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Top Universities for PhD Study in France in 2022

Written by Ben Taylor

France’s unique higher education system, featuring specialised universities within larger research networks, makes it a great choice for ambitious PhD students. Despite being one of the most popular non-anglophone destinations for international students, France still offers plenty of English-language PhD programmes.

This page gives a quick introduction to some of the best universities and research institutions in France, as ranked by three of the main world university league tables.

Top ranked French universities for PhD study

The table below shows the top 20 French universities in the world, compiling rankings from the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and the Academic Ranking of World Universities.

Top 20 French Universities in 2022
University THE 2022 QS 2022 ARWU 2021
Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris =40 44 38
Sorbonne University =88 72 35
Institut Polytechnique de Paris =91 =49 -
Paris-Saclay University =117 =86 13
University of Paris 155 =261 73
École des Ponts ParisTech 251-300 245 -
Aix-Marseille University 301-350 501-510 101-150
University of Bordeaux 301-350 501-510 201-300
École Normale Supérieure de Lyon 301-350 130 301-400
Montpellier University 301-350 521-530 151-200
Grenoble Alpes University 351-400 =314 99
IMT Atlantique 351-400 - -
Claud Bernard University Lyon 1 401-500 651-700 201-300
University of Côte d’Azur 401-500 701-750 301-400
École des Mines de Saint-Étienne 401-500 - -
L’institut Agro 401-500 - -
Sciences Po 401-500 =261 -
Centrale Nantes 501-600 - -
Federal University of Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées 501-600 - -
University of Lille 501-600 801-1000 801-1000
Information in this table is based on the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.

So, how good are universities in Italy for PhD study?

As you can see in the table, France boasts several universities that appear in the top 100 of each ranking system. Still, the uniqueness of the French higher education system, placing importance on smaller institutions within larger research hubs, means that its specialised nature isn’t always fully recognised by the metrics used by ranking systems. So, don’t be put off if you feel France has fewer ‘top’ universities compared to other large nations!

If you want a more ‘zoomed-in’ view at the rankings, it’s worth checking out the subject-level option that is offered by the THE World University Rankings.

Search for a PhD in France

Ready to start looking for your ideal study abroad opportunity? Browse PhDs in France on or read our guide to studying a PhD in France.

Last Updated: 18 November 2021

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