Every year France welcomes more than 300,000 international students from around the world. France’s popularity as a country of study for international students is due to the fact that French universities have lower tuition fees than other European countries. If you also dream of studying at French colleges and universities, you will be interested to learn more about the application process at French universities and the university requirements for international students. The admission procedure for all French universities is strictly established by the Ministry of Education, which avoids errors in paperwork and minimizes the risk of rejection.
Choose the right subject for your degree in France
France is one of the four countries that initiated the Bologna Process to bring together higher education systems in Europe. French university diplomas are recognized around the world.
There are a large number of subjects that you can choose to study in France in French or English. Below are examples of just some of the most popular options to consider:
- Masters of management and organization in France
- Masters of fashion and luxury goods in France
- Masters of political science in France
- MBA degree in France
- Masters of biotechnology in France
Choose the right universities
International students can study in France for a fee or free of charge. But it is important to calculate your financial possibilities correctly: even with free education, the student will pay for accommodation, and to obtain a visa will require proof of financial solvency – at least 615 € per month for the entire period of residence in France.
Choosing the right university in France is not so easy. When choosing a university, students are usually guided by university rankings. But rating tables are not the best option for making a final decision. It is necessary to underline that English-language ratings of the universities which is accepted as a guide to choose a university in England or the USA, have many opponents in the European environment, therefore to make the choice on the basis of ratings QS and THE can be far not the best option. In France, there are no such ratings, so the newcomer faces a big problem of choice. It is important to pay attention not so much to the general position of the university, as to the quality of education in the field of interest.
In addition, when choosing a university it is important to adequately assess your chances of admission. Therefore, when choosing a university, it is necessary to consult with a specialist in foreign education.
If you are aiming for a fundamental education, you will find universities in France (where most students study). At the same time, you can get many professions in demand in the labour market in commerce, engineering, architecture or tourism at higher or specialised schools.
The peculiarities of French education include the existence of two ways to obtain a diploma: “short” (les filières courtes) and “long” (les filières longues). It should be remembered that international students can be admitted to French universities at any of the levels of study, depending on the certificates of education already obtained or courses taken.
In general, we can say that the search is not a university, but a department, as each French university is famous for its strong trends. For example, future physicians should choose the University of Pierre and Marie Curie, future engineers – the Polytechnic School in Paris, ambitious historians and philosophers should aspire to the Higher Normal School or the University of Paris 1, and economists – at HEC Paris. There are quite a few good universities in France, but only a specialist can tell the specific advantages.
The choice of training programme is made on the CampusFrance website, connected to the national universities base. Through this base, students are admitted to all public universities except for higher education (including École Normale). Candidates can choose up to three programmes at public universities. This should be done in the order of priority, i.e. if the applicant receives a positive answer from the first chosen university, his/her file is not sent to the others.
Les filières courtes – Short university courses
Short-term study in France takes 2 to 3 years, and is usually represented by higher education programs with industrial sector, administration, etc. After obtaining a diploma it is possible to start working or continuing education, for example, to obtain a Professional Bachelor Degree (Licence 3 professionnelle).
Among the university programmes, the Diploma in Technology (undergraduate diploma, Diplôme universitaire de technologie, DUT) is also worth mentioning, for a period of two years, at university institutes of technology (Institutes universitaires de technologie, IUT) which are part of universities. The prerequisite for admission is a secondary school diploma, a prepared dossier and an interview.
Campus-France has several other similar programmes: the undergraduate Higher National Diploma (Brevet de technicien superieur, BTS), which can be obtained in 2 years from the Higher Technical Training Sections (Section de techniciens supérieurs, STS) existing on the basis of lycées and the Diploma of University Science and Technology Education (Diplôme d’études universitaires scientifiques et techniques, DEUST), which entitles you to practise after 2 years of university studies.
Les filières longues – Long university courses
As for longer, and for us more familiar education, in the universities of France, it is divided into General and specialized. General education is designed for 3-4 years, specialized for 4-5 or more years. After completing their studies, universities issue both national (Licence, Mastère, Doctorat, etc.) diplomas approved by the Ministry of education, and internal University diplomas (Diplômes universitaires, DU).
Education in higher schools is possible after a two-year preparatory Department or the 2nd year of the University and lasts for 3 years. Admission is based on the results of competitive tests.
Higher education in France is conducted in French. In recent years, the country is becoming more and more educational programs in English. Thus, foreign students are practically not limited in choosing a program to study in France.
Prepare for submission of application
At some universities, you can apply directly on their website.
Check admission requirements carefully: most undergraduate and graduate courses require standardized tests such as GRE, GMAT or LSAT.
Apply to at least three different universities to improve your chances of admission.
Students who are not EU students will have to take the mandatory preliminary entrance exam (“demande d’admission préalable” – DAP). You can apply for a DAP at the Cultural and Cooperation Service of the French Embassy in your home country.
Once you have identified the program that you wish to pursue, you can begin the application process. You obtain an application from the website of your chosen institution, and you can apply to a maximum of three institutions. On the application you will need to fill out your personal details and provide transcripts of prior diplomas and the results. This is to check whether your results comply with the course’s admission standards, which ensure that students have the academic capability to succeed in their chosen program. Sometimes standardized tests such as the GRE, GMAT or LSAT are required for admission – these are internationally used tests which ensure that applicants are prepared for the challenges of advanced study. Some courses will also require a test of language proficiency if you are a non-native speaker of the language that you are undertaking your degree in – the ‘demande d’admission préalable’ or DAP (preliminary admission request) is the most common for French. You can apply to take this at the French embassy in your home country. Applicants to the Grandes Écoles are chosen based on the results obtained at the end of a two-year preparatory course called ‘Classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles’.
The important thing to know about the French application process is that there is no overarching body that deals with admissions. Each individual institution has their own set of criteria for applying, so you will need to make sure that you do the relevant research on the college website and submit your application here directly. Below is a list of all the things that you may need to think about when applying to a university:
- A Campus France authorization
- A copy of your passport
- A passport sized photo of yourself
- Copies of past exam transcripts and graduation diplomas
- A copy of your European health card (for EU students)
- Many colleges charge a fee to submit an application
- A civil liability certificate
- A cover letter
- French and/or English proof of language proficiency
- Proof that you have the financial resources to fund your stay in France
Exceptions to the DAP
Children of diplomats residing in France and currently living in France themselves.
Candidates who come from a partner university with a cooperation agreement (special procedures apply).
Students receiving a scholarship from the French Government or a French organization.
Candidates receiving a French, international, European, French-German, Franco-Italian or Franco-Spanish bachelor’s degree.
Where to apply for the French university programme
The application procedure actually varies depending on the country from which you come.
Students from EU and EEA countries can simply apply directly to the university under the same conditions as French students.
Students from countries outside the EU and EEA must apply through an online application system formerly known as the CEF and now called the “Study in France Procedure”. You can also apply for your visa online through this system and keep track of your application.
If you already reside in Europe but do not have European citizenship, you will need to apply through a French embassy or consulate in the European country where you reside.
To be accepted to a French university you need to have graduated from High School.
Some specialized schools, such as Grandes écoles, have their own application and selection system known as “concours”. A concours often includes written and oral tests that assess your motivation and your knowledge. In some cases, a special selection process is organized for international students.
Check for the particular program you are interested in via the university website or by contacting the admissions team (you will find contact information on the schools’ website under the “Inscriptions” or “Admissions” section) or the international office at the college or university that you are applying for.
Confirmation of your choice of universities to study in France
You make a list of 3 universities when you enter after school or 15 universities when you enter a master’s degree.
You must pay the Campus France registration fee, which is approximately 100 Euros and then you sign up for an interview. Before the Campus France interview, you need to prepare all the necessary documents with an official translation into French.
At the interview you will need: a foreign passport or an international identity card with sufficient validity period (original version) and a set of the following documents:
For persons in the last year of high school or lyceum:
- excerpts from the educational part of the school (for grades 9, 10 and the first half of 11) and their translation with notary certification
- French diplomas or test results in French and/or English (if any).
For persons who have already received secondary education:
- a secondary school diploma and its translation with notary certification
- a credit book (excerpt from the university) and/or higher education diplomas (depending on where you are currently studying) and their translations into French with notarization
- French diplomas or test results in French and/or English (if any)
- a photocopy of the work record and/or proof of internship or work experience (if any) and their translation into French with notary certification.
Interview at Campus France
You must make an appointment for an interview in your personal office on Campus France. The deadline for the interview (for those who apply for bachelor’s degree programs) is January. For those applying to master’s programs, the application deadline is the end of March and the interview takes place until the end of May. The interview is in your own language. Questions to prepare for the interview: why do you want to study in France? Why did you choose this speciality and these universities? What do you want to work in after your studies in France?
Receiving an invitation
The response from the universities selected in the Campus France system is sent to the student’s email address in the following order: by April 15 from the first selected University, by may 15 from the second, and by June 8 from the third. You will need the received invitation when applying for a student visa.
As for universities that are not connected to the system, the response from them comes depending on the deadline for submitting applications. Usually, the response period does not exceed 3 months from the date of submission of documents. This invitation is required for a long-term visa to France
Every international student at a French university receives financial support from the French state. However, there are additional scholarships and grants for international students, which can help cover both the daily costs of staying in France and additional educational programs.
Basic types and examples of scholarships:
- Scholarships and social grants are aimed at students who plan to study in French at the institution of higher education and to obtain a diploma there. The amount of the scholarships is €760-800 per month and is paid during the academic year.
- Scholarships for research activities, for example, to write a thesis in France with joint research supervision in France. They amount to €760 per month and are payable for a maximum of six months per year during the academic year.
- Academic scholarships for a semester (€760 per month)
- Scholarships for language internships (duration 1 month)
- Scholarships of French university colleges
- Copernicus scholarships for young French-speaking economists, lawyers and engineers from Central and Eastern Europe (€760 per month).
- Scholarships under the “Henri Poincaré” programme between the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Tatarstan and the French Embassy in Russia (800 euros per month)
- Scholarships for French and foreign companies
- EU and, above all, Erasmus Mundus Scholarships, involving participation in joint Master’s programmes
Applying directly to year 2 or 3
If you already have studied at university level you might want to apply to the second or third year on “License L2, L3” (second or third year of a Bachelor degree). To get more information you should contact the international office at the university where you want to study in France.
Knowledge of the French language
If you will study in French you will need to enclose a certificate of your knowledge in French when you apply. Very often the results from DELF or DALF.language tests are required. The exact requirements varies between different universities and programs, so make sure to check with the university in advance.
Start preparing for admission at least a year in advance
The sooner a student decides on a University and begins to prepare, the more chances he has for admission. Experts recommend starting training at least a year before the admission process.
Prepare for exams
Even if the University you are planning to enroll in does not hold entrance exams, you can’t do without testing your language skills. In most cases, prior training in specialized courses in language schools is required to pass the tests. You can prepare for testing both at your home country and abroad.
Most international students study in France in the local language. In order to prove your language skills, an applicant may take two types of tests: the DELF/DALF test or the TCF-DAP/-TP test. The Admissions Office considers only these two types of certificates, therefore all applicants must sit for the exams except for graduates of partner institutions (e.g. French University College). Registration for the exams is required at least 3 months before the expected date of application. As a rule, a B2 level is sufficient for admission to the first year of university, while the subsequent years of study (including master’s and postgraduate studies) will require at least C1 level according to European Union language levels..
Students who are fluent in English can study in France in the sciences, management and economics departments. IELTS or TOEFL certification is required to demonstrate English proficiency. Generally, the B2-C1 level is sufficient to study in France, which corresponds to IELTS 6.0-7.0 or TOEFL 78-95. These certificates must be obtained not earlier than 2 years before applying.
Resolve the housing issue
Not all French universities provide housing for students. But they work with agencies and help students decide on accommodation. This issue should not be put off until later – to get a visa, you need to confirm that you have housing for at least the first 3 months of studying.
Apply for a visa
You can apply for a student visa to France immediately after receiving a certificate of registration or pre-registration at the University. First, you need to go through the procedure of Campus France, the French state information centre for higher education in France. The Campus France application form is required for applying for a visa.
Go to the University a week before classes start
The academic year at French universities begins in September/October. The specific date of the first school day depends on the University. Students usually arrive on campus a week before classes start.
Cost of education
The French Government provides significant financial support to higher education institutions. The annual subsidy to universities for each student, both French and foreign, is about 10,000 euros. As a result, international students have a unique opportunity to study at very reasonable prices. In fact, they only pay the registration fee.
In addition to the registration fee, it is necessary to add a compulsory contribution to the Social Security Fund of about 192 euros per year.
In higher engineering schools the tuition fee varies considerably and can range from 500 to 20,000 euros per year or more. In public engineering schools, the Diplôme d’ingénieur (graduate engineering degree) costs €596 per year.
In other higher education institutions, in particular business schools, the tuition fees are significantly higher, ranging from 8,000 euros per year and above.
You can start preparing for education in France from childhood
The most effective way to prepare for studying in France is to become familiar with France, tis culture and the French language at an early age. Participation in French secondary school programs with French peers on-the-job during the fall, spring, and summer holidays will contribute to natural integration into the French education system. Twinnings between cities are also a great opportunity to become familiar with the culture and the language of the country where you would like to study.
You can also study in international secondary boarding schools in France according to the French secondary school program approved by the French Ministry of education and get a French certificate of maturity. At the same time, it is necessary to take into account the psychological readiness of the child to live away from parents for a long time during this type of training.
COVID 19: Considering the present COVID 19 situation in France at the time when this article was written (August 2020).
Ensure that the above information does not interfere with the requirements imposed by the French Government at the time you consider leaving your country to move to France to study.
If you consider you should learn the language or improve your linguistic skills before coming to study in France, the best way to study in France is to do it with a native.