French universities consistently rank among the top universities in the world, and many of the country’s distinguished institutions happen to be located in the capital of Paris. Couple this with the fact that tuition fees are very reasonable, and you can see why France is a popular study destination for many international students.
France offers an incredible selection of higher education institutions, but we’ve narrowed it down to the six best universities in the country. We’ll walk you through their curricula, location and other highlights to show you why they’re our top universities in France. But first, a quick note: the French education system may be a bit different from what you’re used to. If you’re really interested in attending university in France, we recommend learning about the French school system first.
- Université PSL (Paris Sciences et Lettres)
- Sorbonne University, Paris
- École normale supérieure de Lyon
- Aix-Marseille University
- Sciences Po, Paris
- HEC Paris
1. Université PSL (Paris Sciences et Lettres)
Paris Sciences et Lettres is actually a combination of five French institutions: Collège de France, ESPCI ParisTech, École Normale Supérieure, the Paris Observatory and Chimie ParisTech. Together, these schools share the goal of becoming one of the world’s leading research facilities. One of the reasons this university is so highly ranked is the fact that researchers who have studied here have won a total of 28 Nobel prizes across multiple disciplines.
There is a large variety of subjects students can choose to study, including science, humanities, engineering and fine arts. The school offers undergraduate bachelor’s degrees as well as master’s degrees and PhDs. Students at PSL also benefit from the university’s many links with other top-ranking international schools, such as University College London and Columbia University in New York City.
2. Sorbonne University, Paris
Sorbonne University is another Parisian school spread across different areas of the capital. It is a public research school that dates back to 1257, making it one of the oldest institutions of its kind in the world! If you search for any type of university award, Sorbonne will likely be in every single list. Whether you go by the 33 Nobel Prizes or the Turing Award, this is undoubtedly one of the most prestigious universities in the world.
The university offers a variety of courses in either French or English. Subjects include medicine, engineering, journalism and languages. Incredibly, despite the world-class education, Sorbonne is like any other French university in terms of its affordable fees! This is one of the many pros of living in France as a foreigner.
3. École normale supérieure de Lyon
The École normale supérieure de Lyon (ENS) is a grande école in France. In other words, it’s a highly specialized education institution that recruits students through a very competitive process. Most students will spend two years in preparatory classes to sit the entrance exam.
ENS is equivalent to Ivy League schools in the US and is split into two units — Arts and Sciences. Many of the school’s students go on to work as civil servants and within the French government and administration. It is a relatively small university, with around 2,500 students, but that hasn’t stopped it from being consistently ranked as one of the best schools in the world.
4. Aix-Marseille University
Aix-Marseille University is located in the two cities of Marseille and Aix-en-Provence, which are about 30 minutes apart by car (more with traffic!). It is another old institution, dating back to 1409. After some changes in 2012, it is now the largest French-speaking university in the world with around 80,000 students. Alumni have been awarded many prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize.
Subject degrees are available in all disciplines, from language and music to economics and law. And, more importantly, it is located in one of the most beautiful, sun-filled regions of France: Provence!
5. Sciences Po, Paris
Heading back to Paris, we have Sciences Po, an institute of political studies. Although it is primarily located in the capital, the university has campuses in seven other French cities. It was founded in 1872 and is a very international school, with half of the students coming from different countries across the globe. It is France’s leading university in social sciences.
The main subjects offered are political science, law, economics, sociology and history. Fun fact: French president Emmanuel Macron studied here, as did former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau!
6. HEC Paris
Lastly, we have HEC Paris, one of the top business schools in France and the world. It is a grand école, like École normale supérieure de Lyon. Thanks to its incredible teaching staff, the education provided in this institution is world-class, which is why it is one of the most selective grandes écoles in the country.
HEC Paris offers master’s degrees in management and international finance, as well as MBAs and PhDs. Alumni from the school include heads of state, ministers and renowned academics.
Make the grade
These French higher-education institutions certainly make the grade in a variety of ways, from their high quality of teaching to the impressive job prospects students face after graduation. If you’re interested in studying in France to improve your language skills or simply get a world-class education, this list of the best universities in France is a great place to start.