Foreigners can apply to French universities under the same conditions as nationals. The opportunity to enroll directly after high school, a lack of entrance exams, and a high admission rate — these factors make the admission process easier for foreign applicants and distinguishes France from its neighbors: Germany, Spain, and Italy.

Top universities in France

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While public universities are free, they have fixed registration fees (frais d'inscription).

Level of educationPrice
Bachelor’s (Licence)2,994 USD/year
Master's (Master)4,075 USD/year
Doctorate (Doctorat)411 USD/year

More on French universities

How to choose a program and university

Choosing a university in France is challenging, especially when you realize that Sorbonne is not the only option. In total, there are four key criteria:

  • Field of study. Look not for a university, but for a faculty. Each university has its own area of expertise. Future doctors, for example, should consider the University of Pierre and Marie Curie, engineers — École Polytechnique, historians and philosophers — École Normale Supérieure, and economists — HEC Paris.
  • Language. You can study in France without knowing French. Universities offer programs in English, but they are most often available to master’s and PhD students.
  • Tuition. This parameter depends on the type of university. An academic year at a higher school (grande école) costs 4 times more than at a university — the average cost is 8,646 USD/year.
  • Entry requirements. It is almost impossible to enter higher schools without two-year preparatory courses and difficult entrance exams. On the other hand, there are no exams at public universities. GPA and language requirements also differ depending on the university. To enroll at a grande école, it is desirable to have a 5.0 GPA and a C1 level of French, while a 4.2 GPA and B2 level of French are sufficient for public universities.

A complete list of study programs at public universities is available on Campus France.

Admission requirements in France

ProgramMin. ageDurationMin. costAvg. costMin. Language levelEnglish examFrench exam
Prof. Education — BUT18+3 years184 USD/year184 USD/yearB2IELTS 5.5DELF B2
Preparation for grandes écoles — CPGE18+2-4 years184 USD/year2,162 USD/yearB2IELTS 5.5DELF B2
Bachelor'sLicence18+3 years2,994 USD/year10,808 USD/yearB1-B2IELTS 5.5DELF B2
Master'sMaster21+2 years4,075 USD/year12,970 USD/yearB2-C1IELTS 5.5-7.0DALF C1
MBA21+10-16 months41,611 USD/year60,525 USD/yearC1IELTS 7.0DALF C1
Doctorate — Doctorat23+3-5 years411 USD/year6,485 USD/yearC1IELTS 7.0DALF C1

Language exams

French. To confirm your French proficiency, it is necessary to pass the DELF/DALF or TCF exam. For admission to the first year of study, a B2 certificate is sufficient. Subsequent years of study require a C1 level of proficiency.

English language. French universities offer study programs in English, with most being available at business schools and public universities. Most often, these are master’s programs in the exact and natural sciences, or management and economics. To confirm your knowledge of English, you must provide a B2-C1 IELTS / TOEFL certificate. Both certificates are valid for two years.

Diploma legalization

France adopted the 1961 Hague Convention. If your country is one of the Contracting Parties, an apostille is required. After this you need to translate the diploma into French and notarize it.

Entrance exams

There are no official entrance exams at French universities. However, this does not apply to higher schools (grandes écoles) and certain faculties. They evaluate the knowledge of a student in specific areas. For example, humanities students are tested on their knowledge of French, the intended area of study, and sometimes history or geography. Engineering students take mathematics, English or French exams, along with a specialization test. The higher the university ranking, the more difficult the entrance exams — for instance, those applying to the École Polytechnique start preparing at least a year in advance.

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Admission process in France

How to enroll in a bachelor’s program

A bachelor’s degree in France is called a licence. Programs last three years. All applicants who have completed their upper secondary education in France (baccalauréat) or its equivalent in another country can apply for study. No university preparatory courses are required for those who have graduated from the 11th grade. The only condition is that students under 18 must find a guardian with French citizenship.

Students from most countries apply with Campus France. Admission procedure depends on your nationality and country of residence. There are four categories of applicants:

  • European — they apply on the Parcoursup platform
  • Non-European living in Europe — they file a preliminary request for admission, Demande d'Admission Préalable, and send applications to the department of cooperation and cultural action at the French Embassy
  • Not a European or living in a country affected by "Etudes en France" procedure — they follow the same steps as non-European students living in Europe
  • Student from a country affected by Etudes en France procedure

Applications are accepted from October to January. If you apply on the Parcoursup platform, deadlines are from December to March. The exact dates change from year to year. Information for public universities, architectural and medical schools can be found on Campus France, and for private universities — on their official websites.

Not all universities are connected to the Campus France platform. In this case, the application is submitted through the university website.

Documents for admission — licence
For admission to a French state university, the applicant must provide:
  • Passport
  • High school diploma with notarized translation into French or English, or grade transcripts for the last three years of study (if the applicant submits documents before graduation)
  • French or English proficiency
  • Resume
  • Motivation letter
  • Portfolio

How to enroll in a master’s program

Master’s (master) programs in France last two academic years. Documents are submitted to state universities through Campus France. Some of them conduct entrance tests: exams, interviews, or research presentations. Sometimes, a letter is required from a prospective supervisor for whom the student is planning to write a final thesis (le mémoire). French universities evaluate the student’s qualifications and document legalization on an individual basis.

The candidate cannot change his field of study upon acceptance into a French master's program. He can only continue studying the same subject in which he obtained his bachelor's degree.

Documents for admission — master
For admission to a French university, the applicant must provide:
  • Passport
  • Bachelor’s degree with notarized translation into French or English
  • French or English proficiency
  • Resume
  • Motivation letter
  • Research proposal
  • Letter from future supervisor
  • Portfolio

Higher education in France

Preparatory courses in France — CPGE

CPGE (Classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles) or classes prépas are special two-year preparation courses for higher education. Students enroll in such programs after receiving a baccalauréat or its equivalent. According to statistics, no more than 10% of French graduates are enrolled in preparatory classes. The choice of classes prépas depends on the direction of study. There are three options:

  • Science classes
  • Economic classes
  • Philological classes

There is no single admission procedure for CPGE: the criteria depend on the educational institution and specialization, but the applicant's performance in high school is considered the main one. An international student will also need a French language certificate and motivation letter. Applications are submitted through Parcoursup.

Two years of study through CPGE is equivalent to the first two years of licence (L1-L2). Students who do not get into grandes écoles can directly enter the second or third year of university.

Admission process for grandes écoles

Higher schools do not have a standardized admission procedure. The order and type of entrance examinations depends on the particular grande école. They may consist of exams, interviews, portfolio evaluations, or project defenses.

Virtually all grandes écoles only accept CPGE students. Exceptions are engineering and business schools: you can enter them without preparatory courses. At the same time, engineering schools require you to have a sufficient background in physics and mathematics.

Applications are submitted through the official website of the university. The general set of documents includes:

  1. Diploma of previous education with a notarized translation into French or English
  2. Motivation letter
  3. Academic resume
  4. Portfolio
  5. Research proposal

Up-to-date information can be found on the website of the chosen university or on Conférence de grandes écoles.

Master’s programs at grandes écoles are called Mastère Spécialisé. The study duration, as at universities, is two years. The difference is that the curriculum of higher schools is directed at practical experience — for example, a mandatory requirement is an internship at a partner organization. Often, students do their bachelor’s study at a university, and then enroll in a master’s program at a grande école. This increases their chances of finding a good job after graduation.

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