Studying at university in France

Studying at university can allow you to obtain a degree, which can be useful for finding a job in France, or may even be essential for certain career paths. People who are not French can enrol in studies in France under certain conditions.

Verified by Ouarda Varda Sadoudi on 30/05/2022

If you would like to obtain a university degree, you can consider enrolling in a higher education institution in France.

Below, you will find the conditions and steps you need to take to enrol in a university course.

If you would rather pursue vocational training, including certified training, you can visit our dedicated page.

The university system in France

In France, university studies start after high school. Enrolment requires the successful completion of the high school leaving examination known as the “Baccalauréat (Bac)” or a foreign equivalent.

  • There are different types of higher education institutions in France, including:

    • Universités”, which are public institutions that depend on the French state and are attached to geographical school catchment areas known as “académies”.
    • “Grandes écoles”, which are public or private establishments accessible through competitive exams. A specific two-year preparation course known as the “classe préparatoire” is usually required first. Entry into these establishments is very selective and registration fees are high, but they have a good reputation within France.
  • University education is split into three cycles.

    You can obtain a degree at the end of each cycle.

    Cycle 1: Bachelor’s degree “Licence”/“Bac+3

    The first cycle lasts three years. The three years are called “Licence 1”, “Licence 2” and “Licence 3”.

    At the end of this cycle, you can obtain a degree called a “Licence” or “Bachelor” depending on the course you followed. You have now obtained the level “Bac+3”.

    Cycle 2: Master’s degree “Master”/“Bac+5

    The second cycle lasts two years. These years are called “Master 1” and “Master 2”.

    At the end of this cycle, you can obtain a “Master” or Master’s degree. You have now obtained the level “Bac+5”.

    Cycle 3: PhD/“Bac+8

    The third cycle lasts three years and is the equivalent of doctoral study.

    At the end of the PhD, you can obtain a degree called a “Doctorat”.

Conditions

Studies in France are open to anyone, regardless of nationality.

However, you must meet certain conditions:

  • Enrolment in the first year of university requires successful completion of the secondary school leaving examination known as the “Baccalauréat (Bac)” or a foreign equivalent.
  • In order to be able to enrol at levels higher than the first year, you must have obtained university degrees.
  • Once your enrolment has been accepted, and if you don't already have residency rights, you will need to apply for a residence permit “titre de séjour”, stating the word “étudiant” or student.

Universities then set their own conditions. For example, some require a minimum B2 level of French.

Registration fee

The cost of registration for university studies is very variable and depends on many factors, such as the chosen institution, the degree level obtained at the end, but also your nationality.

In some cases, it is possible to receive financial assistance known as scholarships orboursesto pay for your studies, even if you are not French.

You can contact the universities you are interested in directly to find out their prices and the “bourses” available.

How to proceed

You can search for a higher education institution or “établissement d’enseignement supérieur” near you on this website.

  • Enrolment for university courses usually takes place between March and June.

    It is recommended that you contact the university of your choice directly to find out about the enrolment schedule and how to proceed.

    The enrolment procedure will depend on a number of factors, including your intended degree level, the country you are currently resident in and your nationality:

    • If you are a citizen of a member state of the European Union, you can follow the same enrolment procedure as a French student.
    • If you currently reside in the European Union but are not a citizen of a member state of the European Union, you will need to:
      • submit a pre-admission application or “demande d’admission préalable (DAP)” to enrol you in your first academic year
      • contact the relevant establishment directly to enrol directly in levels above the first year.
  • The qualifications you have obtained in another country may be recognised in France under certain conditions.

    To request this, you will need to contact the department responsible for issuing the documents enabling the recognition of qualifications in the majority of subject areas, known as the “centre ENIC-NARIC”:

    • if they are responsible for recognising your degree, they can tell you the procedure to follow
    • if they are not responsible for recognising your degree, they will refer you to the relevant department.
  • The following generally need to be included in your application:

    • A document called a “Curriculum Vitae” or “CV” detailing your work experience, the education and training you have completed and the qualifications you have obtained.
    • A cover letter or “lettre de motivation” explaining why you are applying for this university course and why you think you are a good candidate.
    • Copies of the qualifications you have obtained. If you have had them recognised in France, also attach the associated documents.
    • A document called a “certificat” certifying your level of French. To obtain this document, you need to take a test at a centre. You can search for a test centre near you on this website.

    If your documents are not in French, they must first be translated by an sworn translator called a “traducteur assermenté”:

    • Translation costs 30–80 euros per page on average.
    • You can search online or ask the embassy of your country in France for a list of “traducteurs assermentés” in your language. However, if you are a political refugee in France, you must not contact the authorities in your home country. Contact an organisation offering free services called an “association” specialised in law on refugees instead.

Find support

In France, there are many services that can support you, give you advice, and assist you with procedures and paperwork. Most of them are free of charge.

  • Pôle Emploi” helps people find employment, and can advise on business creation. They also manage French unemployment payments or “allocations de retour à l’emploi” commonly known as “chômage”.

    • This service is free of charge.
    • To use this service, you must first register with them online. You will then receive an appointment at an agency near you.
    • Languages available: mainly French.
    • Contact: registration is done online on their website. If you need to contact them, there are several ways:
      • you can send them an e-mail from your personal space after creating your online profile
      • you can call them on 3949, a free number available Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
      • you can visit an agency near you, in person, without an appointment in the morning.
  • Social workers or “travailleurs sociaux” and “assistants sociaux” are professionals who support people in their administrative procedures and help them find solutions according to the difficulties they are faced with.

    • These services are free of charge.
    • You can make an appointment to receive personalised advice according to your situation and help you with the next steps, for example: applications for state financial assistance, applications for social housing, registration with the French unemployment office “Pôle emploi”, etc.
    • Available languages: mainly French.
    • Contact: you can request an appointment with a “travailleur social” with:

While the utmost care has gone into providing you with the most accurate and up to date information, this page is not intended to replace legal or professional advice. Laws and procedures change regularly so it is important to consult qualified professionals.

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