Higher Education in France
France is currently the fourth most popular study destination in the world, and it's no wonder with its excellent culture, highly rated university system and the draw of relatively low tuition. Each year, close to 300,000 students travel to France for the sole purpose of studying in its schools.
The higher education system in France can be a little confusing. The system is being standardized into a three-level system, which makes it a little easier to understand. Today, undergraduate students will begin by pursuing a License, which is similar to a bachelor's degree. This is followed by master level training. The final level of training is the doctorat. The license takes three years to complete, with two years necessary for a master program. A doctorat program usually requires three additional years.
France's universities are state-funded, so tuition is not high. Plan to spend about €200-€400 per year, depending on the studies you are pursuing and the university you attend. The exception to this are French business schools. Most business schools are privately owned, and tuition can be over €15,000 a year.
France has fairly open enrollment for first-year undergraduate programs. However, after the first year, students will need to pass a series of exams, which can be highly competitive, to find a place as second-year students. The country also has a system of selective schools called "Grandes Écoles", which only select students are chosen for, and these have selective entrance exams, higher tuition and more prestige.
The academic year in France begins in late September, with a spring semester starting in early February. Holidays are held during Christmas and New Years, as well as All Saints' Day and Easter. Most schools also have a spring break and three months of summer holiday.
Upon graduation, many students go on to pursue scientific study programs. These one- to three-month programs can be subsidized through a high-level scientific study program grant, which covers travel costs, tuition and living expenses.
If you are coming to study in France from a country in the European Union, you will not need to apply for a student visa. If your home country is outside the EU, then you will need to visit a French consulate to get a student visa prior to traveling to the country. Your visa will serve as proof of your residency status during your first year of study. After a year, you will need to apply for a Carte de Sejour. Also, you will need to register with the local immigration office within 30 days of your arrival in the country.
Because of the lost cost of tuition and high interest by international students, you will want to make your plans for studying in France early. While entrance to the universities will not be much of a difficulty if you are a first-year student, finding housing and getting your paperwork in order takes some time. If you need financial aid, you will want to apply for a study or course grant as well.
As you prepare to study in France, you will be among some of the world's top thinkers. You'll have the opportunity to study in halls that were once graced by names like Sartre, Durkheim or Marie Curie. While the process of applying to the universities and working through the red tape can be daunting, in the end you will receive a quality education at a surprisingly affordable price, making the effort well worth taking.