A Guide to Higher Education in France
France, known by its high quality of life, is also one of the developed countries of the European Union and a member of the Schengen Agreement. While the usual language of instruction in the majority of offered courses is French, France has become one of the most popular educational destinations in the world for international students from Europe and other regions in the world interested in study abroad programs.
France is an ideal place for the student who wants to explore Europe. It’s easy, really easy, to reach most of Europe’s important cities. Amsterdam, London, Brussels, Barcelona, Milan all awaits you for the weekend or for a longer stay. France is a multitude of athletic, tourist, and cultural activities. The French people are proud of their cultural heritage, lovely countryside, quiet towns and fine restaurants. Most of France’s institutions of higher education are located in city centers, close to cultural and social life. Museums, libraries, cinemas, theaters, and cafes are rarely very far away.
In France the academic year begins in September or October and ends in May or June. The exact starting and ending dates vary from institution to institution and from program to program. There are several breaks during the year: 2 weeks in December-January for Christmas and the New Year, 2 weeks in February for winter break and 2 weeks in late March–early April for the Easter break. Summer vacation stretches over the entire months of July and August, and sometimes includes parts of June and September as well.
The quality of the French higher education system is recognized around the world. Its wide variety of institutions offers excellent opportunities for teaching and research in every subject and at every level. After the USA and England, France is the country that attracts the largest number of international students in the world. International students make up more than 15 percent of the students at French universities and more than 25 percent of France’s prestigious Grandes Écoles’.
There are three main categories of higher education institutions in France, where ELS’s first European partner institution, SKEMA, is located: public universities, the Grandes Écoles (which include France’s prestigious schools of business and management) and schools of art and architecture.
The flexibility of French higher education allows you to design an academic itinerary that is perfectly suited to your goals and background. Thousands of possibilities exist in every field of knowledge. International students who already have begun their higher education, and who may even hold a university degree, may obtain further training in France. Many opportunities exist for students to transfer into degree programs and receive credit for the post secondary work they have already done.
France’s universities are public institutions. The universities offer academic, technical, and professional degree programs in all disciplines, preparing students for careers in research and professional practice in every imaginable field. The universities offer dozens of different national diplomas. French universities enroll over 1.5 million students. International students make up about 10 percent of total enrollments, one of the highest percentages among OECD countries.
A total of 41 French universities are included in the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, of which 11 are within the global top 250. The nation’s two leading universities, Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris and Ecole Poly technique ParisTech, both make the world’s top 50 at 23rd and 40th respectively, cementing their reputations as two of Europe’s and the world’s leading institutions.
In addition to the 41 French universities featured in the QS World University Rankings, France is also known for its strong contingent of specialized business schools. These are not placed in the overall rankings due to their subject-specific focus, but nonetheless enjoy wide-reaching international reputations. Notable examples include ESCP Europe, ESSEC Business School, HEC Paris and INSEAD.
One major benefit which students studying in France will enjoy is the country’s fee system. For the majority of courses at most universities you will have to pay only 181 EUR a year for a bachelor’s degree (there are exceptions engineering courses tend to cost more), 250 EUR per year for a master’s course and 380 EUR per year for a PhD. Studying in France is relatively inexpensive because the government funds a significant share of the cost. Annual tuition in a public university is between 126 and 692 Euros, depending on the program. Costs in private institutions are higher. International students are treated just like French students.
However, a number of universities have decided to add associated costs related to specific services (e.g. for diplomas related to continuing learning and training). With these additional costs, in some public universities the tuition fees can reach as far as EUR 2.000/year. Students will pay more at Frances highly selective grandes écoles and grands établissements (great schools and establishments), which set their own fees (about 500-600 EUR per year). Some of these operate only at postgraduate level, and some like Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris require students to either get through two years of preparatory school or to transfer across after two years of an undergraduate course.
Once you’ve identified programs of interest to you, you must apply for admission. The first step in this important process is to be sure that the institution at the top of your list is willing to accept you. The institution will need to review your academic background to determine whether you are likely to succeed in its program. Each French institution sets its own admission standards. When the institution admits you, it will send you a letter that will enable you to apply for a student visa at the French consulate in your home country. For more information about the application and visa process please consult with our experts.
The official language of France is French. It is beneficial for the International students who wish to study in French universities, or other school in France, to have some knowledge of the French language. Also technical and management courses are available in many Universities in France at the Masters level which are entirely taught in English.
There are several types of French student visa, and the one you require will differ depending on how long you are planning to study in France for.
1.Schengen student visa (short-stay):
If your studies will last less than three months, and you are sure you will not be spending any longer in the country, then you should apply for the court for the short-stay or Schengen student visa. The Schengen student visa is issued free of charge and cannot be renewed.
2.Visa to sit entrance exams:
If you need to travel to France in order to sit for one or more university entrance exams, you can apply for the visa de court séjour étudiant concours, which simply means a visa for sitting entrance exams. If you sit for your exam and pass, you are then eligible to apply for a renewable, one-year residence permit. For more information, contact our experts.
3.Temporary long-stay visa:
The visa de long séjour temporaire pour études is a temporary student visa that allows you to study in France for a period of up to six months. With this student visa for France you do not need to apply separately for a residence permit.
Known as the visa de long séjour pour études or the extended-stay VLT-TS, the long-stay visa is what you need if you wish to study in France for longer than six months. This visa acts as a residence permit and lasts for the duration of your study period (normally three years for a bachelor’s degree, two years for a master’s program and four years for a PhD).
Most students need 400 to 500 Euros each month to cover the costs of food, transportation, and housing. The amount you will need depends on many factors, including where you live and the type of educational course. While most students will benefit from special meal and accommodation facilities, some will be paying very high tuition fees. For example a minimum monthly food budget will be somewhere between EUR 150 to 250. A cinema ticket costs EUR 9 on average, a soft drink in a café costs about EUR 3.50, and a meal in a restaurant costs at least EUR 10 (more often around EUR 14 to 17).
The type of accommodation you choose -flat, hotel, apartment hotel, room in private house, hostel, campus accommodation, hall of residence, will depend on your status, budget and length of stay. Universities throughout France offer housing in student residences apartments at reduced rates (between 120 to 300 Euros per month). They are usually located near campus sites and offer better quality than the campus accommodation run with public funding, though they are also more expensive. Campus accommodation costs from EUR 118 to 400 per month, depending on the location and type of flat. More and more students are finding shared flats an economic accommodation solution. Monthly average rents average 15 Euros per square meter in Paris and 7 Euros per square meter elsewhere in France.
Working during your study in France is great way to really have a unique, hands-on learning experience. Many students choose to work during their time studying abroad as a way to gain cultural and linguistic insights as well as an expertise in their future career. Having a job in France as a student can really give you the edge needed when looking for a job after graduation and boost your study abroad experience in France to the next level. If you’re interested in working while studying in France students have to register at an institution approved by the French social security system. Even first-year students and students coming to France for the first time have the right to work half-time. The minimum hourly wage in France is around 8 Euros.