Studying in France What you need to know
France is one of the most popular study destinations in the world, with nearly 3,00,000 foreign students. Relatively low tuition fees and the chance...
Paris remains world's best student city
France is one of the most popular study destinations in the world, with nearly 3,00,000 foreign students. Relatively low tuition fees and the chance to live in France are certainly appealing, but France’s confusing higher education system can be frustrating to navigate.
Applying to a university and visas
Campus France is an online portal run by the French government that assists students in their university applications, from choosing a university up to visa processing. They have a number of regional offices around the world and can also provide extensive information on degree programmes. France recently simplified the notoriously tedious process of applying for a Carte de Séjour, or residency permit, for non-European Union nationals. During your first year of studies, you only need to show your visa as proof of your residency status. However, you still need to register with the immigration office within 30 days of arrival and undertake a medical examination to validate your visa.
Many universities now offer either bilingual programmes or programmes taught entirely in English, which is of particular appeal for those wanting to learn or improve their French while specialising in another academic discipline. However, if you decide to undertake a degree programme taught in French, you will need to have at least an intermediate level of French.
Many universities require the B2 (Intermediate) certificate in the Diplôme d'Études en Langue Française (DELF) or sometimes the C1 (advanced) certificate, (the Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française or DALF), depending on the course. Find out more about French language courses at the CIEP website.+
Cost of living and housing
The cost of living in France is similar to other countries in Europe, but Paris, which is the most popular destination for students, can be very expensive, and it can be extremely difficult to find housing. There is often a crazy scramble for accommodation just before the beginning of each academic year in early October.
The Cité Universitaire Internationale de Paris is a large student residence in the south of Paris with dormitories representing a number of different nationalities. Only students in their third year of university and beyond can apply, and the maximum stay is two years.
Universities outside Paris (and even those located in the suburbs around Paris) often have subsidised student accommodation, either on-campus or nearby. You can also find more information about living in dormitories funded by the national student welfare office, the CNOUS.
Financial aid and working
The French government offers a large number scholarships each year to international students. These are normally advertised on the websites of French embassies and consulates around the world. Campus France also has a search engine for scholarships and grants
Students whose universities are part of the Erasmus programme can apply for the scheme through their universities. While the scheme is largely limited to universities in the European Union, there are a number of non-European Union universities who are also involved.
Students are legally allowed to work up to 19.5 hours per week during the semester and full-time during the holiday period. Students who have completed their master’s are also eligible to apply for a six-month temporary work permit to allow them to find a job after their studies, but this provision was recently tightened and many applications were refused.
French universities tend not to have the same level of student activity that collegiate universities in the English-speaking world do. Yet there are many extra-curricular activities and social events organised by student unions. As the fourth most popular study destination in the world, and with 12 per cent of the student population hailing from abroad, there is often a dynamic cultural diversity on French campuses.
Most universities make an active effort to welcome them; with international students’ offices, student associations and buddy programs to help ease the transition for international students. There are many benefits extended to students in France including generous discounts for food, entertainment and transportation.
Other benefits require the purchase of a student card; for example, the 12-25 rail card issued by the national rail company, SNCF, is valid for one year and costs €50. It offers up to a 60 per cent discount on rail travel throughout France.