- Being so close to the UK means that, compared to other countries, France doesn't take too long - or cost too much - to travel to
- It's possible to study some courses in English, so you don't have to be entirely fluent in French
- 83 of France's universities are funded by the national government so students can get an excellent education at an affordable price
France's education system
In terms of the education system as a whole, French universities are very similar to UK ones. You can study for the following qualifications:
- License - Undergraduate degree, the equivalent of a Bachelors, to be completed in three years
- Masters - A postgraduate degree, studied for after a License or Bachelors, in two years
- Doctorate - A research based postgraduate qualification which takes about 3 years to complete
However, it's once you're actually studying the degree that things become different. Anyone who has obtained A Levels, a Baccalauréat or secondary school certificate can enroll at a public university, however, there are limited places for second year and so the end of first year exams are very competitive.
The academic year is another way by which the French university system is similar to the UK; the autumn semester is the first to start in late September and is then followed by a holiday around Christmas and New Year. Following this, the second semester starts in early February and lasts until July when there is a 3 month break. While some universities may have a break around Easter, not all do. Each semester usually ends with exams.
You’ll also find French universities are run in a very different way; they are on a much tighter budget and less concerned about prestige. As a result, less are in the worldwide Top 100 rankings but this could be because they don’t have the research funding that a lot of top universities have. Instead of concentrating on small groups of research students, their aim is to educate as many students as possible and ensure they have a good degree.
The types of subjects taught in France differ from the UK in some ways but are similar in others. While most subjects are still taught, including geography, sociology, linguistics, sciences and business, some of these may be taught slightly differently. Economics for example, is often taught in a more theoretical way than in the UK, and science degrees cover a broader range of topics - which means that the course, first year in particular, can be a lot more difficult.
Other subjects are a good idea for certain careers, while some should probably be avoided. Law, for example, isn't such a good idea to study, unless you specifically want to go into international law. However other popular courses, such as medicine and engineering, are fine to study but can get very competitive due to the limited number of second year places - be prepared to work very hard!
Arts degrees, such as lettres and french history, are good choices if you want to really improve your French and become bilingual. These degrees have enormous potential for future life choices - you could work as French teacher in the UK or even go on to complete a short, postgraduate professional qualification after your degree.
A really popular subject to study in France is LEA (Langues Etrangères Appliquées), which is Applied Foreign Languages. You need A Levels in French and one other language, and during the course you will learn 2 languages and some business studies. This puts you in a brilliant position to apply for management roles in the international departments of UK or French companies, or even to pursue your studies with a specialist business MBA.
How Much Will It Cost?
Tuition fees in France are a lot lower than the UK. Fees are the same both for home and EU students, so as most public universities are funded by the government, students don't have to pay high fees.
A Bachelors Degree will cost you around 189 Euros (£145)per year, while a Masters will be around 261 Euros (£200) and a PhD will be 396 Euros (£303) per year.
However, private universities, in particular business schools, will have considerably more expensive tuition fees. An undergraduate degree could cost you between 1,500 and 7,000 Euros (£1,150 - £5,364) per year.
Your living expenses in France will depend on a number of things, for example, whether you're living in university halls or in a private rented flat, or whether you're living in the centre of a big city like Paris or in a small town or village outside of a city. Here's a general idea of expected living expenses in a typical month:
- Accommodation: €250- €700 (£192- £536)
- Food: €200 - €300 (£153 - £230)
- Transport: €30 - €100 (£23 - £77)
- Social/Entertainment: €110(£84)
The currency in France is the Euro, depicted by €. The current exchange rate is €1 : £0.77
Exchange rates can change quickly and, while this value is correct at the time of writing, it's worth checking again before you travel.
Each year there are a large number of scholarships for international students available from the French government. You can find information about these on the websites of French embassies and consulates around the world, or on the Campus France website where they have a search engine for scholarships and grants.
Working while you study
Students are permitted to work for up to 964 hours a year, which is about 60% of the hours of a full time job. Currently, the minimum wage in France is around €9.61 per hour (£7.36).
Living in France
French universities are less about having a social life than UK universities, and more about concentrating on studying. Generally, there's a lot of contact hours and a lot of work set each week, so you will need to study hard! This is probably why there's such a high dropout rate in France.
Although a lot of focus is on academic work, this doesn't mean students of French universities do nothing but study. Often the students union, or bureau des étudiants (BED), will organise social and extra curricular events.
France is also the fourth most popular study destination in the world - behind the US, the UK and Australia - with 12% of their students being international, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. This means that campuses are culturally diverse which will give you a great opportunity to meet loads of new people from all different cultures.
Where to study?
The French government invest more money into their universities and research than almost any other country, ensuring you'll be getting a quality education. In 2014, 4 French universities made it into the top 200 QS World Rankings, including École Normale Supérieure, Paris at 24, École Polytechnique at 35, Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC) at 115 and École Normale Supérieure, Lyon at 179. Here's a list of the universities available in France with their world ranking in brackets, where appropriate:
1) Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, Caen
2) Université Claude Bernard Lyon I, Villeurbanne
3) Université de Nice Sophie Antipolis, Nice
4) Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne, Paris (228)
5) Université Paris Sud – Paris 11, Orsay (209)
6) Université de Rennes 1, Rennes
7) Université Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis, St Denis
8) École Centrale de Lyon, Ecully
9) École Normale Supérieure, Paris (24)
10) Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris (115)
11) Université de Poitiers, Poitiers
12) Université Paris Diderot, Paris
13) Université Montpellier 2, Montpellier
14) École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris
15) Université Lille 3, Villeneuve D’Ascq
16) Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle- Paris 3, Paris
17) Université de Technologie de Compiègne, Compiègne
18) Université de Toulouse II – Le Mirail, Toulouse
19) Université Montpellier 1, Montpellier
20) École Centrale Paris, Chatenay-Malabry
21) Université Paris-Sorbonne, Paris (227)
22) Université Paris Descartes, Paris (278)
23) Université Paris 24, Villetaneuse
24) Université de Nantes, Nantes
25) Université Paul Valéry Montpellier 3, Montpellier
26) Université Joseph Fourier, Grenoble (215)
27) Université Lumiere Lyon II, Lyon
28) Université Paris-Est Créteil Val de Marne, Créteil
29) Université de Valenciennes et du Hainaut-Cambrésis
30) École Polytechnique, Palaiseau (35)
31) Université François Rabelais, Tours
32) Université Lille 1, Villeneuve D’Ascq
33) MINES ParisTech, Paris
34) Université de Franche-Comté, Besançon
35) Université Paris Dauphine, Paris (367)
36) Institut National des Sciences Appliquées de Lyon, Lyon
37) Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, Nanterre
38) Université Jean Moulin Lyon III, Lyon
39) Université de Bourgogne, Dijon
40) Université de Strasbourg, Strasbourg (226)
41) Université de Picardie Jules Verne, Amiens
42) Université de Bretagne Occidentale, Brest
43) Université d’Angers, Angers
44) Université de Rouen, Mont Saint Aignan
45) Université de Versailles Saint Quentin En Yvelines, Versailles
46) Université Bordeaux I, Talence (363)
47) Université du Maine, Le Mans
48) Université de Savoie, Chambéry
49) École des Hautes Etudes Commerciales, Jouy en Josas
50) Aix-Marseille Université, Marseille (341)
51) Université de Limoges, Limoges
52) École Supérieure d’Ingénieurs en Électronique et Électrotechnique, Noisy le Grand
53) Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour, Pau
54) Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, Paris
55) Université d’Avignon et des Pays de Vaucluse, Avignon
56) École Normale Supérieure de Cachan, Cachan (338)
57) Université Pierre Mendès-France, Grenoble
58) Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne, Reims
59) Université d’Orléans, Orléans
60) Université Blaise Pascal Clermont-Ferrand II, Clermont Ferrand
61) Université du Littoral Côte d’Opale, Dunkerque
62) Université Panthéon-Assas Paris II, Paris
63) Université Lille 2, Lille
64) Université de Haute-Alsace, Mulhouse
65) École Nationale Supérieure des Sciences de l’Information et des Bibliothèques, Villeurbanne
66) École Supérieure des Sciences Economiques et Commerciales, Cergy Pontoise
67) Institut Polytechnique de Grenoble, Grenoble
68) ESCP Europe, Paris
69) Université du Sud Toulon-Var, La Garde
70) Grenoble Ecole de Management, Grenoble
71) Université de Perpignan Via Domitia, Perpignan
72) Université Jean Monnet, Saint Étienne
73) Université de Cergy-Pontoise, Cergy Pontoise
74) École des Ponts ParisTech, Champs sur Marne (290)
75) École Supérieure d’Electricité, Gif sur Yvette
76) TELECOM ParisTech, Paris
77) Université Rennes 2, Rennes
78) École Centrale de Lille, Lille
79) AgroParisTech, Paris
80) École Nationale Supérieure des Mines de St Étienne, Saint Étienne
81) Université Henri Poincaré, Nancy
82) Université Michel de Montaigne Bordeaux 3, Pessac
83) Université Stendhal Grenoble 3, Grenoble
84) Université de Bretagne Sud, Lorient
85) Université d’Evry-Val d’Essonne, Evry
86) École des Hautes Etudes en Santé Publique, Rennes
87) École Nationale d’Administration, Strasbourg
88) ESPCI ParisTech, Paris
89) Université d’Artois, Arras
90) École Nationale Vétérinaire d’Alfort, Maisons Alfort
91) Télécom Bretagne, Brest
92) École Centrale de Nantes, Nantes
93) Université Du Havre, Le Havre
94) Université Paul Verlaine – Metz, Metz
95) Université Toulouse I Capitole, Toulouse
96) Université Montesquieu Bordeaux IV, Pessac
97) École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, Lyon (179)
98) Université Paul Sabatier Toulouse III, Toulouse
99) Université Nancy 2, Nancy
100) Institute Catholique de Paris, Paris