Postgraduate study in France
One in three PhD theses in France is prepared by an international student. The French education system actively welcomes international students – who make up 12 per cent of the student population – and one of the benefits they offer is that tuition fees are among the lowest in Europe.
France's three-level higher education system is based on the European system of Licence (equivalent to a bachelors degree), Master and Doctorat (PhD).
Institutions are a mixture of public – offering standardised government accredited degrees or diplômes nationaux – and private. CampusFrance, the agency promoting French universities to international students, has more than 248 member institutions. These range from traditional universities to specialised schools offering engineering, business and other specialist disciplines. There are also Grandes Ecoles, prestigious institutions (public or private) training high-flying graduates for top-level jobs. They enrol fewer students than the universities and are highly selective.
How to apply
In most cases you need to apply direct to the institution. However, it is possible to apply online for certain disciplines (engineering, law, arts, economics and management, literature and humanities, and maths) via CampusFrance. This means you only have to make one application, which is then forwarded to the institutions you have chosen.
Each institution sets its own admission standards, and the selection process is likely to include both written applications and interviews. Selection committees meet in June. Grandes Ecoles are difficult to get into but if you achieve this your qualifications will be highly respected when you leave. They have their own admission process for foreign students, which is based on degrees and exams.
Lectures and seminars for most courses are held in French so you will need a good command of the language.
Government subsidies mean that university fees are affordable, and international students pay the same as French students.
University tuition is rarely more than €300 per academic year, apart from engineering schools where fees are approximately €600. Tuition fees at Grandes Ecoles are higher: for business and management courses you can expect to pay between €4,500 and €7,000. You will also need to find living expenses, which CampusFrance estimates at around €1,000 per month.
Funding your course
Considerable funding is available for international students. Use the CampusFrance search engine to search for funding by subject area, level of study, country of origin and type of grant. Some government funding may be available from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which administers a variety of scholarships and grants. You should contact your French Embassy or Consulate to find out about these. Research grants are also available from the French Ministry of Education. Don't forget European Lifelong Learning programmes such as Erasmus and Leonardo, which provide grants across the EU: your careers service can give you information about these.