The basics
France: Applying to University - Must read

The French higher education system...simplified

Learn everything about higher education in France, including how the system is structured, the academic culture and more...


Almost 300,000 international students flocked to France last year alone. The allure of the country’s culture, cuisine and class make it an obvious choice for study abroad, but it also boasts a number of quality institutions. The higher education system is underpinned by strong government support and research departments and business schools are some of the best in the world. Before applying to study in France, we recommend you get an understanding of how its higher education system works. Here’s a breakdown of the things you need to know...

Quick facts:

  • French and international students pay the same tuition fees
  • A Bachelor degree, known as ‘Licence’ lasts 3-4 years
  • A Masters degree usually last 2 years
  • Research is a strong focus of postgraduate study in France
  • France has 2 universities in the top 100 QS University Rankings
  • France has more than 220 business schools

Types of institution

Public universities
Private universities
Grandes Écoles


Public universities
The French government funds public universities and it also oversees all regulation of the national diploma granted by these universities. Public universities offer an affordable but high quality education and are popular among international students.


Private universities
Tuition fees at private institutions are predictably much more expensive than at government-funded public universities. However, these specialised institutions often offer the best teaching and training within their fields. Private universities specialising in the arts and humanities subjects and even science and engingeering fields are particularly popular.


Grandes Écoles

Grandes Écoles are high quality higher education institutions that run alongside the public and private university system in France. They have a competitive outlook and admission into these schools is often more challenging. 


Now that you have an overview of the higher education system in France, why not start searching for your perfect course!

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About Author

Katie Duncan is Editor of Hotcourses Abroad and is an NCTJ-qualified journalist and University of Exeter graduate. Having worked at an English language school in the UK, as an educational consultant in Spain and as a reporter in the international education sector, she is well placed to guide you through your study abroad journey. Katie grew up in Australia, which perhaps explains her unusual reptile collection, comprising of a bearded dragon (Bill) and tortoise (Matilda).