Student Guide to France

Everything you need to know before studying in France – education system, visa requirement and process, Indians living in France, post-study options and more.

Education System

France has around 82 state universities, five Catholic universities and many private institutes, some of which award degrees and diplomas. Universities award three types of degrees - Licence (UG), Masters (PG) and Doctorate (PhD).

Grande Ecoles are ticket to success in France and all the top-level French politicians or business leaders are products of one of these schools. These are comparable to the American Ivy League universities. In order to attend an undergraduate program in France, you must complete 12 years of schooling, as well as meet additional requirements. The academic year in France runs from September until June the following year. Some institutions or courses may have enrollments throughout the year as well.

Popular student destinations: The top universities in France are University of France, Ecole Normale Superieure, University of Paris, Ecole Polytechnique, and Pierre-and-Marie-Curie University in no particular order. Paris is the centre of all the renowned academic institutes. Most of the best colleges in the country are situated in cities like Nice, Paris, Lyon, Grenoble and Orleans. About 2,600 Indian students opted to study in France in the year 2013. Space and Aviation teaching, Engineering, Business Studies, Art, History, Tourism and Hotel Management are the popular courses Indian students pursue in France.

Safety in France:France is one of the safest metropolitan areas in Europe. Violent crime rates are fairly low although some petty crimes like pick pocketing are not unheard of. If you are new in the country never leave your bags or valuables unattended in the metro, bus, or other public areas. When traveling, it's always a good idea to have your country's embassy contact details on hand, should you run into any problems. In case of any emergency, dial 112.

Weather: France experiences mild temperature throughout the year, which is neither too hot nor too cold, with regular rainfall. Each region in the country has its own particular climate - cooler to the north and west and warmer in the south. In winters there is plenty of snow. Summers are hot, with the sun shining across the country. Average temperature in winters is 8°C to 3°C. In summers, it is 15°C to 25°C.

Lifestyle tips

Recently, Paris was named one of the top three of the world's best cities for students. The main reason behind this is the varied types of courses being offered and the highest teaching standards being followed by institutes in France. The quality of student life and the lifestyle is attractive and hence a lot of youth is now moving to France for their higher studies. The good quality of student life works in favour of French universities, which have taken numerous steps to improve the way young people are welcomed, supervised and monitored during their stay.

Indians living in France

There are nearly 65,000 Indian immigrants living in France currently. Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse and Nice are the cities where most Indians reside.

Accommodation

Firstly, you need to decide whether you want to live in university managed accommodation, or with a private landlord. Choosing university managed accommodation can also give you a catered or self-catered option. Catered accommodation offers the benefits of your meals being cooked for you and a degree of certainty with meal costs.

If you have an idea about what you prefer, the accommodation office at your university will be able to tell you what accommodation they have available, so that's the place to start. If you are thinking of renting from a private landlord or if your chosen university can't offer you anything in its own residential premises, the accommodation office should be able to provide you with a list of private properties and landlords in the area.

Wherever you choose to live, you should make sure that you know your contractual rights and responsibilities. In most cases you will be asked to enter into a tenancy agreement, which you should read thoroughly before you sign.

Activities

Along with sports, colleges offer extra-curricular activities offering students a wide range of experiences. Music, drama, science and literary societies are offered in all colleges, and there will be opportunities for outdoor education and other leisure activities. Visits to theatres and concerts, to places relevant to the courses of study such as art galleries and museums, religious centres or historical sites, scientific companies and projects are all part of college life.

Requirements

Since the language of instruction at French universities and colleges is French, you are required to prove your command over the language. International students are required to appear for French language tests.

For each course, a minimum academic record of 70% and above in Standard XII will be required. Foundations and Diploma programmes are available for students who have secured around 60%. The student should have completed 18 years of age before joining a degree programme.

It is important to note that these numbers are just for reference purpose, the actual numbers may differ from university to university.

The following documents also need to be submitted:

  1. Attested copies of mark sheets of Standard X, XII, and the Bachelors degree (if applicable)
  2. At least, two Academic reference letters from professors who have taught you most recently
  3. If you have work experience then two letters of recommendation (LOR) from the employer/manager who knows you well and can comment on your professional abilities
  4. Statement of Purpose (SOP)
  5. Resume
  6. Photocopied score reports of language tests and GRE/GMAT (if applicable)
  7. Portfolio (in case of students applying for art and design courses or architecture programmes)
  8. Others (Certificates / achievements at the state and national level and extracurricular activities)
  9. Proof of funds
  10. Health insurance
  11. A copy of your passport
  12. couple of passport size photographs; scanned

Timeline

Most of the colleges in France accept online applications. You will have to visit each college's website to apply. In most cases you will have to make an account on the college website to provide your basic information, submit the scanned version of your documents, and pay application fees. You will be informed about the application process and stages through this account. Please refer to the website of the colleges of your choice to know the process of applying.

Application fee: All colleges require that you pay an application fee while applying. The fee amount will differ depending upon the college and course being applied to, so check with individual colleges about their application fee.

Steps: Given here are the common steps to applying for admission:

  1. Search for colleges and courses
  2. Contact schools and visit websites for information
  3. Narrow down your list of schools
  4. Take the entrance exams like French language tests, GMAT/GRE (IELTS/TOEFL if required)
  5. Apply to the colleges which fit your interests
  6. Appear for video interviews to the colleges who shortlisted you
  7. If accepted, apply for student visa

SOP: A Statement of Purpose (SOP) is your introduction to the college and admission officers. It is always written in first person and describes the reason for applying to a particular college. It needs to highlight why you are a perfect fit for the college and why the college should accept you. The style of writing could differ from formal to casual, but it is important to remember that it should reflect your personality as well.

Essay: Essays are also required to be submitted by a prospective student. Essays are an important part of the university admissions process. Students may be required to write one or two essays, along with a few optional essays too. Common topics include career aspirations, strengths and weaknesses, skills, experiences, and reasons for considering a particular school.

LOR: A letter of recommendation (LOR) is a reference letter written by a third party describing the qualities, characteristics, and capabilities of the prospective student to recommend him to the college in terms of that individualâ??s ability to perform a particular task or function. The third party could be a professor, direct manager etc.

Intake seasons

The main intake season at all French universities is September. So the deadlines would be from February till May across different courses and universities. A few universities offer admissions in March as well. The deadlines for this intake would be from November till January.

Language exams

TCF (Test de connaissance du francais - Test of knowledge of French) and Le TEF (Test dâ Evaluation de francais - French assessment test) are the standardised language tests which are required to be taken for the purpose of getting admission to colleges in France. You can take both the TCF and Le TEF at a testing centre in India or in France. For complete information on the exam registration process contact Alliances francaise, as that is the official governing body for these exams in India.

Note: Students wishing to take an international degree programme which could be either Bachelor's, Master's or PhD, may not have to take a French language test. The teaching language in these courses is usually English. To study a degree course in English, English language exams like TOEFL or IELTS may be required.

General exams

GMAT - Since almost all MBA programmes in France are in English, the language of teaching would be English with a bit of French thrown in. French B-schools like admitting multi-lingual candidates, so it will be a bonus if you know French as well. Because of the bilingual clause, GMAT is the standard exam for getting admitted into business schools. GMAT is used to measure the abilities of potential MBA aspirants to undertake higher education in the field of business or management. It measures mathematical, English, and reasoning skills of the student.

GRE - Some universities do recommend or require a GRE score, although it is not a mandatory requirement while considering a Masters in France. You will come across many options without GRE requirement.

Repetition and Fee: You can give GMAT unlimited number of times, subject to five times a year and a gap of 30 days between two tests. The cost of GMAT is Rs 16,000 and GRE is Rs 12,000.

The cost of living depends heavily on what part of France you will be living in along with how much you will socialise. Some of the basic elements for living as an international student in France are:

  1. Accommodation rent (on-campus or off-campus)
  2. Groceries and food
  3. Utilities like power, water, gas, internet
  4. Phone bills
  5. Text and reference books
  6. Airfare for traveling back to India

Other elements which may differ from person to person would be:

  1. Dinning out
  2. Travel and vacation
  3. Car rent and car insurance
  4. Cable TV connection

School expenses

The average tuition costs for attending a college in France will vary according to the school, the course and the city your school is located in. The average rates for tuition vary from about 150 EUR per term to 900 EUR per term. This amount varies and is based on a number of factors. The fees may be lower for EU residents and higher for international students. So make sure you check with the institute if there are different fees for international students. Even though the amount of financial assistance and scholarships are limited for international students, the cost of attending university in France is considerably lower compared to other countries. This helps make up for the lack of financial aid assistance available.

Living expenses

On an average, an international student needs approximately 616 Euros per month in France. Prices differ a lot in the big cities and small towns all across France.

Particulars Cost
Meal, inexpensive cafe €12
Milk (one litre) €0.94
Coca Cola can €2.5
Coffee €2.7
Lunch from campus cafe €7.5
Meal at a restaurant €50
One minute cell phone call €0.24
Taxi 1 km €1.5
Petrol 1 litre €1.5
Movie ticket €9.5
1 room apartment in city centre €690
1 room apartment in suburbs €544

Health insurance

All international students in France are required to have mandatory health insurance, which could be either public or private. Many international students are eligible to take part in the universal health care coverage offered by the university, though this is dependent upon factors such as age, country of origin, and length of their degree program.

Scholarships

Fee waivers are awarded to international students on the criteria of merit and the need of it. Candidate with strong academics, good performance on standardised exams and extracurricular achievements would be eligible for scholarship awards and financial assistance. To benefit from these opportunities, one has to make sure to send all the required documents by particular deadlines. In addition to this, the presentation of the application is also important because one is judged by the image one projects. Some of the scholarships available with academic institutions in France can cover partial or total expenses of attending college. Here are a few scholarships that students abroad can take advantage of:

  • The Michaela Farnum Memorial Scholarship by International Studies Abroad Inc. (ISA)
  • Dr. Carlos E. Memorial Scholarship by International Studies Abroad Inc.
  • Chateaubriand Fellowship by University of Illinois
  • IES Abroad Excellence in a Foreign Language Scholarship by Institute for the
  • International Education of Students
  • IES Abroad Excellence in a Foreign Language Scholarship by Institute for the
  • ISA Diversity Scholarship by International Studies Abroad Inc
  • GSE Summer Scholarship by Global Student Experience
  • GSE Language Development Scholarship by Global Student Experience
  • GSE Academic Scholarship by Global Student Experience
  • Boren Scholarships and fellowships by Boren Awards For International Study
  • Arcadia University Gilman Scholarships
  • Annette Kade Scholarships by International Student Exchange Program

Loans

Student Eligibility criteria: The first thing is to be aware of whether you are eligible to apply for the loan or not. The general eligibility criteria that are followed by all the banks are:

  1. You should be an Indian national
  2. You must have a strong academic record
  3. You must be seeking admission to a professional, technical or other course of
  4. study. Most banks maintain that the selected course should be job oriented
  5. You must have secured admission to a foreign university/institution
  6. You must be above the age of 18 years or else your parents can avail the loan

Eligibility of course: You may not get a loan on every course. Here are the kinds of courses that qualify for the education loan.

  • For Graduation: Job oriented professional or technical courses offered by reputed universities
  • For Post Graduation: MCA, MBA, MS or even diplomas
  • These courses could be from foreign universities or institutes approved by the state and central government

Loan amount: If your total fee is Rs 10 lakh, the bank may offer to give a loan of 80% of the amount and you will have to put in the balance 20%. This is called the margin amount. The maximum loan amount for studies abroad is generally around Rs 20 lakh by the bank. If your tuition fees amount is Rs 30 lakh, you'll have to manage the rest of the funds by yourself. Some banks charge a processing fee, while others don't. It may be a fixed amount or a percentage of the total loan amount. So if the bank charges you one per cent as processing fee, that will be an additional cost you'll have to cover.

Loan amount: If your total fee is Rs 10 lakh, the bank may offer to give a loan of 80% of the amount and you will have to put in the balance 20%. This is called the margin amount. The maximum loan amount for studies abroad is generally around Rs 20 lakh by the bank. If your tuition fees amount is Rs 30 lakh, you'll have to manage the rest of the funds by yourself. Some banks charge a processing fee, while others don't. It may be a fixed amount or a percentage of the total loan amount. So if the bank charges you one per cent as processing fee, that will be an additional cost you'll have to cover.

Documentation required: You will have to provide the acceptance letter sent by the university reflecting that you have been selected for the course and the schedule of fees. You will also need to show the mark sheet of the last qualifying examination to show your academic record. All banks have different requirement for documentation, so you need to confirm with the bank first.

Repayment: Repayment starts only after the course period. If the student gets employed within one year after completion of the course, the repayment should start immediately after expiry of one month from the date of employment. If you do not secure a job within a year of completing the course, then repayment starts irrespective of whether or not you are employed. The loan is generally to be repaid in 5-7 years after commencement of repayment. If the student is not able to complete the course within the scheduled time extension for completion of course, he may be permitted for a maximum period of two years. Generally, you will get up to a maximum number of 10 years to repay the loan.

Conditions

Submission of Visa application and collection of passports can be done only by the applicant himself or through a travel agent authorised by the Embassy of France, New Delhi.

Before submitting your application for a student visa at the French Consulate you must create an online CampusFrance registration file. You may contact the closest CampusFrance office for assistance or schedule an appointment through the online file or by calling the CampusFrance office. (CampusFrance is a service of the French Embassy in India to promote higher education in France)

You need to visit the VFS website to schedule an appointment at the visa application centre to submit your application.

In addition you should provide two sets of application photocopies containing the following documents:

  1. Long stay application form for duration of more than 90 days
  2. Two passport size photographs
  3. A copy of Passport
  4. A print out of your CampusFrance ID number
  5. Letter of registration from the academic Institution
  6. Cover letter explaining the study project and a CV/Resume
  7. Proof of funds - tuition fees + a minimum of 615 Euros/month, for the complete academic term
  8. Proof of medical insurance with coverage valid in France
  9. Copy of your round trip airline ticket (if you are studying six months or less) or a one way ticket (if you are studying in France for more than six months)
  10. OFII form (Office Francais de Immigration et de Integration)
  11. Proof of residency in France such as a lease, electricity bill, title of property etc. for a minimum of three months or a Hotel reservationy

Work permit

The French law allows students to do 964 hours of part-time work in a given year. International students are also eligible for student jobs at universities. Students are hired to provide assistance to incoming students, helping disabled students, tutoring, IT support and assistance, working in the career center etc.

Student employees are supposed to follow a work schedule that will not interfere with their studies. The terms and conditions of employment are adapted to the requirements of each student's programme so as to ensure academic success while offering work experience.

Visa for spouse

Spouses and children may be permitted to reside in France while you study, but this is conditional. These conditions include having enough and appropriate financing and a living space. Cases are decided on an individual basis at the France embassy, and special consideration may be given to your case if you are able to explain your situation to the consulate effectively.

If you were accepted by a French university for a Bachelor's degree (which is called a "Licence"), your spouse would not be given a visa to accompany you or be permitted to work in France unless s/he is a European citizen. The case might be different for Research or doctorate students. They may be allowed to take along their spouse or kids, but that depends on various terms and rules.

Note: The Embassy of France, New Delhi has implemented a change in arrangements for the collection of processed passport from visa application centres. With effect from 8th December 2014, it will no longer be possible for third parties to collect the documents on behalf of an applicant, except in the following cases:

  • Immediate family members (Parent, Child or sibling)
  • One member of a group collecting for the entire group
  • A person collecting on behalf of Govt. officials if authorized on the Govt. letter head or department
  • Representative of a company - Authorization letter on the letter head of the company and the official ID card of the representative

Pre-departure list

  • Book airline tickets
  • Arrange accommodation in France
  • Arrange transportation to/from the airport to home in France
  • Arrange your banking - consider buying traveler's cheques
  • Check baggage and customs limitations
  • Clear all paperwork with your home educational institution

Get your documents in order and make photocopies to store in your baggage and keep at home, including:

  1. Passport
  2. Airline tickets
  3. Travel insurance certificate
  4. Letter of Acceptance by the educational institution
  5. Key addresses and phone numbers
  6. A bank statement showing proof of funds
  7. Prescriptions for any medication you are carrying
  8. Traveler's cheques - if applicable
  9. Medical and immunization records
  10. Academic history and university transcripts

Enroling at your university

Registration has two parts -

  1. Administrative registration, in which you will enroll in the national student health plan and pay any balance due for your tuition. At the end of the process you will receive your student ID card.
  2. Academic registration, which is the second phase of the registration process. You will choose from the course options open to you, learn the dates and times of your classes etc.

Homesickness

Homesickness is a predictable problem faced by most students at one point or another. It may occur at the beginning or even well into your year. Homesickness will pass. Be patient. Give it at least two weeks. If you are feeling sad, explain what is happening to your friends. Do not hide in your room; if you do, the feeling will only worsen. Find your counselor staff with whom you can talk about homesickness or other problems. Homesickness might be made worse by frequent, long telephone calls home. Most homesick students feel more homesick after a call home than they did before they picked up the phone. Try to limit yourself to one call home every week. The sooner you integrate into the university experience, the sooner your homesickness will pass.

Learning basic cooking: Cooking for yourself will save you money. Indian food is expensive in France. It will also satisfy your urge to eat "your food" during moments of cultural shock. Indian spices are not commonly available in smaller cities, but there are often shops on campus where you can get ingredients used in most Indian food.

Travel: Each large city has and provides different methods of public transportation, such as buses, taxis or trains. You might wish to rely on a private car for transportation. Even with the rising cost of petrol, private cars are the most economical and convenient mode of transportation because you get a lot of flexibility and freedom with your car. You can travel wherever and whenever you want, and don't have to depend on the schedule of public transport. However, before you buy your own car, you will have to use public transportation or ask friends for rides.

Placements

Indian students are used to the concept of campus placements and on-campus recruitment for getting jobs where companies visit campuses and hire graduates. There is no concept of placements in France, like most other countries. Most French universities have a Career services cell, which helps you get jobs and helps you prepare for interviews. They may refer you to companies or help you get in touch with HR managers. The job search is mostly self-driven in European countries, where it is considered your prerogative.

Work visa

Students who have earned at least a master’s degree or the equivalent may apply for a one-time non-renewable temporary residency authorisation called APS (autorisation provisoire de séjour). It is valid for 12 months. Under a new scheme called "second residence permit", this duration can be doubled to 24 months. Students who obtain a job related to their academic programme may enter full-time employment by filing a request for change of status (from student to employee) in their application.

To explore more study options in France, click the following links.

  1. MBA in France
  2. B.E./B.Tech in France
  3. MS in France