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France is known for being one of the most popular study-abroad program locations across the world because of the diversity and experiences students are exposed to while attending a French university. In addition to the experiences that students can have, they will also receive an excellent education, which is backed up by France having more than 10 universities place in the top 300 university rankings of the QS World Rankings for 2019.
France has two different categories for universities; they are divided between the grandes écoles (private) and public universities. This affects which university might be best for your program of study; since public universities are more likely to have broad programs.
While grandes écoles are often more specialized in the degrees they offer, often offering programs in only one discipline of science or business. The best universities in France can also be ranked by how well they accommodate international students in English and other languages.
In this article, we will analyze the top universities and which ones are best at specific things, such as the best university for science in France. The majority of the best universities in France are located in the metropolitan area of Paris, but some of the top ten can be found in Lyon, Marseilles, and Montpellier.
Paris Sciences et Lettres (PSL Research University Paris) – Best Science University in France
Paris Sciences et Lettres or PSL Research University Paris is a group of 25 higher education institutions and research centers located in Paris that was formed in 2010 and became a single body in 2019. It started with 5 member institutions and slowly has grown to include the majority of the universities and research institutions in Paris.
The main focus of the Paris Sciences et Lettres (PSL) is to be the premier research institution in the world. Some of the institutions associated with the PSL are fairly new schools, but some of them date back to the Enlightenment period. With its rising status as a premier research program, it has been able to foster relationships with many of the top universities in the world including; the University of Cambridge, Peking University, and the National Taiwan University.
- 46th Times Higher Education Ranking (2021)
- 36th Shanghai Jiao Tong University Ranking (2020)
- 52nd QS World Rankings (2021)
- N/A U.S. News & World Report Ranking
- More than 17,000 students
- 18% of undergraduate students are international students
- 82% of postgraduates are international students
- 40% of Ph.D. candidates are international students
- 28 Nobel prizes have been awarded to alumni in the following fields
- chemistry, literature, physics, physiology and medicine, and economics
- Notable Alumni
- Louis Pasteur
- Henri Bergson
- Jean-Paul Sartre
- Marie and Pierre Curie
Is France good for international students?
Yes, some of France’s top universities heavily cater to international students. An example of this is that 20% of the students who attend Paris Sciences et Lettres (PSL Research University Paris) are international students, as well as, 82% of their postgraduate students.
University of Montpellier – Best University in France for Business
The University of Montpellier was created by decree in January of 2015 from the merger of Montpellier Universities 1 and 2. It has greatly benefited from this merger because both of these schools were ranked near the top of French business schools. The business school is a grande école that was founded in 1879 by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Montpellier.
It is one of France’s oldest private business institutions. It focuses mainly on the management side of the business and offers more than 15 Masters of Science and Executive MBA. It also boasts a 70% job recruitment of students before they even graduate from school and a 97% employment rate among graduates within 3 months of graduation.
- 301st Times Higher Education Ranking (2021)
- 151st Shanghai Jiao Tong University Ranking (2020)
- 511th QS World Rankings (2021)
- 204th U.S. News & World Report Ranking
- 39,703 students in the whole university
- 15% of the main university is international students
- 25% of the business school are international students
École Polytechnique – Best University for a Masters in Cyber Security in France
École Polytechnique has a rich history that spans more than 225 years since its founding in 1794.
It is known in France as X and has the reputation of being the number one science and technology institute in the country and one of the best in Europe. The main area of focus in the science and technology department of the institute is cybersecurity and how it relates to the national security of France. It is one of the smaller universities in Paris having a rigorous selection process that has just over 3,000 students at any one time.
While the school mainly focuses on technology and science each student is required to take courses in humanities and sports. The school is run by the French Ministry of Defense and encourages French Nationals to serve in the military for 8 months during their first year of study at the institute. The motto of the school follows along these lines and is; “For the Homeland, Science, and Glory.”
- 87th Times Higher Education Ranking (2021)
- N/A Shanghai Jiao Tong University Ranking (2020)
- 61st QS World Rankings (2021)
- 342nd U.S. News & World Report Ranking
- 3,030 students in 2020
- 24% of undergraduates are international students
- 30% of postgraduate students are international
- Scored a 99 for international students on the QS World University Rankings
- French National students are required to take a two-year course during high school to be admitted
- Has a highly selective double major program that is taught only in English
- Founding member of the Institut Polytechnique de Paris in 2019
- Became a military academy under Napoleon I in 1804.
- Henri Becquerel – Nobel prize in physic
- Andre Citroen – Founder of Citroen
- 3 former presidents of France
Are there English-speaking universities in France?
Yes, some universities only offer coursework in English. Examples of this are The American University of Paris and The University of London Institute in Paris.
Also, numerous universities offer entire degrees in English, such as the École Polytechnique and Pantheon-Assas University (University of Paris II)
Best Architecture University in France
The École des Ponts ParisTech is one of France’s oldest and most prestigious Grandes Écoles that’s primary mission has been to train engineering officials and civil engineers, but the school has begun to expand into all disciplines of science, engineering, and technology. The institute is a founding member of ParisTech and it has been the group’s leader in international studies.
Almost 50 percent of students at the university obtain a double degree from a foreign university and 30% of the student population are from abroad. The urban architecture and green architecture programs offered at the university are some of the institutes fastest growing and most prominent.
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- 251st Times Higher Education Ranking (2021)
- N/A Shanghai Jiao Tong University Ranking (2020)
- 242nd QS World Rankings (2021)
- 826th U.S. News & World Report Ranking
- 2,059 students in 2020
- 43% of students in all programs are international
- Paul Andreu
- The architect behind multiple famous airports, including the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris
- Designed the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing
- Étienne-Louis Boullée
- The architect who is best known for his design of the Cenotaph of Sir Isaac Newton
Pantheon-Assas University – Best University in France for Political Science
The institution is also known as the University of Paris II Pantheon-Assas or just as Assas. It is often considered one of the top universities in France for political science and is considered to be the direct inheritor of the Faculty of Law and Economics of Paris which was established in 1257. It boasts many notable French politicians and elites as alumni, including the former French president Francois Hollande.
According to the French Ministry of Higher Education, the graduates of Pantheon-Assas University earn more on average than the graduates of any other school in France. The name of the school was chosen because it is the original address for the University of Paris’s first law school. Since the school is mainly a French law school with political science and other social science undergraduates it is normally not ranked internationally but is considered a part of Sorbonne University.
- 541st Times Higher Education Ranking (2021)
- 51st QS World University Law School Rankings
- 70% of the students admitted at the French National School for the Judiciary are alumni
Notable Alumni or Faculty
- Two former French prime ministers
- A member of the Supreme Court of Monaco
- A secretary General of the Institute of International Law
- Two current members of the European Parliament
- Former vice-president of the International Court of Justice
Sorbonne University – Best Computer Science University in France
Sorbonne University is one of France’s top public universities and specifically is known as the top research university in its three faculties.
Sorbonne University focuses on three main faculties at its main institutions, which are; arts and humanities, science and engineering, and medicine. It was founded in 2018 by the merger of Paris-Sorbonne University, Pierre et Marie Curie University, and other small universities and institutions in Paris.
The motto of the institution is “Creators of futures since 1257,” which is in remembrance of the original College of Sorbonne that was established by Robert de Sorbon in 1257 as a school to teach doctors. This motto has been directly applied to the university computer science program that is the top innovator in its field. The university is gaining traction as being one of the best universities in France and has even begun to establish satellite campuses around the world. The first such campus is Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, which teaches only in French.
- 87th Times Higher Education Ranking (2021)
- 39th Shanghai Jiao Tong University Ranking (2020)
- 83rd QS World Rankings (2021)
- 43rd U.S. News & World Report Ranking
- 53,400 students
- 9,094 international students
- 18% of the student body is international students
- Houses some of the world’s most prestigious scientific collections
- A display of more than 1,500 different minerals
- Collection of 50 photographic plates created by Gabriel Lippman
- The Charcot Library – once belonged to neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot
- Alumni and professors have won a total of 33 Nobel Prizes
- A recent Turing Award winner, Yann LeCun, is an alumnus