France is a beautiful country to visit, famous for its cuisine, architecture and relaxed lifestyle. But have you ever considered living or studying there? Aside from the obvious incentives of food, wine and culture, the country offers many advantages to university students. To help you understand what it is like to study there, we at EDUopinions have analysed thousands of student reviews and found the best student cities in France.
Why study in France?
There are many well-known benefits of life in France like delicious food, quaint cities and a healthy work-life balance. But what you may not know is that studying in France comes with many other benefits for university students. While the cost of living in some French cities can be quite high, students benefit from significant discounts on transportation, food and drink, cinema tickets, electronics and more.
In addition, France has an esteemed tradition of high-quality education. With courses in thousands of different subjects, there is certainly a degree for everyone. As well, universities in France are very affordable. If you are an EU citizen or resident, you may only have to pay a few hundred euros per year for your degree.
Aside from a good deal, studying in France can be a great way to expand your horizons and meet new people. Studying in one of the cities on this list is a sure-fire way to improve your French language, which is a major advantage for work in business, international politics and academia. During your studies in France, you can expect to meet people from around the world, as the country is a popular student destination. Meeting people from different countries, backgrounds and walks of life is the perfect way to kick off your university career. Surrounded by so many different people, you are bound to make lasting friendships and learn about yourself and the world.
Where is the cheapest student city in France?
While it is difficult to determine the single cheapest city for students in France, two of the cities on this list are notable for their relative affordability. Rouen and Lille are two cities in France where the cost of living is considerably lower than the rest of the country. Located in the north, Rouen and Lille both have plentiful access to high-quality foods, drink, accommodation and entertainment, but for a fraction of the cost in Paris, Montpellier or Grenoble.
Of course, our list of the best student cities in France is entirely composed of top-notch universities, but what sets Rouen and Lille apart from the rest is the cost of living. In these cities, students can expect to pay significantly less for things like rent, groceries, restaurants and the cinema, among other things. This is not to say it is impossible to live affordably in other French cities, rather than doing so in Lille or Rouen is much easier.
the 5 best cities in France (Student Ratings)
1. Rouen (4.5 Stars)
- Student life: 5.00 stars
- Accommodation: 4.50 stars
- Internationality: 4.37 stars
Located northwest of Paris along the River Seine, Rouen is a very popular student city in France. Historically, the city is known as the capital of the Normandy region, but in recent years has taken on a distinctly student-oriented character.
With thousands of students, Rouen is definitely a city for young people. Nightlife is a highlight of Rouen, with many pubs and clubs designed for the city’s large youth population. Especially for students at university, the city has a lot to offer. Many universities in the city organise “running dinners” in which international students join local families for traditional Norman dinners.
As for academics, Rouen is home to NEOMA Business School, a highly-ranked, pre-eminent business school in Europe. With over 300 business partnerships, NEOMA provides students with networking opportunities from day one. The university aims to prepare students for work in the business world through interactive, hands-on learning. In the words of a student, “the teachers are experts in pedagogy and listen to students. Small classes make learning easier.”
NEOMA Rouen is located in an area near Rouen. The premises are very pleasant and give the impression of an American campus. There is plenty of space to organize many outdoor activities. These are the activities that create a good atmosphere and a family spirit. There is a lot of association and we are really supported in our professional project. The teachers are very pedagogue experts and listen to the students. The classes are small which makes it easier to learn. I highly recommend this school.
If you are looking for a non-business related degree, you should consider the Université de Rouen, which offers degrees in dozens of different subjects. The university is a public one and has a large proportion of international students. Along with the other universities in Rouen, the institution accounts for a large part of the city’s youth population, with many events geared specifically toward younger crowds. If you are looking for one of the best student cities in France, Rouen definitely deserves consideration.
2. Grenoble (4.4 stars)
- Student life: 4.43 stars
- Accommodation: 4.09 stars
- Internationality: 4.12 stars
Grenoble lies near the French Alps and is the perfect cross between a quaint Alpine town and bustling student city. With students accounting for almost a third of the city’s population, there is no shortage of activities for young people in Grenoble. The city offers excellent and affordable restaurants, cafes and bars, many of which are social hubs for students.
If you are interested in the outdoors, Grenoble may be the perfect place for you. Easy access to the Alps means you can ski, snowboard or hike without much of a hassle. In the summertime too, Grenoble is the perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts, with as many sunny days as Bordeaux or Toulouse. Many students take advantage of Grenoble’s proximity to the Alps by swimming, hiking and cycling, which is just part of why it is on our list of the best student cities in France.
In terms of academics, Grenoble is home to a number of high-calibre institutions. Courses in engineering, sciences and business are some of the best the city’s universities have to offer. In particular, the Grenoble École de Management is one of the world’s top business schools. More than a school, the Grenoble École de Management sees itself as a space for entrepreneurial exploration and innovation, preparing its students for life beyond university. As well, students at the Grenoble École de Management seem particularly pleased with their course and city, saying that “classes are good overall, but life outside class is just wonderful, whether it be parties or student associations or skiing!
This business school is great! The location in the very centre of Grenoble is really practical and the city is cool, especially if you like skiing.
The classes are good overall, except some that are a bit of a joke, in particular before the Master’s degree.
The important thing is to find out about the teachers of the classes you’re interested in.
Last, but not least, the life around classes is just wonderful, whether it be parties or student associations, that are numerous and for all points of interest!
One drawback is the lack of facilities, especially sporting ones.
Another university to look into is the Université Grenoble Alpes, a unique institution on account of its location within the French Alps. With 60,000 students, the university has grown considerably since its beginnings in 1339. Spread across six locations in the French Alps, Université Grenoble Alpes is ideal for those with an interest in the outdoors. But even if skiing and hiking are not your passions, the university has plenty to offer, including 400 different degrees, 80 laboratories and a bustling student body of 60,000.
3. Lille (4.32 stars)
- Student life: 4.35 stars
- Accommodation: 3.79 stars
- Internationality: 4.41 stars
Lille is another fantastic student city in France. Located in the north of France near the Belgian border, the city is very well situated, meaning weekend trips to European capitals like Brussels, Paris and London are easier than ever. Known for its charming, picturesque city centre, Lille may feel like a bit of a fairy tale for some students.
Though the city can be rainy, there is still a lot on offer in Lille. With three public universities and relatively affordable rent, the city is the least expensive option on this list. Famous for its architecture, Lille is known as an iconic combination of northern European culture and French urban living. Residents of Lille benefit from both local delicacies and traditional as well as the city’s cosmopolitan character.
One of the cities best institutions, IESEG School of Management is a top business school in France. The university is in a unique position, maintaining a partnership with the Université Catholique de Lille. This partnership allows students at both schools to benefit from the specialised course content. Another bonus of IESEG is its close relationships with dozens of international businesses, allowing students to network even before graduating. A student at IESEG explained how university’s “courses and societies resonate with each other, building dignified and responsible citizens of tomorrow.”
I loved the way the University has beautiful inculcated and accommodated ethnicity and culture of all background. The courses they have, the societies they have built resonates around to build dignified and responsible citizens of tomorrow.
Two other schools in Lille to consider are SKEMA Business School and EDHEC Business School. Both institutions pride themselves on creating an “entrepreneurial atmosphere” for students to immerse themselves in. In addition, students from both schools mention the community-like environment created on campus. If you are not interested in business, maybe the Université de Lille has a course for you? The city’s public university is split into three institutions depending on the degree. The University Lille is a very popular choice among international students and is often the university with the most foreign students in all of France.
4. Paris (4.23 Stars)
- Student life: 4.11 stars
- Accommodation: 3.26 stars
- Internationality: 4.42 stars
Of course, the French capital and global metropolis is another one of the best places for students in the country. If you have never been to Paris before, being a student there is a great way to get to know the city, as most attractions and museums are free for students. For those looking to adopt the Parisian lifestyle, the city’s countless cafés and restaurants make perfect study spots. Of course, nightlife in Paris is another highlight of the city.
If you have dreamt of moving to Paris, doing so as a student is a great way to meet people, as university societies (associations) are very popular in Paris and often hold social events on and off-campus. Finally, Paris is by far the largest, busiest city on this list, so if nothing else, students are almost guaranteed a dynamic, adventurous and exciting few years studying in the French capital.
Home to dozens of world-class universities, Paris has a lot to offer in terms of academics too. If you are thinking about studying in Paris, be sure to check out ESCP Business School. With degrees in a variety of business-related areas, ESCP is not your average MBA programme. Students have the opportunity to study abroad at one of ESCP’s six campuses across Europe (in London, Berlin, Madrid, Warsaw or Turin). This goes hand in hand with the university’s focus on language-learning. Students at ESCP graduate having studied up to two additional languages, equipping them for work in an ever-globalising world.
– Very international school with diverse student base
– Valuable intercultural opportunities during visits at ESCPs various campuses
– Wide range of elective courses to chose from when “building your own degree”
Paris is a hub for top-notch business schools. INSEEC Business School is another one of the city’s best universities, offering hands-on business degrees thanks to the institutions’ many connections to international corporations. As well, IPAG Business School is a Paris school with partnerships with over 140 universities across the world, perfect for those looking for an international approach to their education. EDC Paris Business School is another university worth checking out, especially considering their beautiful new 5000 m2 campus opening in early 2021. Finally, the tried-and-true Paris School of Business is another to consider, with many different types of programmes available, from short courses in business to doctorate programmes. Whatever you are looking for, Paris has something to offer as one of the best student cities in France.
5. Montpellier (4.2 Stars)
- Student life: 4.7 stars
- Accommodation: 3.90 stars
- Internationality: 4.90 stars
Montpellier is the capital of the Hérault region and an up-and-coming student hub in Europe. Students love it for its liveliness. According to residents, there is always something to do in Montpellier, be it open-air concerts, club nights, university events or even just sitting on a terrace. With 70,000 students and half of the population being under 30 years old, Montpellier is a “decidedly young city.”
Located in the south of the country, Montpellier offers students great weather and easy access to other destinations along the Mediterranean. In fact, the city is only a two-hour train from Nice and less than five hours to Barcelona—perfect for a long weekend! Or if not, Montpellier has plenty to explore, from its bustling historic city centre to the large American-style campuses just outside town.
For those interested in studying business, the Montpellier Business School – MBS is an attractive option. Founded over 100 years ago and a member of the Conference des Grandes Écoles, Montpellier Business School has an esteemed tradition of high-quality business and management education. With an exceptionally international student body, Montpellier ranks 1st for diversity among business schools according to QS. One student completing his master’s at MBS said undertaking a “work-study path was really very enriching” and that “the Montpellier environment and surroundings are exceptional.”
I had the opportunity to carry out my work-study master at MBS which is renowned for its work-study path and it was really very enriching, moreover the Montpellier environment and its surroundings is exceptional!
Other great universities in Montpellier include the ESG Écoles de Commerce and the Université de Montpellier. Both of these institutions are well-respected across Europe for their expertise in a wide range of subjects. ESG has additional campuses in Bordeaux, Toulouse, Aix-en-Provence, Tours, Paris and Rennes, offering opportunities for study exchanges across the country. Université de Montpellier is a large public university, offering a plethora of different degrees. In particular, Montpellier is known for its ecology department, but whatever your interest, Montpellier is one of the best student cities in France.
According to EDUopinion’s verified student reviews, these are the best student cities in France. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, but merely a guide for those of you keen on a French university experience. If none of these opportunities have caught your eye, you might also want to read our insights into the 13 best business schools in France or learn about the pros and cons of studying in France.
Editor’s note: This article was first published on the 6th of September 2020. We’ve updated it for current readers.