Studying in Paris - A Guide for Postgraduate Students
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Studying in Paris - A Guide for Postgraduate Students

Written by Hannah Slack

If you’re considering studying a PhD in France, Paris should be one of the cities on your list to consider. As the country’s capital, Paris is a hub of culture and innovation. It is the most populous city in France and, as of January 2023, the fifth-most populated city in Europe. While the hustle and bustle isn’t for everyone, Paris has long been a centre for artistic and scientific creativity.

This guide takes you through everything you need to know about studying in Paris as a postgraduate student, covering universities, living costs, career possibilities and more.

Why study your postgraduate degree in Paris?

Paris earned its unofficial title, the 'City of Light,' due to its prominent role in the Age of Enlightenment. It was also one of the first European cities to install gas streetlamps, quite literally illuminating the city! In addition to its rich history, Paris is home to three universities ranked among the top 100 in the world, offering a plethora of opportunities to explore.

  • Established hub of industries: Since the 17th century, Paris has been recognised as a global centre for finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, gastronomy, and science.
  • Cultural centre: The city is home to around 130 museums and galleries, most famously the Louvre which was the most visited art museum in the world in 2022! In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “a walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life”.
  • An international player: Paris serves as the headquarters for numerous United Nations organisations, most notably UNESCO. Other international bodies based in the city include the International Federation for Human Rights, the European Space Agency, and the European Banking Authority.
  • World ranking universities: The city is home to France’s top university, Paris Sciences et Lettres (PSL), which ranked in the top 50 institutions in the world.

What are the top universities in Paris for postgrad study?

#1 Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris

Founded in 2010, Paris Sciences et Lettres has gone from strength to strength, growing the research culture of the city in all disciplines. With a research community of around 2,900 scholars, PSL places a significant emphasis on interdisciplinary research at a high level. The university has consistently ranked among the top 50 institutions globally since 2018.

In addition to housing accomplished researchers, Time Higher Education scored PSL highly for its international outlook and industry links. This makes it an excellent choice for PhD students looking to explore and establish a future career based on their academic interests. The university also has the PSL Innovation Fund which helps nearly 50 start-ups annually.

#2 Université Paris-Saclay

Also in the top 100 universities in the world is Université Paris-Saclay. In addition to its high overall score, the university ranked in the top 20 institutions worldwide for Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy. Although the STEM departments perform particularly well, Université Paris-Saclay also runs courses in health, the humanities and social sciences.

The university is especially committed to the employability of its students by offering many short courses for current students and alumni.

#3 Sorbonne Université

Also known as University in Paris, Sorbonne Université is a multidisciplinary, research-intensive institution of world-class standing. With over 50,000 students and 6,400 researchers, Sorbonne Université offers a wealth of opportunities. The institution’s primary focus is on promoting diversity, creativity, innovation and openness.

Living costs for students in Paris

As one of the most expensive cities in the world, the cost of studying in Paris can be quite substantial. However, the French State subsidises postgraduate tuition fees ensuring that international students pay the same rate as domestic students. There are also other scholarships available to help alleviate costs.

Here’s an overview of the most common expenses for students in Paris.

Student Cost of Living in Paris - 2024
Monthly rent (1 bedroom apartment, city centre) €1,308
Monthly rent (1 bedroom apartment, outside city centre) €941
Restaurant meal €15
Cinema ticket €13
Monthly travel pass €84
Monthly utilities €204
Based on crowdsourced data published by Numbeo.

While Paris is an expensive city, your living costs will mainly be dictated by your lifestyle. There are many discounts on travel and cultural activities for students. Campus France estimates that students typically spend between €900-1300 per month, with accommodation being the most expensive part. Often, students choose to live in shared houses to reduce costs. Consider exploring postgraduate forums or contacting your university to find opportunities for shared postgraduate housing.

Working during your degree in Paris

In addition to living with housemates, many postgraduate students take on work to support themselves. All students, regardless of their nationality, have the right to work on and off campus in France. Non-EU/EEA students are required to have a student resident permit which allows 964 hours of work per year, equivalent to 60% of the maximum full-time working hours.

PhD students may consider taking on teaching or research assistant roles which will not only help cover your expenses but will also provide you with additional career training

How to work in France as a student

Read more about how to work during and after your studies as a student in France.

Things to see in Paris

One of the great advantages of studying in Paris is having access to the city's rich cultural offerings. Bursting with art, culture, architecture, and beauty, there are many unforgettable experiences to enjoy while studying in the heart of France.

One of the most renowned areas in Paris is the historic district along the Seine River, which has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its beauty. This district is home to notable sites such as Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris (which is currently being reconstructed after a fire; the site should be reopening at the end of 2024), the gothic Sainte-Chapelle, Palais du Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.

If you have the opportunity to venture outside the city, there are also remarkable attractions to explore. Just east is the mediaeval town, Provins which houses monuments from the 12th century onwards. Another must-visit is the Château de Versailles, the royal residence of the Sun King, Louis XIV. Not only will you be impressed by its grandeur and beauty, but during the summer, you can attend fountain shows in the gardens.

Graduate careers in Paris

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

Currently the city’s dominant industries include IT, technology, automotive, finance and insurance. Other growing areas include artificial intelligence, biotechnology, fashion retail and luxury goods. Given the significant amount of tourism, there is also ample opportunity to work in travel, leisure and hospitality.

In recent years, the French government has been working to reduce bureaucratic obstacles and create a thriving start-up and entrepreneurial scene in Paris. Many universities are actively supporting their students in potential ventures. With the expanding business and technology landscape, Paris is poised to surpass Berlin as a hub of innovation.

If you are an EU/EEA student then there are no restrictions on your ability to search for and engage in work. For all other international students graduating from Paris, you will need a promise of employment with a salary at least one and a half times the minimum wage. Otherwise, you will need to apply for a temporary resident permit while seeking employment. Currently, the working environment in Paris remains quite formal and proficiency in French is generally expected.

Find a Masters in Paris

Take a look at all the current Masters opportunities in Paris, France

Find a PhD in Paris

Take a look at all the current PhD opportunities in Paris, France

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Last Updated: 17 November 2023