Studying in Lyon – A Guide for Postgraduate Students
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Studying in Lyon – A Guide for Postgraduate Students

Written by Hannah Slack

If you’re interested in studying in France, Lyon might be the perfect place for your PhD degree. Sitting at the crossroads between northern and southern Europe, the city is an excellent location for those looking to soak up some French culture and Mediterranean sun.

More than just an appealing holiday location, Lyon has lots to offer PhD students. This guide covers everything you need to know about studying in Lyon, from the top universities to living costs and graduate careers. We’ve also listed the best places for you to visit on your days off!

Why study your postgraduate degree in Lyon?

From vocational focused education to growing career opportunities, here’s what Lyon has to offer PhD students.

  • Focus on industry: Many of the universities located in Lyon take a vocational approach to postgraduate study and research. Expect to undertake internships and work closely with industry leaders.
  • Growing career possibilities: Employment rates in Lyon have been steadily improving. As an international hub for startups, the city is currently in high demand of young professionals.
  • Internationally inclusive: The people of Lyon go above and beyond to celebrate the international student population. Make sure to attend the free event, Night of the Students of the World, to soak up music, food and culture.

What are the top universities in Lyon for postgraduate study?

#1 École normale supérieure de Lyon

In at the top, École normale supérieure de Lyon is currently the highest rated university in the city. This university has a strong international focus, partnering with fourteen institutions around the world, including KU Leuven, Leiden University and the University of Turin.

Since its founding, École normale supérieure de Lyon has supported over 3,000 doctoral students and researchers. Their connections with multiple universities and research centres mean that PhD students can take advantage of the increased availability of opportunities and resources.

#2 National Institute for Applied Sciences, Lyon

The second highest ranked university is the National Institute for Applied Sciences, Lyon. Founded as a specialist Engineering school, the university is a member of the INSA Network which is the largest organisation for Engineering faculties in France.

The National Institute of Applied Sciences is connected to eight doctoral schools and supervises two of them, EEA (Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Automation) and MEGA (Mechanics, Energy, Civil Engineering and Acoustics).

#3 Lumière University Lyon 2

In third place we have Lumière University Lyon 2. Once part of the University of Lyon, the institution splintered into three separate universities. Lumière University Lyon 2 defines itself as a university of Social Sciences and Humanities, however it also offers courses in Law, Economics and Management, Science, Technology and Health.

Spread across two campuses, the university supports international students through offering language integration modules which can be completed online for free before your arrival.

Living costs for students in Lyon

In general, France is not a particularly cheap country to live. However, there is lots of support available from both the French government and universities in Lyon to keep it an affordable place to study.

Here’s an overview of the most common expenses of students in Lyon:


Student Cost of Living in Lyon - 2024
Monthly rent (1 bedroom apartment, city centre) €786
Monthly rent (1 bedroom apartment, outside city centre) €564
Restaurant meal €15
Cinema ticket €13
Monthly travel pass €69
Monthly utilities €221
Based on crowdsourced data published by Numbeo.

This table provides only a broad overview as living expenses can vary dramatically depending on lifestyle. Most students will opt to live in university accommodation or shared housing which can keep the cost of rent down. The Metropolis of Lyon also regulates rents to make sure prices remain fair. Make sure to check your university website for approved rental agencies and landlords, or visit Lyon Campus for a variety of resources on budgeting and locating housing.

Read more about accommodation in France

Our French accommodation guide covers everything you need to know about the different places you can rent during your degree.

Working during your postgraduate degree in Lyon

In France, all students have the right to work whether that’s on or off campus. International students from outside of the EU/EEA will require a valid residence permit. It’s likely you’ll need apply for the French long-stay visa to study; this acts as a valid residence permit. International students can work up to 964 hours per year (about 60% of a full-time job). While there are no work restrictions on home or EU/EEA students, they’re recommended to follow the same hours cap.

PhD students may consider taking on teaching or research assistant roles within their department. This will not only help you cover expenses but can contribute towards your CV.

Read more about working in France

Our guide covers everything you need to know about working in France during and after your studies.

Things to see in Lyon

In addition to excellent university opportunities, Lyon is a beautiful city to experience. Historically, the area was important for the production and weaving of silk. Now, the wealth of the industry has allowed the city to retain some of its renaissance architecture. Make sure to visit the Vieux Lycon area, one of the largest old quarters in the country. Also, head down to the Traboules which were once passageways running underneath the city for the silk workers to access the riverbank.

Every year in December you can also join the Fête des Lumières (Festival of Lights). This is a four-day event of light, music, performances and food. Traditionally, every household place candles along the outside of their windows. A procession then makes its way to the Fourvière Basilica to give offerings to Saint Mary. The Basilica is lit up with different colours and you can find light shows across the city.

In the summer, make sure to visit the Parc de la Tête d’Or to the north of the centre. This is one of France’s largest urban parks, containing both a zoo and extensive botanical gardens.

Graduate careers in Lyon

Lyon has plenty to offer postgraduates looking to establish a career in France.

The city is a major economic and trade exchange hub with an international outlook. The key industries include technology, banking, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. There has also been a recent upturn in recruitment for hospitality, health and social care, manufacturing and engineering.

Supported by the universities, Lyon has a thriving startup scene which has encouraged a growing demand for young professionals.

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Last Updated: 17 November 2023