Are you looking for the best universities to study in France? In this article we have selected the 9 universities and colleges in France. We briefly tell you the highlights of each of them
What are the best universities to study in France?
1- Université des Sciences et Lettres de Paris
Paris University of Sciences and Letters (Université PSL or simply PSL) is a public research university based in Paris, France. It was established in 2010 and formally created as a university in 2019
It is a collegiate university with 11 constituent schools. PSL is located in central Paris, with its main campuses in the Latin Quarter, on the Jourdan campus, at Porte Dauphine in the north of Paris, and at Carré Richelieu.
The PSL awards bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at its component schools and institutes. It offers an education based on research and interdisciplinary teaching, and its 17,000 students have access to a wide range of disciplines in the sciences, engineering, humanities, social sciences, fine and performing arts.
In 2022, PSL University was ranked 26th globally by the QS World University Rankings, 38th by the Academic Ranking of World Universities, and 40th by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
PSL alumni and staff include 28 Nobel laureates, 10 Fields medalists, 3 Abel laureates, 49 CNRS gold medalists, 50 César winners, and 79 Molière winners.
2- Ecole Polytechnique
The Ecole Polytechnique (French: l’École polytechnique, commonly known as Polytechnique or l’X ) is one of 204 French engineering schools accredited as of September 1, 2020 to award a diplôme d’ingénieur.
It is one of the most prestigious and selective grandes écoles in France. It is also, along with the École spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr, the École de l’air, the ENSTA Bretagne, the École des officiers de la Gendarmerie nationale, the École navale and the École de santé des armées, one of the seven major French military schools. The school is a constituent member of the Institut Polytechnique de Paris.
The school was created in 1794 by the mathematician Gaspard Monge during the French Revolution, and was previously a military academy under Napoleon I in 1804. The institution is still supervised by the French Ministry of Defense. Initially located in the Quartier Latin in central Paris, the main buildings of the establishment were moved in 1976 to Palaiseau, on the Plateau de Saclay, southwest of Paris.
Its alumni include three Nobel laureates, a Fields medalist, three presidents of France and numerous CEOs of French and international companies. It ranks 87th in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021 and second in its list of the world’s best small universities 2020
Its parent university, Institut Polytechnique de Paris, is ranked 49th in the QS World University Rankings 2022.
The Ecole Polytechnique, which enjoys great prestige in higher education in France, is often associated with selectivity and academic excellence, but also with elitism and technocracy, which have been sources of criticism since its creation. In the popular imagination, the École is associated with certain symbols such as the student uniform or the Bicorne.
3- Sorbonne University
The Sorbonne University (French: Sorbonne Université) is a research university located in Paris, France. The institution’s legacy dates back to 1257, when the Sorbonne College was created by Robert de Sorbon as part of the medieval University of Paris.
The latter was divided into 13 universities in 1970, and all retain the same legacy of the dissolved University of Paris
The Sorbonne is considered one of the most prestigious in Europe and the world; as of 2021, its alumni and professors have won 33 Nobel Prizes, six Fields Medals and one Turing Award.
CentraleSupélec (CS) is a top French engineering school at the University of Paris-Saclay in Gif-sur-Yvette, France. It was established on January 1, 2015, as a result of a strategic merger between two prestigious grandes écoles in France, École Centrale Paris and Supélec. It is one of the constituent members of the University of Paris-Saclay.
It is one of the main founding members of the University Paris-Saclay, of the TIME network (Top Industrial Managers for Europe) and also of the CESAER association of European engineering schools.
5- École normale supérieure
The École normale supérieure – PSL is a grande école in Paris, France. It is one of the constituent members of the University of Sciences and Letters of Paris (PSL).
Originally conceived during the French Revolution, the school was founded in 1794 to provide homogeneous training for secondary school teachers in France, but was subsequently closed. Subsequently, the school was re-established by Napoleon I as a normal pensionnat from 1808 to 1822, before being re-established in 1826 and taking the name École normale in 1830
When primary teacher training institutes called écoles normales were created in 1845, the word supérieure (meaning superior) was added to form the current name. Since then, it has become an institution that has served as a platform for French students to pursue careers in administration and academia.
It has a very competitive selection process consisting of written and oral examinations During their studies, many ENS students have the status of paid civil servants.
The ENS is a grande école and, as such, is not part of the general university system. However, the vast majority of the academic staff housed at the ENS belong to external institutions such as one of the Parisian universities, the CNRS and the EHESS. This mechanism of constant scientific rotation allows the ENS to benefit from a continuous flow of researchers in all fields
ENS tenure-track faculty positions are rare and competitive. Generalist in its recruitment and organization, the ENS is the only major school in France to have research departments in all the natural, social and human sciences.
Due to the selectivity of its entrance examination and its turnover among French researchers, it has a high proportion of laureates and thus a very good reputation
Its alumni include 14 Nobel laureates, 8 of them in Physics (ENS is the institution in the world with the highest proportion of Nobel laureates among its alumni), 12 Fields medalists, more than half of the CNRS Gold Medal laureates (France’s highest scientific award) and several hundred members of the Institut de France, as well as dozens of politicians and statesmen
The school has achieved special recognition in the fields of mathematics and physics as one of France’s main scientific training bases, along with notability in the human sciences as the spiritual cradle of authors such as Julien Gracq, Jean Giraudoux, Assia Djebar and Charles Péguy, philosophers such as Henri Bergson, Jean-Paul Sartre, Louis Althusser, Simone Weil, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Alain Badiou, social scientists such as Émile Durkheim, Raymond Aron and Pierre Bourdieu, and “French theorists” such as Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida.
The school’s students are often referred to as normalistas
Its model has been replicated elsewhere, in France (at the ENS in Lyon, Paris-Saclay and Rennes), in Italy (at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa), in Romania, in China and in former French colonies such as Morocco, Mali, Mauritania and Cameroon.
6- École des Ponts ParisTech
The École des Ponts ParisTech (originally called École nationale des ponts et chaussées or ENPC, also nicknamed Ponts) is an institution of higher education and research in the field of science, engineering and technology. Founded in 1747 by Daniel-Charles Trudaine, it is one of the oldest and most prestigious French Grandes Écoles.
Historically, its primary mission has been to train engineering officers and civil engineers, but today the school offers a broad education that includes computer science, applied mathematics, civil engineering, mechanics, finance, economics, innovation, urban studies, environment and transportation engineering
The École des Ponts is now largely international: 43% of its students obtain a double degree abroad, and 30% of the engineering cohort is foreign.
It is based in Marne-la-Vallée (suburb of Paris), France, and is a founding member of ParisTech (Paris Institute of Technology) and the Paris School of Economics. The school is under the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy.
7- Sciences Po
The Institut d’études politiques de Paris (French: Institut d’études politiques de Paris), commonly known as Sciences Po Paris or Sciences Po, is a French grande école and grand établissement located in Paris, with additional campuses in Dijon, Le Havre, Menton, Nancy, Poitiers and Reims
Sciences Po is an institute specialized in the study of social sciences, offering courses and research in political science, history, economics, law and sociology.
It has its origins in the École libre des sciences politiques, a private school of higher education founded in Paris in 1872 by the sociologist Émile Boutmy
Boutmy sought to modernize the training of French civil servants by providing complementary classes to the classics graduates who had historically dominated the profession
Throughout the 20th century, it acquired an important role in the training of the growing number of people entering the civil service between the Third and Fifth Republics. In 1945, the school was re-founded as a semi-public institute, following criticism of the attitude of its staff during World War II and subsequent calls for its closure.
Following a reform in 1985, Sciences Po began offering full degrees in social sciences as primary education for its students.
Since the mid-1990s, Sciences Po’s curriculum has been substantially reformed to broaden its focus and prepare students for the private sector and public administration, and in accordance with the Bologna process has implemented bachelor’s and master’s degrees as its educational model
Sciences Po’s curriculum has been expanded to social sciences such as economics, law and sociology, in addition to its original curriculum in political science and history. As of 2021, 80% of Sciences Po graduates choose careers in the private sector.
The institute is a member of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA) and the Sorbonne Paris Cité group.
8- University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
The University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (in French: Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), also known as Paris 1 or Panthéon-Sorbonne University, is a public research university located in Paris (France).
It was created in 1971 from two faculties of the historic University of Paris – colloquially known as the Sorbonne – following the protests of May 1968, which caused the division of one of the oldest universities in the world
Most of the law professors of the Paris Faculty of Law and Economics preferred to perpetuate the faculty as a university, now called Université Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas, but most of its professors of Economics, considered a secondary discipline within the historic law faculty, preferred to found the multidisciplinary Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne with professors from the Paris faculty of Humanities and a few law professors.
Panthéon-Sorbonne has three main domains: Economic and Management Sciences, Human Sciences and Legal and Political Sciences; comprising several subjects such as: Economics, Law, Philosophy, Geography, Geography, Humanities, Cinema, Plastic Arts, Art History, Political Science, Mathematics, Management and Social Sciences.
It is located in the Place du Panthéon, in the Latin Quarter, an area in the 5th and 6th arrondissements of Paris. The university also occupies part of the historic Sorbonne campus. The university’s current name refers to these two symbolic buildings: the Sorbonne and the Pantheon (part of Saint-Jacques)
In total, its campus includes more than 25 buildings in Paris, such as the Pierre Mendès France Center (“Tolbiac”), the Maison des Sciences Économiques, among others.
It was globally ranked 287th (9th in France) in the 2021 QS World University Rankings and 601-800th (32nd in France) in the 2020 The Times Higher Education. It was also ranked by the 2019 QS Rankings by Subject as 1st in France in Archaeology, History, Law and Economics. In the French Eduniversal rankings, it is ranked 2nd in France in Economics and 2nd in Law
9- Paris-Saclay University
The University of Paris-Saclay (French: Université Paris-Saclay) is a research university based in Paris, France
It is one of the 13 prestigious universities that were dissolved from the division of the University of Paris, known as the Sorbonne.
It ranks first in France and thirteenth in the world in the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU)
In the rankings by subject, it ranks first in the world in Mathematics and ninth in Physics, as well as being in the top 15 in Medicine and Agriculture.
It is part of the Paris-Saclay project , which is a research-intensive academic campus, and is the main training and research center within the Paris-Saclay technology cluster. The University integrates several major schools, faculties, colleges and world-class research centers that are part of the world’s leading research organizations in various fields.
Paris-Saclay has achieved a special renown in the field of mathematics. Until 2021, 12 Fields medalists have been affiliated with the university and its associated research institutes, including the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques, generally regarded as the cradle of modern algebraic geometry and catastrophe theory.
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