About France :
- Presidential republic with bicameral legislature
- President is head of state (currently François Hollande), while government is headed by prime minister, who is appointed by president (currently François Fillon)
- Capital, and largest city by far, is Paris
- French is official language
- As well as metropolitan France, which borders Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Andorra and Monaco, France owns a number of overseas territories, some of which – such as French Guiana in South America – are considered to be part of France (i.e. its citizens belong to the European Union)
- Most popular tourist destination in the world – in 2010, France was visited by 76.8 million people
- Population of 65,312,249 (July 2011 estimate), 62,814,233 of whom live in metropolitan France
- Comparable to Kansas in terms of area
- International dialling code is +33
- Currency is Euro, symbol: €, €1 = US$1.35
- Uses Central European Time (UCT+1), shifting to Daylight Savings Time (UTC+2)
- France produces around 400 distinct varieties of cheese (possibly more, depending on how you count them) and the average French person drinks just over 70 bottles of wine a year
Life Style in France:
You will, no doubt, already have your own set of ideas regarding Paris, which may well be the result of a visit to the City of Light. Over 15 million tourists descended on the city in 2010, pulled in by attractions like the Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame, and world famous galleries like The Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, or just to experience the city’s celebrated café culture.
But, like any other great city, the only way to truly get to know it beyond the tourist trail, is to live there and intermingle with the people who make the city what it is. Luckily, if a more extended relationship with Paris appeals to you, there is no shortage of universities at which you might study – seventeen public institutions (albeit not all with the same focus) and several prestigious grandes écoles – and resultantly, a large and cosmopolitan student base which goes a long way to giving the city its unique intellectual and creative culture.
Paris was named the world’s number one city for students in the 2012 QS Best Student Citiesranking. Find out why >
Lyon is a picturesque medieval city (though its history goes back even further than this) situated close to France’s borders with Switzerland and Italy. It is known for the being one of the culinary capitals of France, and is also within spitting distance of the French Alps, for those who like to hit the piste.
Its well-preserved architecture has earned it UNESCO World Heritage Site status, but there is more to France’s joint second city (there’s some debate whether Marseille or Lyon can lay claim to this title) than spectacular architecture. Its many higher education establishments mean that it boasts a large student population, and, consequently, the vibrant nightlife common to all student cities.
But if it’s more civilized cultural pursuits you’re after, then Lyon will not disappoint on that front either, and those who have one eye on their future career will be glad to hear that it is one of France’s main financial centres.
A historic city situated not too far from France’s south-western borders with Andorra and Spain,Toulouse is known in the modern age as one of the capitals of the European aerospace industry. Its universities are also historic, with the institution that is now split into Université Toulouse 1, Capitole and Université Toulouse II, Le Mirail having been founded in the 13th century.
Toulouse has a large student population, and is known for being a hotbed of alternative culture. But this is France, after all, so if it’s opera, theatre and immaculately preserved architecture you’re after, you won’t be disappointed. And if you want to get out of the city, then the South of France is your oyster, with the proximity of the Pyrenees allowing skiers to get their fix.
If it’s a student-dominated city you’re after, then you could do a lot worse than Montpellier. Around a quarter of the city’s population consists of attendees of its universities, three of which make the 2012/13 QS World University Rankings, and one of which (Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier III) is the seventh oldest in the world.
Its location near France’s Mediterranean coast makes it a good option for sun-worshippers, though it also means you’ll have to brace yourself for a mass influx of tourists in the summer months. The benefit, of course, is that in the off season you can enjoy almost exclusive access to the beaches, and will be left with plenty of time to find yourself some of the more well-hidden pleasures that the South of France has to offer.
In former times, Lille was one of the main industrial centres of France, which meant that it sadly went through a period of decline as the world entered the post-industrial age. However, in recent years the picturesque city has undergone something of a renaissance and is now considered by many to be one of France’s hidden treasures, with a vibrant cultural scene and a h6 commercial backbone.
One of the main advantages of being based in Lille is how easy it is to leave – its location in the north-west of the country means that it can serve as a great base from which to explore northern Europe. You can, in fact, catch an express train directly from Lille to the world’s two most popular tourist cities, Paris and London, or to Brussels, which can serve as a gateway to the Netherlands or Germany. For those who like to travel, then, there is a pretty h6 case for Lille!
Admission & Visa Requirements:
One major benefit which students studying in France will enjoy is the country’s fee system. For the majority of courses at most universities you’ll have to pay only EU€177 (around US$230) a year for a bachelor’s degree (there are exceptions – engineering courses tend to cost more for example). If this sounds too good to be true it is because, in a way, it is: French universities tend to levy additional administrative charges which are known to bring the price up considerably. That said, the final figure is still likely to be far lower than you would pay in a comparable destination.
You will pay more at France’s highly selective grandes écoles and grands établissements (great schools and establishments), which set their own fees. Some of these operate only at postgraduate level, and some – like Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris – require students to either get through two years of preparatory school (which is nearly as selective as the grande écoleitself) or to transfer across after two years or so of an undergraduate course.
Visa requirements will depend on whether you come from a country in the EU (students from Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are treated the same as EU students in this case) or from further afield.
Applicants from outside the EU:
- The application procedure will vary depending on whether or not you are from one of the 31 countries in which CampusFrance runs the CEF procedure. If you are from one of these countries (listed on the CampusFrance website), then you are obliged to use this online application system, which takes you through the entire application procedure, including obtaining a visa, telling you what you need to do and which documents you require. The CEF system can be accessed through the CampusFrance website.
- If you are not from one of these countries then you will need to submit an application for preliminary application at your local French embassy before applying, after which you may apply for your visa. How you will have to apply will depend on your previous qualifications and where you are applying. Contact the establishment(s) you’re thinking about attending to find out the correct procedure to follows
- The visa you will need – which also includes a residence permit – is called the VLS-TS, which is valid for a year at a time. In order to obtain this visa you will need to present a completed application form and OFII (the French Office of Immigration and Integration) passport photos, your passport, proof of your previous qualifications, a police certificate attesting to your lack of a serious criminal record, proof you can speak French to an appropriate level (if your course is in French – see above) and proof you have sufficient financial means. You will, of course, also need to prove that you’ve been accepted to a university.
- When you arrive in France you will need to contact the OFII, who may request that you undertake a medical examination.
Universities in France
- American University of Paris
- College de France
- Ecole Centrale Paris
- Ecole Centrale de Lyon
- École Nationale Supérieure de Techniques Avancées
- École Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris
- Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines de St-Etienne
- Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Electronique, d’Electrotechnique, d’Informatique et d’Hydraulique de Toulouse
- Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Ingenieurs en Construction Aeronautique (ENSICA)
- Ecole Nationale Superieure des telecomunnications de Paris (ENST)
- Ecole Nationale de l’Aviation Civile (ENAC)
- École Nationale des Telecommunications de Bretagne
- École Normale Supérieure
- Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon
- École Polytechnique
- École Supérieure D’Électricité
- École Supérieure D’Ingénieur en Électronique et Électrotechnique
- Ecole Supérieure en Sciences Informatiques
- Ecole Superieure de Commerce de Paris
- European Institute of Business Administration
- Institut National de Physique Nucleaire et de Physique des Particules
- Institut National des Sciences Appliquées de Lyon
- Institut National des Sciences Appliquees de Toulouse
- Institut National des T?l?communications
- Institut Supérieure D’Electronique du Nord
- Institut d’Informatique d’Entreprise
- Institut des Mathematiques Appliquees de Grenoble
- Strasbourg University
- Université Paris IX Dauphine
- Université d’Aix-Marseille III
- Université d’Angers
- Université de Caen
- Université de Franche-Comté
- Université de Marne la Vallée
- Université de Provence
- Université de Savoie
- Université de la Méditerranée
- Université des Sciences et Technologies de Lille
- Universite Lumiere Lyon
- Universite d’Orleans
- Universite de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour
- Universite de Technologie Compiegne
- University of Picardie
- University of Rennes 1
- Nantes University