France is one of the most popular destinations for international students, especially for its high quality of education, remarkably low tuition fees, and very pleasant lifestyle.
There are currently more than 250,000 international students in France. This figure represents around 10% of the enrollments in French universities. Most of the students who choose this destination are in the postgraduate stage (master’s and doctorate).
If you have seriously thought about traveling to this country to attend one of its universities, we share a complete guide to study in France.
Why study in France?
The French educational system is one of the best in the world and in parallel it is one of the most accessible. This country offers low tuition fees, making the dream of many international students more possible. And the most important thing is that every year, French universities are among the top positions in the World University Rankings.
That said, when you earn a degree from a French university, you earn high competitive value as a professional around the world. Especially if your career is related to business, you can graduate with a high level, as the country is a center for international business and management education, and has many business schools in the world rankings.
France has 71 public universities, funded by the government. The education is of a high standard and the prices are very low for national and international students. There are also several private universities, known as the grandes écoles .
The academic year begins in September or October and ends in May or June, depending on the program and the institution. There are two semesters, divided by a break after final exams at the end of the first semester.
Classes are delivered in two ways: large lectures, where the teacher speaks and students take notes, and sections and labs, designed for smaller groups of students where material covered in lectures is explored in greater detail. Some majors require internships and practical experience during the program.
University degrees are established according to the general format of the European Union: bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate. The bachelor’s degree lasts around three years, the master’s degree lasts two years, and the doctorate can be obtained with an additional three years. In short, in eight years you can have a doctorate in France, which in many Latin American universities is quite difficult unless subjects are advanced.
Education costs in France
Being a foreign student involves three types of costs: the cost of study, living and the cost of visas. We explain them below.
Tuition fees in public institutions are set by the government and are very affordable. As a member of the EU, its currency and therefore its rates are quoted in euros. France makes no exception for foreign students, as it charges exactly the same tuition as national students.
Tuition costs are set annually. Currently, tuition costs for undergraduate courses are around 200 euros, for masters around 260 euros and for doctorates around 400 euros per year. Often times, students are required to pay certain administrative fees that slightly increase tuition costs.
These fees are achievable for most students, so France is one of the few countries that truly offers quality education at affordable prices. It is paradoxical, because in many of our countries we study in institutions that do not even enter the world ranking and yet enrollment is 10 times higher than in France.
Now, let’s talk about the case that you want to study in a private institution. Per year, you will have to pay much higher tuition fees that can even reach 10,000 euros. The difference is abysmal, however, you should know that there are scholarships available for foreign students.
Some of the most popular scholarships include grants from the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research, funding provided by the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), awards from regional councils, Erasmus and Erasmus Mundus programs.
We are not going to lie, France is quite an expensive country when compared to its neighboring countries. Fortunately, students are often eligible for subsidized restaurant and transportation rates. There are also specialized housing that receives international students.
It is also important to select the city in which you are going to study strategically, as the main cities are the most expensive, while the smallest have a significantly lower cost of living.
In detail, if you live in a university accommodation, this could have a cost of about 120 euros per month. It is accessible but the demand in these places is very high, the selection is based on social criteria and is awarded to exchange or scholarship students.
On the other hand, the prices of a flat or studio apartment can have a monthly cost that ranges from 457 to 542 euros. Likewise, there is the option of a family home that depending on the location can vary its monthly price from 200 to 800 euros.
Students have the option of applying for a scholarship from their local Caisse d’Allocation Familiale (CAF). The application is free and if you meet the requirements you can receive up to 35% of the monthly rent.
Among other living costs we have:
- Electricity, gas, internet – € 60 per month
- Study Materials – € 50 per month
- Travel card or transport pass: € 70 per month
- Return train ticket – € 25 (in advance)
- Groceries – € 250 per month
- Eating out – € 12 on average
- Gym membership: € 38 per month
Steps to study in France
For EU citizens and citizens of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, no visa is required. But if you come from a country outside the EU, then you will have to apply for a visa that includes a residence permit (VLS-TS). It is valid for one year and can be renewed later if necessary.
International students must demonstrate that they can financially support their studies and for this they must have 7,400 euros per year. Also, international students are allowed to work up to 20 hours a week so they have an extra income.
The Long Term Study Visa (VSL-TS) is in case you travel to France to do a Bachelor, Master or PhD. To obtain it, you must have a long-term student green card that you can obtain through an application form that will be sent to the Immigration Office that clearly stipulates where you will live (in which city).
You must also deliver a copy of your passport and make the payment of 55 euros and then wait for the summons. When they give you the date at the embassy of your country, you must arrive a health certificate, a proof of address (it may be a bill for a service) and a photo ID.
But if you want to do a language course in France or an internship, the right visa is the short-stay or “Schengen” visa, which allows you to live on French soil for a period of 90 days.
Choice of course
To study in France you must have a good level of French. There are several types of courses you can choose from.
- First year after high school: Available only to students from the European Union.
- Erasmus (year of study in France only EU): Available only for some countries, you can apply if you already study at a university and want to study a year in France.
- First year at the University (DAP) (Only EU): It is the French version of the baccalaureate. If you have just finished secondary school and want to continue your studies in France in the first year of university (or business school, etc.), this is called “DAP – Demande d’Admission Préalable “, you should ask for admission .
- Two years university or more (EU only): You must go through the enrollment in Campus France, an additional paperwork.
- For students who are NOT from the EU or CEF: If you live in a country that does not belong to the European Union or a country agreed by CEF, you must submit your application directly to the university you want to study. You must be proficient in French even when you are doing the admission procedure.
Obtain French level certification
Most likely, the university you are applying to requires a certification for your level of French. You have to be clear that there is a difference between a diploma and a test of French proficiency.
The DILF, DELF and DALF diplomas are valid for life, are administered by the CIEP within the Ministry of Education, and can be presented and obtained independently of each other, in the same country or in different countries and without any restriction on the time frame. Among all, the DALF is the most valuable.
Regarding the French proficiency tests, TCF: Test de Connaissance du Français (Test of French knowledge) and the TEF (in French) – Test d’Evaluation de Français (Assessment test in French).
Choose where to live
As an international student in France you can opt for several types of accommodation:
- Accommodation on the university campus, quite difficult to specify.
- Student accommodation administered by the French government as part of a service provided by CROUS (French Center régional des works universitaires et scolaires).
- Private accommodation, for which many requirements are asked, including a bank account.
- Short stay accommodation, offered by language schools, exchange institutions and others within your package.
To find grant accommodation (financial aid) in France, whether at university, with students or privately, these are some of the requirements you must have:
- Bank account, which is easy to obtain because you don’t need a fixed address.
- Deposit, as all owners ask for a one-month deposit.
- If you find private accommodation through a real estate agent, you will surely have to pay a fee.
- A guarantee of one month’s rent is usually requested.
- Proof of domiciliation: a recent receipt, a utility bill, a letter of rent, etc.
- Have a valid lease.
Once you arrive in France you will have to process your bank account, because it will be useful for a lot of paperwork. Some banks may even give you electronic savings accounts before you move to France.