France is recognized for its quality education in the arts and sciences. Who hasn’t heard of the Sorbonne and its history? Who hasn’t discussed the impact of the French Revolution in modern culture or watched with admiration the velocity of the TGV (train a grande vitesse) – one of France’s latest technological creations? If you are trying to decide whether France is the right place for your university studies, you should take a look at the following information.
1. Universities vs. Specialized Schools
Universities offer degree programs in all disciplines and fields – academic, research, and professional. In the 2002-2003 academic year, French universities enrolled over 1.5 million students. International students made up about 10 percent of total enrollments.
Since France’s universities are public institutions, enrollment is open to any student holding a French baccalauréate or an equivalent degree that allows you to begin university study in your home country (eg. High school diploma, Bachillerato, etc).
Specialized schools can be public or private, but the main difference between these and universities is that specialized schools are selective in their admissions and enroll far fewer students than universities. They usually train students for careers in engineering, management, art, architecture, and other fields. Grandes écoles are specialized schools that are very selective. Many offer management and engineering programs that prepare their graduates for competitive industries. These programs are very prestigious and highly regarded in France and around the world.
2. Schools of Management
France has about 230 private schools of business and management, many of which are affiliated with chambers of commerce and industry. International students who have completed two years of postsecondary education may apply for admission, sit for the entrance examination, and in 3 years earn a business degree. Graduates may then apply for an MBA or specialized master’s degree.
Among the best-known schools of business and management are the École des Hautes Études Commerciales, known as HEC, the École Supérieure de Commerce de Paris (ESCP), the École Supérieure nationale de Sciences Économiques et Commerciales (ESSEC), the École des Hautes Études Commerciales du Nord (EDHEC), the École de Management de Lyon (EM Lyon), and INSEAD.
The MBA in France
Master of Business Administration programs are very popular in France. In fact, some of the top International Business Schools are located in this country. Many French MBA programs are taught in English. Classes tend to include students of many nationalities. Admission is very selective and usually includes TOEFL and GMAT exams for English-based programs. Some programs may also require interviews.
3. Schools of Engineering
France has about 240 engineering schools public and private. All grant the diplôme d’ingénieur, a master’s level degree that takes 5 years to complete. Each school has its own specialties. Each school also has different application requirements, but these usually include an application file, entrance exam and an interview. Students with up to 4 years of university education may apply as transfer students.
Many schools offer a 1-year mastère spécialisé in engineering. Admission requirements for this program include a diplôme d’ingénieur or 5 years of postsecondary education.
About 20 schools offer the diplôme d’ingénieur de spécialisation. Students with 5 years of postsecondary education may earn this specialized degree in 1 year. Students with 4 years may earn it in 2. These programs are very popular with international students, because they can accommodate holders of 4-year degrees.
Students may earn a doctorate in engineering after 3 years of successful work in the laboratory of an engineering school, often in cooperation with industry.
4. Selecting and Applying to an Academic Program
You can easily search for an academic program by visiting the following website: EduFrance Search.
Once you have selected a few suitable programs, you will need to complete an application. This can be done, in most cases, via CampusFrance or by directly contacting the school. Admission requirements are different for each program and institution, however most admission decisions are made in June, a few months before the academic year starts in September.
5. Location and Costs
The location of your program is one of the most important factors in selecting your program of study. Average living expenses in France amount to 1,000 Euros per month. However, you must keep in mind that the cost of living in Paris is much higher than the cost in other regions. There are so many regions in France – you can choose to live near the Mediterranean Sea in Nice or in the quiet peaceful town of Lille – an hour from Paris. CampusFrance, the leading promoter of higher studies in France, says:
“Paris does not have a monopoly on high-quality education. Be advised that it is now almost impossible to find inexpensive lodgings in Paris. Throughout the country one finds institutions of high renown in all fields. And not just universities; in fact, most schools of business and many top engineering schools are located outside Paris. “
The average tuition for university programs is about 300 Euros per academic year. In public schools of engineering, the annual tuition is approximately 600 Euros. Tuition at other institutions, particularly business schools, is much higher. Contact the business school directly for information about tuition costs.
6. Student Visa
Students admitted by an institution will receive a letter that will enable them to apply for a student visa at the French consulate in their countries. (Nationals of a European Union member country do not need a visa). Students from outside Europe who are planning to study in France for more than 6 months must obtain a student visa.
CampusFrance offers these 3 very important pieces of advice:
1 – A tourist visa cannot be converted into a student visa in France or in any other country of the European Union.
2 – If you plan to complete two programs in succession (such as a program in French as a foreign language, followed by an academic program), obtain admission to both programs before applying for your visa so that your visa will be valid for the duration of your period of study. French visas can not be extended in France.
3 – International students of all nationalities (except European Union nationals) residing in France for more than 3 months must obtain a student residency permit (which is distinct from a visa), within two months of their arrival in France.
7. Working in France
International students can work in France if they have a residency permit and are enrolled in an institution that participates in the student health plan of the French social protection system (Sécurité Sociale). French law allows international students to work part-time (19.5 hours per week) during the academic year and full-time during vacations. The minimum hourly wage in France is 8.27 Euros gross before any taxes.
The French labor law states the following: "As a condition of employment, individuals who are not French citizens must hold a valid work permit." Students wishing to work for pay must obtain a temporary employment authorization. (Students from the European Economic Zone, Algeria, and Togo are exempt from this requirement.) Contact an international students official at your school for more information.