France has a long university and research tradition, leading scientific and technological innovations. France is, after the United States, Great Britain and Australia, on the fourth place among the countries that receive foreign students, with a figure of over 280,000 foreign students, representing 12% of the total number of students. Being in top 10 largest economies in the world, France is also one of the countries most open to foreign investment.
Over 20% of the French national budget is devoted to education, so that, in public education institutions, the state directly covers a significant part of the real cost of education for each student (between 8,000 and 14,000 euros per year). This national system maintains enrollment fees at one of the lowest levels in the world, while guaranteeing the quality and title of diplomas awarded.
State-funded, the 83 public universities are spread throughout France, from the Sorbonne in Paris founded in 1253 to the latest high-tech campus in Nice – Sophia Antipolis – and cover all fields of study: Science: Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, biology; Technological fields: Computer science, Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Materials Science; Letters, Foreign Languages, Arts, Humanities, Law, Economics, Management, Health, Sports.
The French university tradition is complemented by the prestigious Grandes Écoles (Grandes Écoles) which is a feature of French higher education. Established in parallel with the university system at the beginning of the 19th century, they continue to offer a high level of training, with professional orientation, and are very selective. In addition to the engineering or management and trade courses, which are the majority in these Schools, there are also public administration (ENA), defense, education and research courses – within the Normal Higher Schools, as well as agronomy or training courses and veterinary medicine.
Research is a structural component of universities: through the 97,000 professors-researchers, the 285 Doctoral Schools provide training for research in close connection with over 1,200 research laboratories. French doctoral schools have always shown openness to the international students, with 41% of doctorates being obtained by foreign students.
The French system covers all theoretical aspects comprising 4 types of higher education:
- preparatory classes for large schools;
- specialized schools;
- senior technical departments.
The excellence of French training is based on a national network of over 3,500 higher education institutions, both state and private, and internationally renowned research centers: 83 universities, more than 200 engineering schools, 200 business and management schools, 120 public high schools of art, 20 schools of architecture. Over 3,000 schools and institutes specialized in specific sectors, such as social careers, paramedical field, tourism, sports, fashion, design.
In France there are 2 systems coexisting:
- An open system within universities, which accepts the most students. All baccalaureate holders have the right to enter without prior selection. The trainings are very diverse;
- A selective system with a controlled admission capacity. Admission is based on competition, exam or file, possibly followed by an interview. This system is in force especially in large schools (grandes ecoles) such as the National School of Administration (ENA), the schools of engineering and commerce, the University Institutes of Technology (IUT) and the Professional University Institutes (IUP). They mainly train senior executives and intermediaries of the state and enterprises.
Organization of studies: The new European system of graduate and postgraduate studies has three stages: Bachelor’s degree – 3 years, Master’s degree – 2 years, Doctorate – years. In France there are two types of masters: professional master, and research master’s degree for a doctorate. The European credit system – ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) is a credit corresponding to the volume of activity that the student must submit to validate a course. These units can be transferred.
How well do you need to know French?
If you are not going to pursue one of the many programs in English and you want to advance your level in this romantic language, then you should make sure that you have the necessary level to be able to study in French higher education institutions. Each higher education institution has its own language policy, but in general for the Bachelor’s degree you need a minimum B2 level, while for the Master’s you may be required a C1 level. These levels correspond to the Common European Framework of Reference. The level of French language can be attested by several types of diplomas: DALF, DELF, TCF, TEF.
Tuition fees in France
In France, the annual tuition costs in public higher education institutions are set by the state.
Bachelor -> Universities: ~ 200 € / year; Grandes Ecoles / Business Schools: 3,000 – 10,000 € / year
Master -> Universities: ~ 250 € / year; Grandes Ecoles / Business Schools: 3,000 – 20,000 € / year
To these fees can be added additional expenses for specific services or for certain programs, as well as the compulsory payment of medical insurance for students (around 200 euro / year).
Accommodation in France
In student dormitories in France, but especially in those located in the Paris area, accommodation is limited and demand is increasing. Under these conditions, the most effective method is to look for a home in advance. Below you will find the most accessible options for students:
The CROUS (Center régional des œuvres universitaires et scolaires) university residences are the dormitories proposed at the beginning of the academic year by the host universities. In France, not all universities have such student residences. In these residences are admitted, as a matter of priority:
foreign scholarship students of the French Government through Campus France;
students coming to France through an international mobility program;
students with disabilities;
students whose domicile is located at a great or very great distance from the place of study.
To apply for accommodation in a CROUS residence hall, students must apply for a social file – DOSSIER SOCIAL ETUDIANT (DSE), which must be sent together with all other supporting documents, between January and April.
Private residences for students. Depending on the accommodation conditions imposed, some residences require a guarantor, i.e. a person who works in France and can guarantee that the student will not have problems with late payment of rent.
Apartment or studio for rent. To rent a studio or an apartment, you first need a guarantor who has a net salary three times higher than the rent you have to pay (this will be proven with salary slips). If you use the services of a real estate agency you will find accommodation much faster, but you will pay the agency a commission equal to the first month of rent, or about 80% of the rent for a month, depending on the agency.
SPECIAL SCHOOLS AND SPECIALIZATIONS
Medicine or Medical Studies:
Studies of medicine, pharmacy and dentistry are provided by universities associated with major hospitals, in university hospital centers (centers hospitaliers universitaires -CHU). There are 30 of such schools in France.
A foreign student (non-EU) cannot integrate medical studies in their university career. On the other hand, foreign students with a high school diploma or an equivalent degree and foreign students who have validated the second cycle of medical studies completed in France can complete their specializations (TCEM – Troisième cycle d ‘études médicales) normally (national tests and ranking, then residency). The non-EU foreign student who has not yet obtained a medical degree in the country of origin, must, regardless of the level of education, follow the 1st year of the first cycle of studies (PAES) and pass the exam at the end of the first year. It thus integrates the level equivalent to that reached in the country of origin.
Residency competition for foreign candidates:
The residency competition for foreign candidates (open to non-EU doctors) allows you to obtain the DES after a residency of 4 years (for medical disciplines) or 5 years (for surgery). It covers medical specialties, anesthesia and resuscitation, medical biology, obstetrics and gynecology, public health, psychiatry and surgery.
Specific specialization diplomas for foreign doctors:
Specialization diplomas have been created especially for foreign doctors (from outside the EU) as follows:
- diploma of specialized medical training (DFMS – diplôme de formation médicale spécialisée), obtained after 2 – 6 semesters of studies. The training is open to doctors who are specializing in their country of origin.
- diploma of advanced specialized medical training (DFMSA – diplôme de formation médicale spécialisée approfondie), obtained after 1-2 semesters. The training is open to doctors who already have a specialization.
The number of places offered is fixed for each discipline and specialty by ministerial decree. Candidates must take selection tests (including a language test). These rehearsals are organized by the cultural services of the French Embassy during the first quarter. In all cases, medical studies require a very good knowledge of the French language (at least at the level of Delf B2).
In France, higher art or applied arts schools are high quality public institutions that issue national diplomas after 3 or 5 years of study. There are also private art schools or schools belonging to the Chambers of Commerce which issue their own diplomas. All these schools are characterized by a very selective recruitment method (on the basis of a file, or following an interview or competition exam). The artistic field is first of all that of creation (plastic arts, design, visual communication, but also fashion, interior architecture, etc.), but there are also some university courses on Art History, Art Theory or Art Management.
Schools of Architecture
Architectural studies are part of the European scheme for harmonization of diplomas (LMD – Bachelor, Master, Doctorate):
• a first cycle of studies with a duration of 3 years, leading to the diploma of architectural studies and conferring the degree of Bachelor;
• a second cycle of studies with a duration of 2 years, leading to the state diploma of architect and conferring the degree of Master;
• a third cycle of studies with a duration of 3 years, leading to the doctorate in architecture and the title of Doctor.
The 20 national schools of architecture under the tutelage of the Ministry of Culture issue, after the 6th year of study, specialization and in-depth diplomas in the field of architecture, as well as the important ability to practice in one’s own name (Habilitation à exercer la maîtrise d’œuvre en its proper name – HMONP).
The engineering diploma is a national diploma that can be obtained in universities, technological universities and engineering schools. This diploma is subject to the control of the National Commission for the titles of engineers, which certifies the quality of the diploma. An engineering degree may be issued to a student only on condition that they have attended courses for at least 24 months in the same educational institution. The engineering diploma is obtained after a global course of 5 years, structured according to the curricula and modules of each university system. The admission conditions are selective, based on a contest, interview, and file.
Diploma of specialization engineer – About 20 engineering schools offer a specialization cycle, which allows you to obtain a national diploma, recognized by the CTI, called “diploma of specialization engineer”. Students who already have an engineering degree can obtain this title after only one year of study. If the student has a 4-year higher education diploma, then two years are required to obtain the diploma of specialist engineer.
Specialized master (mastère spécialisé) in engineering sciences – Obtained after a year of studies, this diploma has a strong professional orientation and is completed by a professional thesis. There are currently around 160 specialized master’s courses in France.
The prestigious “Grand Ecoles” bring together in a studious but welcoming atmosphere several hundred students and teachers. In France you will find many schools specializing in communication, tourism or health. This specific French term brings together public or private educational institutions: engineering schools and management schools, but also normal high schools (ENS), institutes of political science (IEP), veterinary schools and other schools of different specializations. Highly selective, these institutions host a total of around 30,000 foreign students, and are then highly requested in the international labor market.
The training offered by the Grand Ecoles often involves internships and international exchanges. Many courses are taught in English, especially in the case of specialized fields. They offer a privileged educational environment that offers a very rich student, cultural, sports and associative life, financed to some extent by enterprises. The teaching approach is personalized, the courses are conducted with a small number of students, and the emphasis is on projects and case studies.
Other specialized schools
France is recognized worldwide in the field of gastronomy, hotel, fashion, cinema. These are some of the fields for which many specialized schools offer training, but there are still many other sectors such as comics, animation, video games, photography, journalism, communication, paramedical training, social careers, etc. The duration of the studies is generally between 2 and 5 years, and the admission is most often done on the basis of a file and an entrance exam.
France is a magical place and you should definitely consider it as your study abroad experience! Would you move to the country of love?