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Top Universities for Postgraduate Study in France - 2017

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.

Top Ranked French Universities

The following table lists the best universities in France in 2016-17 according to global rankings.

This information is based on the latest rankings tables, researched and published by Times Higher Education, QS and the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

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
CentraleSupélec 201-250 164 -
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
Mines (ParisTech) 251-300 - 401-500
Aix-Marseille University 301-350 411-420 101-150
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 -
Montpellier University 351-400 327 301-400
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 - -
INSA Lyon 501-600 321-430 -
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
Sciences Po - 220 151-200
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.

How do rankings work for Masters study?

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.

So, how good are French universities for Masters study?

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.

Search for a Masters in France

Our database includes plenty of French Masters degrees and our listings provide lots of helpful information about specific programs. Why not take a look?

French University Rankings by Subject

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
CentraleSupélec 80
Mines (ParisTech) 99
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.

Looking for more information about postgraduate study in France?

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

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