France's 77 public universities offer academic, technical, and professional degree programs in all disciplines, preparing students for careers in research and professional practice in every imaginable field. They are well-distributed throughout the nation, from the Sorbonne in Paris (founded in 1257) to the high-tech campus of Nice-Sophia-Antipolis. The French national and local governments subsidize these institutions to keep them affordable for students.

Of the 2.2 million students in the French higher education system, 80 percent attend the country’s public universities. France's universities are public institutions, funded by the government. This system allows the universities to offer students an excellent education at a very affordable tuition rate. In keeping with the principle of “Egalité” (equality), the same tuition fees apply to both domestic and international students, which range from €183 for Licence programs to €388 for doctoral programs.*  

The universities offer programs in all disciplines and award degrees at every level, from the Licence (three years), to the Master’s (five years), to the Doctorate (eight years).

In addition to traditional academic degrees, the public university system also offers specialized degrees in engineering, business, journalism and communication. Programs in medicine, pharmacy and dentistry are also provided exclusively by the public universities, which operate in close cooperation with major teaching hospitals, known as CHUs (centres hospitaliers universitaires). 

The Campus France global site holds short profile descriptions of every public university in France.

France’s research powerhouses

Most publicly funded research in France is carried out at the universities, which accounts in part for the high quality of teaching found there. There are roughly 300 doctoral departments and a combined teaching and research faculty of 62,000 professors, who work in close cooperation with more than 1,200 research laboratories and centers. France has also built up a particularly strong network for international research collaboration. With more than 7,000 joint U.S.-French academic papers co-authored every year, transatlantic scientific collaboration is flourishing – a dynamic relationship that also exists between France and its European neighbors, and between scholars and scientists in France and those throughout the rest of world. 

France also has features higher education and research clusters, known as PRES (pôles de recherche et d’enseignement supérieur). They were created to bring together universities, grandes écoles, and research organizations located near one another, enabling them to cooperate and pool resources. 26 PRES have been formed since 2006 throughout France.

 

*figures taken from the 2013-2014 academic year