Studying in France: A Guide for International Students

France is often celebrated as a premier travel destination, offering romantic escapades in Paris and culinary adventures in Lyon. However, its standing as an academic hub is equally noteworthy. With a burgeoning academic reputation, France has emerged as one of the world’s top choices for international students.

Recent statistics reveal its position as the sixth most sought-after study destination, boasting a diverse student population of around 358,000 in 2020. Whether you’re a local or an international scholar, studying in France grants access to high-quality education, abundant resources, and extensive research opportunities across various disciplines.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into all aspects of studying in France, including costs, application procedures, and available resources, ensuring you’re well-equipped for your academic journey.

Higher education in France

France boasts a diverse landscape of over 3,500 institutions, catering to the educational needs of over two million students. Its higher education system comprises both public and private establishments, structured into universities and Grandes Écoles.

  • Universities, publicly-funded and widely accessible, offer a broad spectrum of disciplines ranging from sciences and medicine to humanities and languages.
  • Grandes Écoles, distinguished by their selectivity, provide specialized professional and technical training across various fields. Despite representing less than 5% of the student population, these elite institutes—numbering around 250—play a significant role in French higher education.

France’s academic prowess is evident on the global stage, with 30 institutions featuring in the QS World University Rankings 2022, showcasing its competitive edge, particularly within Europe. Notably, the majority of top-ranked universities are situated in Paris, including Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris, Sorbonne University, Université Paris-Saclay, Institut Polytechnique de Paris, and Université Paris Cité.

Beyond the capital, several noteworthy institutions beckon prospective students:

  • Aix-Marseille University
  • University of Bordeaux
  • École Normale Supérieure de Lyon
  • Montpellier University

These institutions, among others, contribute to France’s reputation as a premier destination for higher education.

French courses explained

When considering studying in France, you’ll encounter a plethora of course options tailored to various educational stages, accessible to both domestic and international students.

Undergraduate Degrees:

In France, undergraduate (Licence) degrees typically span three years and cover a wide range of subjects. To apply, you’ll need an equivalent of a French Baccalaureate qualification (A-Level in the UK) and must meet the specific criteria for the desired course at your chosen university.

The French academic year typically starts in September/October and concludes in June, with variations based on exams and individual course schedules. It consists of two semesters, interspersed with a two-week break over Christmas and approximately two months off during the summer.

For international students considering studying in English, the answer is affirmative. More details on this option are provided later in the article, or you can explore Campus France for a comprehensive list of courses taught in English.

Master’s Degrees:

Postgraduate studies in France may be less intensive compared to some Master’s programs worldwide due to their division into four semesters over two academic years. However, the intensity can vary depending on the specific degree and university. The delivery of courses is generally consistent with international standards.

Additionally, students can opt for other Master’s degrees such as Specialised Master’s and Master’s of Business Administration, which are esteemed and competitive options.

For a comprehensive overview of available programs in France, the Campus France Masters Catalogue serves as an excellent resource.


PhD durations vary but typically last three to four years, with some extending up to six years. Applicants need a Master’s or equivalent qualification, which doesn’t necessarily have to be obtained in France.

Many courses are taught in English. Apart from regular PhD requirements, students receive 150 hours of additional training. While the deadline for university applications is typically 31st January, Grandes Écoles have their own application windows.

Student Exchanges:

Participating in a student exchange program offers a taste of studying in France or supplements home studies with a valuable international experience. For UK students, exploring options like the Turing Scheme, a global program providing funding for studying, working, and living abroad, is recommended.

Course fees

While studying in France incurs tuition fees, they are relatively low due to government subsidies for higher education. This section will outline the tuition fees for the 2022/23 academic year, as provided by Campus France.

EU Students

For European students (nationals of EU member countries, the European Economic Area, Andorra, or Switzerland):

  • Bachelor degrees: €170 per year
  • Master’s degrees: €243 per year
  • PhD degrees: €380 per year

Some non-EU students may also qualify for registration fees equivalent to those paid by French and EU students, depending on their status. Further details can be found here.


For first-time enrollment in a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree program at the beginning of the academic year within higher education institutions falling under the MESRI’s purview, and for those not permanently residing in France, the state will subsidize two-thirds of the total registration fee. Consequently, the registration fees are as follows:

€2,770 per year for Bachelor’s degrees

€3,770 per year for Master’s degrees

For PhD programs, the French government largely covers the educational costs until completion, with a registration fee of €380.

Note that private universities, Grandes Écoles, and specific courses may have higher fees. Therefore, it’s essential to thoroughly review the tuition costs associated with your chosen course. Grandes Écoles, for instance, often determine their own fees, necessitating direct contact or visiting their respective websites for accurate information.

Important note:
It’s crucial to consider living expenses when evaluating the affordability of studying in France. While tuition fees may be lower compared to many countries, living costs are typically higher. The amount you’ll need to budget will vary based on factors like your chosen city and lifestyle preferences. Take the time to assess your financial capabilities carefully before applying.

Funding to study in France

For international students, securing funding is a crucial step in pursuing their academic aspirations. Fortunately, several helpful options exist:

  • The French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE) offers grants to international students.
  • The Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation (MESRI) provides needs-based financial assistance to individuals who will have resided in France for at least five years by the completion of their course.
  • The Eiffel Excellence Scholarship Programme, established by the MEAE, allows French higher education institutions to attract top international students for their Master’s and PhD programs.
  • To learn more about these funding opportunities, you can visit their respective websites, contact the international department at your chosen French university, or reach out to the French embassy in your home country.

Additionally, it’s advisable to explore what each university offers in terms of scholarships and grants, as offerings may vary. Alternatively, the Campus France Scholarship Directory provides an extensive list of other potential funding sources.

EU Student Visas:

For EU students, no visa is required to study in France. All you’ll need are:

  • A valid passport or alternative travel ID document
  • Proof of acceptance into your university course
  • Health insurance (unless you’re from a country within the European Economic Area and hold a European Health Insurance Card)
  • Evidence of financial means to support yourself.

Non-EU Student Visas:

Non-EU students must obtain a visa to study in France. Short-term Schengen visas are available for entrance exams, but for stays longer than six months, a VLS-TS visa is required. This visa is valid for a year and can be renewed if necessary.

To obtain the visa, you’ll need to complete an application form and provide the French Office of Immigration and Integration with:

  • Passport photos
  • Proof of qualifications
  • Evidence of a clean criminal record
  • Proof of French language proficiency (if your course is in French)
  • Evidence of financial support.

For comprehensive visa information, visit the French government’s France-Visas webpage.

How to apply to study in France

The application process for studying in France as an international student is contingent upon factors such as the specific course, the level of study, and your EU status. Here’s a breakdown:

Grandes Écoles: If you’re applying to a Grandes Écoles, you’ll need to reach out to them directly. They have their own deadlines and often require admission tests.

Universities: For undergraduate (Licence) degrees, you’ll apply through Parcoursup, the national online enrollment platform. However, for Master’s degrees, you’ll need to apply directly to the institution, similar to French students.

It’s advisable to contact your chosen institution for detailed application requirements and procedures as they vary. Research thoroughly as there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Additionally, Campus France is an invaluable resource offering comprehensive information about the application process.

University application documents you will need

The specific documents required for university applications in France vary based on factors such as EU status, home country, chosen course, and university preferences. However, here’s a brief list of typical documents needed for international students:

  • Admission or pre-registration certificate from the university
  • Campus France authorization
  • Passport or ID card
  • Passport photos
  • Registration fee
  • Copies of graduation certificates (with French translation, if applicable)
  • Social security registration (free)
  • Civil liability certificate
  • European Health Insurance Card (for EU students)
  • CV (for postgraduate degrees)
  • Cover letter
  • French and/or English language certificate (depending on course language)
  • Proof of financial means

University application deadlines

For EU students:

  • Mid-January: Registration opens
  • Mid-March: Deadline to select academic choices
  • Early April: Deadline to complete application and finalize choices

For non-EU students:

  • 1st October: Registrations open
  • 15th December: Deadline to submit applications
  • End of March: Universities should have responded to receiving your application

Both EU and non-EU students can expect acceptance notifications by mid-May.

Language requirements

Knowing French is not mandatory to study in France, as many courses are offered in English. However, having a basic understanding of French before arrival is advisable.

Acquiring some proficiency in French can greatly enhance communication during studies and facilitate social interactions outside of class. For English-speaking students, French language skills can significantly improve day-to-day experiences and maximize the overall study abroad experience.

Alternatively, you can opt to learn French alongside your studies once in France, which allows for more immediate practice and accelerated language acquisition.

If your desired course is taught in French, you must demonstrate fluency through an approved test. The Ministry of National Education and Youth offers various certifications globally, including:

  • Initial diploma in French language (DILF)
  • Diploma in French language studies (DELF)
  • Advanced diploma in French language (DALF)
  • Test of knowledge of French (TCF)

These tests are available at examination centers worldwide, including in the UK.