French universities are popular destinations for international students—in 2015, almost 300,000 international students were studying in France! So, well done if you’ve decided that studying in France is the option for you—you're not alone!
France is a cultural powerhouse of Europe, and it’s a big country, too. While Paris immediately comes to mind as a study abroad destination in France, other towns and cities offer different climates, culture and extra-curricular opportunities. Major French cities and university towns include Aix-en-Provence, Grenoble, Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, and many more.
While its language may not be the lingua franca that it once was, learning French will also open career paths and enrich your education. And last but definitely not least, France is home to some of the best universities in the world and is an extremely affordable destination to study in. So what are you waiting for!?
How to Enroll
This means that you enroll directly at the university in a similar way to how you would at home. Studying in France this way may give you the greatest flexibility in terms of location and degree. It will also mean that you will have the most ‘authentic’ study abroad experience, as you will be studying and living in France in exactly the same way as local students. It could also end up much cheaper, as public universities in France have very low tuition costs, and international students are charged the same as domestics. However, this option is not necessarily for everyone, as you will need to have good French language skills before you arrive, and is better suited to students who want to study in France for longer.
This is coordinated by your home institution, and is the way that most people study abroad. The benefits are that you will receive a lot of support, from choosing an institution to figuring out how to finance your trip. You will also likely have a group of students from your home institution to hang out with—ready-made friends! Plus, if your French isn’t already strong, this is a good option. The drawbacks are that you may not have much choice in where to go, if your home institution only partners with certain colleges abroad. Plus, that ready-made set of friends might be a curse if you want to experience authentic French life and perfect your language. It’s also a better option for people who want to study in France for a shorter period.
If you want to study in France but your home institution doesn’t offer a study abroad program there and the idea of direct enrollment sounds freaky, then going with a third-party provider could be the answer. You will receive logistical support, but you’ll also have to pay big bucks -- Third-Party Providers are generally the most expensive way to study abroad because of the additional support you'll receive.
Tuition & Costs
Now for some really good news—at French public universities, tuition fees are the same for international and domestic students! (The same cannot be said for many favorite study abroad destinations.) Plus, fees are only in the few-hundred-dollars-a-year mark. Bargain! (Although the same isn’t true for private institutions). This is much more affordable than most US universities, and means that directly enrolling at a French university really makes financial sense.
With such great prices, you may not feel that applying for a scholarship is necessary. But if you’d like a bit of extra help (especially with covering living costs), some financial aid is available from French government and private institutions.
A database of scholarships available to international students is run by Campus France, in French, Spanish, and English. API also offers a variety of scholarships for those participating in their programs. Finally, the French government funds scholarships for students from the USA interested in studying the French language.
France is a big country and cost of living is not uniform. As anywhere, the big, fashionable cities are more expensive, while the smaller university towns could be more budget-friendly. Paris, Nice, and Lyon are the most expensive cities in France, where costs of rent, eating out, entertainment and transportation will add up quickly. On the other hand, the more rural Normandy, Bordeaux, and Languedoc-Rousillion regions are much more affordable.
Citizens of EU countries and Switzerland don’t need a visa to study in France. Almost everyone else will need to apply either for a short-stay Schengen visa (up to three months), a temporary short-stay visa (three-six months), or a long-stay visa. The costs are not enormous, but should be factored into the total cost of studying abroad in France. You will also need to show proof of funds to support yourself while in France (currently 615 euros per month) plus medical insurance with a minimum cover of 30,000 euro.
International students are allowed to work up to 964 hours per year, which could significantly help with living costs.
Oldest University in France
The University of Paris, also known as ‘la Sorbonne’, was founded between 1160 and 1250. Although it isn't necessarily ranked as the top French university these days in the league tables, it is still up there with the best, and its name has a certain cachet. The University of Toulouse is also a contender for the oldest university, as it was founded in 1229, while la Sorbonne was still being established.
Biggest University in France
Plans are underway to combine 19 institutions into a single structure—Paris-Saclay—in the south of Paris. The aim is to have 70,000 students and 10,000 researchers. France is not a country that enjoys being left behind in the international arena, and the goal of Universite Paris-Saclay is to rival leading leading institutions in Anglophone countries, such as Harvard or Cambridge.
Quirkiest Degree You Can Earn in France
France, especially Paris, is well-known as a center of style and fashion. So why not add a little French je-ne-sais-quoi to your degree? You can, by studying Luxury Brand Management at the IAU College Provence; in classes, you'll examine case studies from some of the most successful French companies in the luxury industry, and take 'field trips' to places like Paris and Monaco. Oui, s'il vous plaît!