Studying In France – A Career Option.

France is one of the most popular study destinations in the world, with nearly 300,000 foreign students due to relatively low tuition fees and the chance to live in France. As the fourth most popular study destination in the world, and with 12 percent of the student population hailing from abroad, there is often a dynamic cultural diversity on French campuses. France is home to more than 200 engineering schools and 220 business schools, including the extremely prestigious grandes écoles. Paris ranks as the best city to study in beating out London, Singapore, Sydney, Zurich, Boston and many others. It was declared the best student city for academic resources, bustling nightlife, educational and cultural hub for students from across the globe.

Educational System

France’s higher education system offers unparalleled opportunities for international students. With more than 83 public universities, all subsidized by the national government, students receive quality education at an affordable cost. Private universities also provide alternative pathways for academic pursuits. The academic year typically spans from September or October to May or June, divided into two semesters.

Degree Structure

Following the EU format, French universities offer three main degree levels: License (undergraduate), Master, and Doctorate. The License program spans six semesters (3 years), culminating in 180 ECTS credits. Master studies extend for an additional four semesters (2 years), totaling five years of study with 300 ECTS credits. Doctorate programs typically require an additional six semesters (3 years) of study.

Higher Education Cycles

Higher education in France is structured into three cycles:

  • Premier Cycle: A two-year course leading to the DEUG level.
  • Deuxième Cycle: Consists of the third year up to the license followed by a one-year maîtrise.
  • Troisième Cycle: Encompasses higher postgraduate studies, starting with the Diplôme d’études approfondies (DEA) or the Diplôme d’études supérieures spécialisées (DESS).

Grandes Écoles and Vocational Training

Grandes écoles offer competitive-entrance higher education directly after the Baccalauréat or after preparatory classes. Vocational training, lasting two to three years post-Baccalauréat, is provided in Sections de techniciens supérieurs (STS) and Instituts universitaires de technologie (IUT).

Entrance Procedures

Foreign students seeking higher education in France must possess a French baccalaureate or equivalent and demonstrate proficiency in French. Entrance procedures vary based on the institution and course. For Grandes écoles, IUTs, and professional university institutes, students enroll directly. Premier cycle enrollment at a university requires submission of an entrance application and proficiency tests in French.

Classroom Dynamics

France’s colleges and universities offer small tutorial sizes and personalized attention, facilitating effective learning and student engagement. Unlike overcrowded classrooms in other countries, French institutions prioritize individualized instruction, fostering a conducive learning environment.

Top Universities in France

France boasts several prestigious universities and institutions, making it a sought-after destination for higher education. Among the top universities are:

  • Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris (ENS Paris)
  • Ecole Polytechnique ParisTech
  • Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC)
  • Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon
  • Université Paris-Sud 11
  • Université Paris Diderot – Paris 7
  • Université Joseph Fourier – Grenoble 1
  • Sciences Po Paris
  • Université de Strasbourg
  • Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV)
  • Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
  • Université Paris Descartes
  • Ecole des Ponts ParisTech
  • Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan
  • Aix-Marseille University
  • Tuition Fees and Scholarships:

Studying in France offers students a significant advantage due to the country’s fee system. For most courses at universities, the tuition fee is remarkably low, standing at €181 per year for bachelor’s degrees, €250 per year for master’s courses, and €380 per year for PhD programs. However, certain universities may add associated costs for specific services, which could raise the fees to around €2,000 per year in some cases.

Students attending highly selective grands écoles and grands établissements may face higher fees, averaging between €500-600 per year. These institutions often set their fees independently and may require additional prerequisites for admission.

Financial Support for Students:

In France, grants are available based on financial need and merit for students under the age of 28. The amount awarded varies depending on social criteria and can range from €1,606 to €4,600 per year for need-based grants and from €1,800 to €6,102 for merit-based grants.

Eligible students also receive exemptions or reductions in health cover, with free health insurance available until the age of 20. Afterward, health insurance costs €200 per year, covering most medical expenses.

While loans are an option for students, they are less commonly utilized, with less than 0.1% of university students opting for loans. The maximum loan amount available is €15,000.

Scholarship Opportunities

Government and university scholarships provide additional support for international students studying in France:

Government Scholarships

  • Eiffel Scholarships
  • Erasmus Mundus Scholarships
  • Ile-de-France Masters Scholarships

University Scholarships

  • Centrale Nantes
  • The Ecole Centrale Paris Graduate Fellowship
  • SciencesPo Emile-Boutmy Scholarship
  • HEC Paris
  • INSEAD
  • ISM Global Leadership Scholarship

Living Expenses in France

Housing Costs

In France, the average monthly housing cost ranges from 250 to 700 EUR, depending on the region and the type of accommodation selected. French universities often provide residence hall options at reasonable rates, with some as low as 120 EUR per month outside of Paris. However, due to the high number of students, affordable housing can be challenging to secure. While cheap accommodation may be available based on social criteria or reserved for scholarship holders, private residences typically offer more expensive options. Organizations also rent shared studios and flats in major cities and towns close to university grounds, with prices ranging from 300 to 600 EUR per month.

Students seeking rental studios from French landlords usually require a “guarantor” who resides or works in France and can cover rent payments if necessary. In Paris, finding flats for rent cheaper than 500 EUR is uncommon, with prices sometimes exceeding 1000 EUR per month for central locations. Other city centers like Nice or Marseille offer student residences starting at 400 EUR per month. In Lyon, students can find entire apartments for 500 EUR or share them with others for 200-400 EUR per month.

Daily Expenses

Apart from housing, students in France typically allocate between 350 to 500 Euros per month for food, transportation, and other expenses. While living costs in France are higher compared to neighboring countries, students often benefit from subsidized rates at restaurants and transportation services. Specialized student housing is available, even for international students, with significantly lower living costs in smaller towns.

Here’s a breakdown of daily expenses in France

  • Small apartment (private): 450 Euros
  • Room in university residence: 240 Euros
  • Studio flat in university residence: 405 Euros
  • Food and meals: 200 Euros
  • Price of a meal ticket in university restaurants: 3.10 Euros
  • Health insurance: 40 Euros
  • Local transportation: 31 Euros

A budget of around 800 Euros per month typically covers accommodation, food, transportation, and cultural activities. Many discounts are available to students at shops, restaurants, cafes, theaters, cinemas, and hairdressers.

For students staying longer than three months, an accommodation grant is available starting from the second month, with the amount varying depending on the rent.

Job Opportunities in France

Major Industries

France boasts diverse industries, including aerospace, automotive, pharmaceuticals, industrial machinery, food and drink, and tourism. In recent years, job opportunities have been abundant in science, engineering, research and development, tourism, healthcare, retail, and agriculture. English-language teaching is also a viable option for employment.

Finding Work

Graduates in France often secure positions with multinational or large national employers such as AXA, BNP Paribas, Carrefour, and L’Oréal. Internships or stages are considered essential for gaining work experience and expanding networks. Flexibility is key, as graduates may need to consider diverse job opportunities to gain initial experience, improve language skills, and expand their professional networks.

France’s robust tourism industry, with over 75 million tourists annually, provides year-round employment opportunities in hotels, restaurants, and bars. Additionally, the agriculture and industrial sectors frequently recruit for various seasonal positions. The government’s focus on ecological concerns has led to the creation of many eco-friendly jobs in the environmental sector, often referred to as “green jobs.” Healthcare professionals are in high demand due to the increasing need for medical services, driven by rising life expectancy.

Working Rights for Students

Students in France are legally permitted to work up to 19.5 hours per week during the semester and full-time during holiday periods, up to 964 hours per year on a student visa. The minimum hourly wage in France is 8.27 Euros gross, with mandatory social-benefit taxes deducted. Non-EU citizens can work with a valid student visa or residency card, except for Algerian students, who have a separate agreement. Students who have completed a Master’s degree may also apply for a six-month temporary work permit to seek employment after their studies, although recent regulations have made this process more stringent, resulting in many refusals.

Completing the Application

To attend college in France, applicants must go through a thorough application process. Colleges review each application to assess the suitability of the applicant for their institution. A clean background without any questionable incidents is crucial for consideration. If you’re interested in studying in France but don’t reside in the European Union, here’s a guide to the application procedures:

  • Obtain the Application: Visit the college’s website to find and download the appropriate application form. Complete the form accurately and thoroughly.
  • Submit Transcripts: Provide transcripts from all previous educational institutions, including high school and any colleges previously attended.
  • Provide Documentation: International students must submit a copy of their passport and a passport-sized photograph. Additionally, if the duration of the college program exceeds three months, proof of a valid Visa is required.
  • Write Essays: Some colleges may require essays as part of the application process. Ensure essays are well-researched, factual, and articulate to strengthen your application.
  • English Proficiency: International students must demonstrate proficiency in English, usually through tests like TOEFL. Results should be submitted along with the application.
  • Birth Certificate and Financial Proof: A copy of the birth certificate and certified translation showing the birthplace of parents is necessary. Additionally, proof of sufficient funds to cover expenses while studying in France is required by law.

Visa Process for Studying in France

Types of Student Visas

Several types of student visas are available for those planning to study in France, including short-stay, long-stay, and research scholar visas. The choice depends on the duration and nature of the study program:

  • Short-Stay Student Visa
  • Entrance Exam Visa
  • Temporary Long-Stay Visa
  • Long-Stay Visa

Application Procedure

The application process for a student visa involves providing essential documents to the consulate, including:

  • Official Enrollment or Acceptance Letter: From the institution.
  • Proof of Sufficient Funds: Currently EUR 615 per month.
  • Airline Ticket or Reservation: Showing date of departure.
  • Medical Insurance: With a minimum cover of EUR 30,000.
  • Proof of Accommodation: Either on-campus or with family/friends.

Living and Culture in France

Cultural Richness

France offers a culturally rich environment for students, with a long history of higher education and diverse geographical landscapes. From the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel, France boasts stunning natural beauty and a rich artistic, philosophical, and scientific tradition.

Student Life

French universities host a variety of extra-curricular activities and social events organized by student unions. With 12 percent of the student population being international, campuses often have a dynamic cultural diversity. International students are welcomed with dedicated offices, associations, and buddy programs to ease their transition.

Interactive Environment

Studying in France provides students with an interactive environment where they can engage with peers from around the world. The diverse student body ensures a vibrant and exciting college experience, offering a plethora of opportunities for fun and adventure.

Conclusion

The process of applying to study in France involves submitting comprehensive applications, navigating the visa process, and ensuring compliance with various requirements. Once admitted, students can anticipate immersing themselves in France’s rich cultural heritage and dynamic student life. The article underscores practical considerations such as housing options, living expenses, and job prospects, enabling prospective students to make informed decisions. Studying in France offers a unique blend of academic excellence and cultural immersion, attracting students worldwide and fostering cross-cultural understanding. Overall, France remains a premier destination for higher education, offering a transformative academic experience coupled with vibrant cultural opportunities.