France is Europe's second most popular destination for postgraduate study abroad (after the UK). It's also the most popular non-anglophone country (though many Masters programs in France are actually taught in English).
All of this is a testament to the quality of France's higher education system: home to some of Europe's most historic and innovative institutions.
But how does France do in academic ranking tables? And which French universities are the 'best' for Masters study?
This page summarises the performance of French universities in different global rankings. We've also compared the top French universities in different postgraduate subject areas.
The following table lists the best universities in France in 2016-17 according to global rankings.
Each ranking system uses its own methodology, with different factors having more or less influence on a university's result.
For more information on using international rankings as a postgraduate, see our guide.
|The Top French Universities in 2017|
|University||THE 2016-17||QS 2016-17||ARWU 2016|
|École Normale Supérieure Paris||66||33||87|
|École Polytechnique (ParisTech)||=116||53||301-400|
|Pierre and Marie Curie University (Paris 6)||=121||141||39|
|University of Paris-Sud (Paris 11)||179||241||46|
|École Normale Supérieure de Lyon||201-250||177||301-400|
|Paris Descartes University (Paris 5)||201-250||377||151-200|
|Paris Diderot University (Paris 7)||201-250||262||101-150|
|University of Bordeaux||301-350||501-550||151-200|
|Université Toulouse 1 Capitole||301-350||701+||-|
|Université de Toulouse II-Le Mirail||301-350||701+||-|
|University of Strasbourg||301-350||260||101-150|
|Claude Bernard University Lyon 1||351-400||501-550||201-300|
|École des Ponts (ParisTech)||351-400||268||-|
|Paris-Sorbonne University (Paris 4)||351-400||221||401-500|
|École Normale Supérieure de Cachan||401-500||264||-|
|Université Lille 1, Sciences et Technologies||401-500||501-550||-|
|Université Lille 2 Droit et Santé||401-500||701+||-|
|Université Charles-de-Gaulle Lille 3||401-500||701+||-|
|University of Nantes||401-500||701+||-|
|University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis||401-500||601-650||401-500|
|Panthéon-Sorbonne University (Paris 1)||401-500||228||-|
|Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté||501-600||-||-|
|University of Rennes 1||501-600||601-650||-|
|École Centrale de Lyon||601-800||-||-|
|University of Cergy-Pontoise||801+||701+||-|
|University of Grenoble||-||206||151-200|
|Paris Dauphine University (Paris 9)||-||356||301-400|
|Université Paul Sabatier Toulouse III||-||461-470||201-300|
|Université Panthéon-Assas (Paris 2)||-||601-650||-|
|Université de Caen Basse-Normandie||-||701+||-|
|University of Lorraine||-||701+||201-300|
|University of Poitiers||-||701+||-|
|Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3s||-||701+||-|
|Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense||-||701+||-|
|Universit Paul-Valery Montpellier 3||-||701+||-|
|Information in this table is based on the 2016-17 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.|
International rankings use all sorts of metrics to assess universities and they aren't all equally relevant to postgraduate study. That's why we've put together a guide to university rankings for Masters students.
With a cluster of institutions in the world top 200 and many others across the full global rankings, France can be proud of its place in international league tables.
But rankings alone don't necessarily reflect the quality of French postgraduate education - and you shouldn't assume that France is worse than another country simply because it appears to have less top-ranked institutions.
Unlike other countries, French universities tend to be smaller and more specialised. In fact, many of them were originally part of larger institutions before being broken up into separate units.
This is why many French universities have a number in their name, indicating that they were once part of a regional institution. For example, the Paris Sorbonne University (Paris 4) and Paris Diderot University (Paris 7) are both 'descended' from the historical University of Paris (as are other 'numbered' Paris universities).
You can read more about French higher education in our guide to Masters study in France.
Smaller universities can be more specialised, with real expertise in specific fields. Many of them also network to share resources and facilities. But, individually, they may struggle for visibility in the 'zoomed out' world of global rankings.
One way to get around this is to zoom back in and look at rankings in specific subjects.
Our database includes plenty of French Masters degrees and our listings provide lots of helpful information about specific programs. Why not take a look?
Global rankings like those above aren't specific to postgraduate study. They look at a wide range of factors, some of which aren't directly relevant to Masters students.
Subject-specific rankings can be more helpful, particularly for a country like France where universities often focus on specific academic fields.
Masters degrees benefit from this kind of specialised facilities and expertise. How a French university performs in your subject area can therefore be more important than its overall ranking.
The following table lists the top French universities in several broad subject areas. It's based on the 2016-17 Times Higher Education World University Rankings by Subject. This lists the best 100 universities in different academic fields, around the world.
|French University Rankings by Subject 2017|
|Arts & Humanities||Paris-Sorbonne University (Paris 4)||33|
|Panthéon-Sorbonne University (Paris 1)||34|
|École Normale Supérieure Paris||45|
|Business & Economics||Université Toulouse 1 Capitole||38|
|Université de Toulouse II-Le Mirail||38|
|École Polytechnique (ParisTech)||74|
|Clinical, Pre-Clinical & Health||University of Paris-Sud (Paris 11)||=99|
|Computer Science||École Polytechnique (ParisTech)||34|
|École Normale Supérieure Paris||45|
|Engineering & Technology||École Polytechnique (ParisTech)||61|
|Life Sciences||Pierre and Marie Curie University (Paris 6)||=69|
|École Normale Supérieure Paris||=90|
|Physical Sciences||École Normale Supérieure Paris||20|
|École Polytechnique (ParisTech)||26|
|Pierre and Marie Curie University (Paris 6)||42|
|University of Paris-Sud (Paris 11)||86|
|Paris Diderot University (Paris 7)||91|
This table reveals the specific strengths of the French higher education system. Though they may not top overall rankings, France's smaller, more specialised, universities are amongst the best in the world in specific subjects.
This is an important distinction to make as a postgraduate. After all, the best universities in your subject area are quite likely to be amongst the best for your Masters.
Our detailed guide to Masters study in France can help you make more sense of the French higher education system - and it's advantages for postgraduate study. or you can find out how much a French Masters is likely to cost with our overview of fees and funding.
Last updated - 21/11/2016