29 July 2020

Studying abroad in France

Studying abroad in France

Students who study in France can choose from more than 3,500 institutions for their higher education. Students are drawn to university in France for the attractive tuition fees, high-quality teaching and international environment it offers.

As an economy, France holds a wealth of power and the country is home to a number of sought after employers, including L’Oréal, Airbus and Orange. Young talent, therefore, flocks to France to seize an opportunity to be immersed in innovation, development and multiculturalism!

If you’re looking to study in Paris, Marseille, Lyon, or one of the other top universities in France, there are a few things you need to organise first. To find out the requirements, cost and visas involved with studying in the country, as well as more about the student life, keep reading for our guide on studying abroad in France!


Are the universities in France good?

French universities are considered an excellent place for international students to educate themselves. As some of the best in the world, French universities are placed well in global rankings and are well recognised for their academic superiority. The top five ranking universities in France are:

  1. Paris Sciences et Lettres Research University (PSL) - global ranking 53
  2. École Polytechnique - global ranking 60
  3. Sorbonne University - global ranking 77
  4. CentraleSupélec - global ranking 139
  5. École Normale Supérieure de Lyon - global ranking 160

Within France, there are 83 public universities, 250 grandes écoles and numerous other specialised schools and research facilities.

Both École Polytechnique and École Normale Supérieure de Lyon are grandes écoles; prestigious institutions from which some of France’s finest politicians and civil servants will emerge. Grandes écoles can be either private or public and will usually require students to specialise in a particular subject area, with engineering and business most common. To be accepted into a grandes écoles facility, students must take a series of competitive exams.

For those who cannot or do not wish to apply for a grandes écoles, there is the option of a public university. 80% of students in France go to public universities, which offer a variety of courses for those who hold baccalauréat or its equivalent.


What are the requirements to study in France?

To apply for education in France, you must first decide on the course you wish to study. Public universities have a wide variety of programs including medicine, sports, science or humanities subjects. Each institution can vary in their teaching and the syllabus of the course, so it’s important to research the universities you are interested in closely to decide which is the best fit for you.

Furthermore, since students are only permitted to apply to three institutions, the decision cannot be taken lightly. Once this choice is made, the application process can begin, which starts with downloading the application from the university website. If you are from outside the EU/EEA, you may have to complete an online procedure first. You can read more about this in the “How do I apply to study in France?” section.

You’ll be required to fill out your details on the application form, which includes providing transcripts of your prior results and diplomas. International students will most likely be requested to complete a language proficiency test if the degree course is not in their native language. This test can be taken at the French embassy of the home country, or a TOEFL test can be taken online and the results submitted alongside your university application.

When applying to study in France, it’s best to start the process well in advance of the official application opening so you can be sure you have your documents ready. For applying to a French university, you’ll most likely need the following documents:

  • A passport copy
  • A passport-sized photograph of yourself
  • A cover letter
  • Proof of either French or English proficiency (depending on the degree course)
  • Proof of sufficient financial resources for the duration of the course
  • Copies of diplomas and exam transcripts
  • For EU citizens, a copy of your European Health Insurance card


How do I apply to study in France?

The way in which you apply to study in France will depend on your nationality, country of residence and which university you wish to study at. For residents of EU/EEA and Swiss nationals, you can apply directly to the university you choose through the online application form. For students outside of the EU/EEA, the procedure is different. You must follow a specific application process to ensure you stand the best chance of success. When filling in your details, be sure to include as much as possible in order to avoid delaying your application along the way.

For students from the following 33 countries, an online process by Campus France is the way to apply. This is a government agency aiming to provide information and advice on different programmes for students, as well as process their application and aid with any language tests. Students from the following countries are required to apply for a French university using the ‘CEF’ process offered by Campus France:

  • Algeria
  • Argentina
  • Benin
  • Brazil
  • Burkina Faso
  • Cameroon
  • Chile
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Congo
  • Côte d’Ivoire
  • Gabon
  • Guinea
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Japan
  • Lebanon
  • Madagascar
  • Mali
  • Morocco
  • Mauritius
  • Mexico
  • Peru
  • Senegal
  • Russia
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • USA
  • Vietnam


Students from countries outside of this list who wish to enter a first or second level of a university are required to apply for preliminary admission. This admission is submitted to the cultural service of the French embassy in your home country and is called ‘demande d’admission préalable’ or ‘DAP’. For those looking to apply for demande d’admission préalable, the process opens in January of each year.


How much does it cost to study in France?

The tuition fees for public universities in France are significantly lower than the US and UK, which is often a key motivation for students who choose the country for their education. Permanent residents in France, as well as citizens of EEA and Switzerland, can study without tuition fees at the universities. They are subject to a small fee of around 200€ a year, but, other than this there are no fees for the tuition itself. For students outside of Europe, there is a yearly tuition fee charge of between 3,000€ and 4,000€ for public universities. This fee is usually requested at the start of the academic year, which is September for the majority of courses. For private universities, the cost for both residents and international students can range from 3,000€ to 20,000€ per academic year.

Even without the cost of tuition, international students are still required to provide evidence of sufficient funds to live off for the duration of their course. With accommodation, food and entertainment costs, students should be prepared to part with around 850€ to 1,000€ a month. For smaller cities in France, it may in fact be possible to spend less on rent, but this can depend entirely on the market and your persistence in finding a room. In Paris, unfortunately, the cost of living is significantly higher. Students are often surprised by the figures, but it can be common to spend between 1,200€ to 1,500€ a month on living costs.

To save money, you should make your international bank transfers through Paysend. With low cost transfer fees and simple transfers through the smartphone app, you can easily send money to your landlord, university and French bank account! 


How can I get a French student visa?

If you are from the EU you don’t require a visa to study in France. Instead, you just need a valid passport/travel ID document, formal proof of an offer to study at your university, health insurance, and evidence of financial security. As well as EU students, citizens from the following countries do not require a visa when visiting France for a period of fewer than 90 days:

  • Albania
  • Andorra
  • Antigua & Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bosnia
  • Brazil
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Costa Rica
  • Bahamas
  • Croatia
  • Honduras
  • New Zealand
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Singapore
  • United Kingdom
  • Spain
  • South Korea
  • Norway
  • Denmark
  • Japan
  • Lithuania
  • Mexico
  • Moldova
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Poland
  • Ireland
  • Iceland
  • El Salvador
  • United States
  • Venezuela
  • Vatican City
  • Slovenia


Students who are not from one of the above countries must apply for a short-term visa when staying in France for any duration of fewer than 90 days. For longer than this, a long-term visa is required.

Non-EU students are recommended to apply for a VLT-TS visa which lasts for the duration of the degree course. When applying for a visa, it is important to ensure your passport is valid for the duration of your stay. If your passport is not valid for this length, your visa application will be denied and the money from your application will be lost. A visa application can take up to two months to be processed and approved, so it is imperative to ensure you process your application in enough time before you require it.


What is student life like in France?

With the ability to travel to and from the busiest airport in continental Europe, Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, France is an excellent choice for those looking to travel. Domestic flights and trains are available for a reasonable price, as well as tickets to neighbouring countries like Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. France is, therefore, the ideal destination for international students who wish to explore Europe whilst at university.

As a student in France, you’ll interact with international students from all over the world. French universities organise a number of parties, seminars, sports events and conferences which are a fantastically useful way to make new friends. There are opportunities to join clubs and groups at university, as well as excellent sports facilities for those interested in pursuing a more active student experience.

France is also filled with culture, with modern art museums, fine dining restaurants and a plethora of musical events to choose from. So, if you are deciding whether to become a student in France, rest assured that your calendar will be filled with entertaining activities and social events. Want to find a job while you study in France? Check out our article on finding the ideal holiday position, part time job, or even the perfect internship.

When you start your year abroad in France, you’ll want to manage your finances as cheaply and easily as possible. This is simple with Paysend Global Account - a unique smartphone app that lets you hold, send and spend your money in France, switch instantly between currencies and spend euros like a local with your Paysend Mastercard.

Download Paysend Global Account from the App Store or Google Play now to get started!