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Studying in France

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The French educational system enjoys an excellent reputation internationally. On top of being home to some of the best schools and universities in the world, studying in France also has the added benefit of being significantly cheaper than in other educational powerhouses of the world. Whether you intend to study at the undergraduate or postgraduate level, France should definitely be high up your list of countries to consider for further studies.

Whereas in the past mastery of French was essential, there are now France-based schools which offer taught programs exclusively in English.

Visas and requirements

Nationals of the European Union, Switzerland, Monaco, Andorra and of the European Economic Area can enroll in French universities and faculties without having to apply for a visa. Non-European nationals will have to apply for a student visa in their home country before heading to France if the duration of their studies exceeds three months. For more information on the process of applying for visas, please refer to the articles on visas for France.

In general, students wishing to enroll in a French higher education institution must be in possession of a foreign secondary education certificate or diploma. Whilst most French students will apply using their French Baccalaureate results, international students who have followed other tracks such as the British A-Level system can also apply to directly to French undergraduate institutions. The procedures vary based on the country from which you are applying, and Campus France provides an excellent overview of the different procedures required (please refer to the links at the end of the article). Depending on the school you decide to apply to and the level of your studies, you might be required to prove your mastery of spoken and written French, but bear in mind that many schools, including some very prestigious postgraduate institutions offer courses exclusively in English.

Types of institutions

The French classification of tertiary institutions is somewhat different from what is generally seen in Anglo-Saxon countries. France prides itself on having a meritocratic and highly competitive education system, and nothing epitomises French excellence more than schools (Grandes Ecoles) such as Ecole Polytechnique, the Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA), the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) or the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales (HEC). Together, these institutions churn out the brightest engineers, businessmen and politicians in the country and French talent from these schools are highly sought after both in France and internationally. Unfortunately, the prestige and excellence of the French Grandes Ecoles is not well publicised internationally, but these schools can easily compete with the likes of Harvard or Cambridge when it comes to undergraduate training.

There are three main families of Grandes Ecoles: Schools of Engineering, Schools of Management and finally Schools of Art and Architecture. For other disciplines, for example Medicine, Mathematics or Law, students need to study at one of France’s many universities. Note that both schools and universities offer undergraduate and postgraduate courses. For those interested in business postgraduate courses, and more specifically MBAs, France is a great option since it is home to excellent institutions which are more affordable than their American or British counterparts, including schools which are very well ranked internationally, such as INSEAD or HEC.

Enrollment

Foreign students can enroll directly in the higher education institution they prefer:

  • if they are already registered on a degree or masters program in a French university;
  • If they are applying for a graduate or postgraduate program in a university or other subject-specific higher education institution; or
  • in the case of enrollment following a competition (this is the case for example for the French Engineering schools)

You will be required to enroll through the Admission-Postbac website if you:

  • are in possession of a French, European, German-French or International baccalaureate;
  • are an EEA or Swiss national;
  • are moving to France within an agreement between two universities;
  • have received a scholarship from the French government, an international organization or a foreign government whose scholarships are managed by an accredited French organization;
  • are either stateless or a political refugee and hold an OFPRA (Office français pour les Réfugiés et les Apatrides) card;
  • are the child of a diplomat who is posted and lives in France;
  • are in preparatory class for Grandes Ecoles (CPGE);
  • are in higher technical section (STS); or
  • are in a polytechnic institution (IUT).

Language test

Students featuring in the second list above need to sit for a French language test. Their French writing and speaking skills will be assessed by a Centre international d’Etudes Pédagogiques (CIEP) which is present in all universities. This examination generally takes place in February and March and cost around 63 euros apply. Exemptions exist for:

  • nationals coming from officially French-speaking countries
  • foreigners coming from French bilingual sections (according to a list established jointly by the Ministry of National Education and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • holders of the Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française (DALF) and of the level B2 of the Diplôme d'études en Langue Française (DELF)
  • candidates having obtained 14/20 at the written test of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris

Fees

A complete list of fees for institutions of higher learning can be found below. Generally, however, the cost of studying in France is significantly lower than in other countries, given the quality of education you will receive and the opportunities that will ensue. However, bear in mind that postgraduate studies or studies in private institutions will cost higher.

 Useful links:

Campus France
Diplomatie.gouv
France.fr
Preliminary Enrollment  (DAP) – White file
Preliminary Enrollment (DAP) – Green File
OFPRA
Admission-Postbac
Centre International d’Études Pédagogiques
Enrollment fees for the academic year 2015-2016

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