Study in France: The Lowdown

Samuel Clennett

Why study in France? Well, there’s the excellent choice of educational institutions. The cuisine and culture. The opportunity to explore everything from ski resorts to sun soaked beaches - and take trips from your new home out into the rest of Europe too. You’ll be able to learn a new language, make new friends, and on top of all that, the cost of studying in France can be surprisingly affordable, thanks to government subsidies.

Tuition fees are relatively low for state sponsored universities - but you’ll also need to consider the costs of living which can be stretching in the large cities such as Paris. One great way to make your money go further when living abroad, is to use Wise for international payments and currency conversion.

If you choose to pay your tuition fees or other costs from dollars using Wise, you’ll benefit from international transfers made using the mid-market rate with no hidden fees. You can also make day to day spending simple and cheap with the multi-currency borderless account from Wise which comes with a linked debit Mastercard.

More on that, and how to avoid excessive bank fees for cross border payments, a little later.

Studying in France

31 universities in France are ranked among the top in the world. And with a broad range of universities, specialist schools and colleges, and private institutions, you’ll definitely find the course that’s right for you. State supported universities offer low tuition fees thanks to subsidies which are applied for international students in France as well as domestic. Private universities can be more costly, and some courses, such as those offered at the prestigious Grandes Ecoles are fairly long, running for some 5 years on average¹.

One of the big advantages of studying in France is the opportunity to live there for a while and explore the famous French culture and way of life. You’ll find that life is a lot smoother if you learn a little French - although on campus, in tourist areas, and in the larger cities English is widely spoken. Many major universities are in large cosmopolitan cities, where life is varied and exciting, but the living costs can be high. Luckily, you’ll normally be able to take part time work under the terms of your French study permit, to help finance your stay.

Study Visa

If you’re coming to France to study, you’ll need to get your student visa sorted out before you travel. The French government website has a helpful tool which helps you answer questions about your plans and situation, and suggests the most suitable type of visa for you. There’s also more detail on the Campus France website, which may help²,³.

In general terms, if you’re applying to stay in France for more than 90 days, you’ll need to provide paperwork including the following documents, and pay a fee:

  • Your valid passport and additional passport photos
  • Competed application and proof of payment of the fee (EUR99/AUD161)
  • Proof of your pre-registration at an educational institution
  • A residential address for your stay - you can use the university address if you have not yet found a place to live
  • Proof of funds, scholarship or evidence you’ll have support from a family member to cover your costs. Costs are estimated at EUR615 per month for the duration of your stay.

Read more about how to get a student visa for France, here.

Cost of studying in France

Before deciding where you will study, you’ll need to take a look at the relative costs. Life in France is not cheap. You can expect day to day living expenses to be on a par with life in an Australian city - but of course you’ll also have to factor in the cost of travel to and from France, too.

That said, the costs of university tuition in France can be low if you attend a state university, which may balance out the overall price and help make your Parisien dream a reality.

Tuition fees

It’s good to know that there are varied university types in France. The state subsidise study at some universities, even for international students, which makes the costs relatively low. However, private universities typically do not get this subsidy, and charge higher fees. Some 18% of French students attend private universities, making them a popular - if pricey - choice.

Course typeIndicative cost (2019/20 academic year)⁴
Undergraduate course at a public institutionAUD4,500
Graduate course at a public institutionAUD6,100
Private universitiesAUD5,000-AUD16,000 per year

Accommodation and day to day expenses

As you may expect, the best universities in France are in some of the larger cities, pushing up the price of daily life. Here are a few comparative costs to help you - and you can get plenty more data on the cost of living in France, by visiting the Numbeo website. Data is live and dynamic, provided by people living in these different cities, to allow you to build a realistic budget for your time in France⁵.

Living cost examplePrice in SydneyPrice in Paris
Renting a 1 bedroom apartment in the city centreAUD2,500AUD1,925
McDonalds mealAUD11AUD14.10
Monthly transport passAUD216AUD121
Cinema ticketAUD20AUD17

*All data correct at the time of research - 5th December 2019. Numbeo data is dynamic and changes over time. For most recent data, visit the Numbeo website

Universities in France

It’s helpful to know that there are different types of university and higher education institute in France. There are regular universities, and the Grandes Ecoles - as well as specific institutions offering courses only in certain subjects, schools of art and architecture. Universities are subsidised by the state, while the Grandes Ecoles are highly competitive and offer 5 year programs, costing more than the regular university courses.

Here are some of the top ranked institutions in France to help your research⁶:

  • Paris Sciences et Lettres Research University (PSL)
  • École Polytechnique
  • Sorbonne University
  • CentraleSupélec
  • École Normale Supérieure de Lyon
  • Sciences Po Paris
  • Télécom ParisTech

Cut the costs of studying abroad with Wise

There are a few smart things you can do to help cover the costs of a period of overseas study. You can apply for scholarships, and get part time employment while you’re in France, for example. You can also find ways to cut unnecessary costs, like bank fees for sending money overseas, and currency conversion.

That’s where Wise can help.

With Wise you can make simple, quick and safe international payments which use the mid-market rate for currency conversion. There are no hidden fees - just a transparent charge per transaction, which is usually much cheaper than using your normal bank. If you are looking for a way to send money to France, Wise could be an option.

In fact, independent research shows Wise can be up to 16x cheaper than the big banks for cross border payments and cash withdrawals. Which means that if you use Wise to pay your tuition fees and rent, you’ll find you have more money left to spend on yourself.

You can also benefit from getting a multi-currency borderless account, which lets you hold dozens of different currencies, send and receive global payments, and comes with a linked debit Mastercard. Top up your balance with dollars, fee free, and then convert your money to euros for spending while you’re in France, using the mid-market rate. You’ll just pay a low, transparent fee per transaction.

There’s no fee to spend currencies you hold using your debit card, cutting international payment costs - and you can withdraw up to the equivalent of $350 a month from ATMs, fee free, too.

Ready to get started making your new life in France a reality? Check out Wise today to see how much you can save


  1. Campus France.
  2. Student Visas
  3. Additional Visa Info
  4. Tuition Fees
  5. Cost of Living
  6. Top Universities

All sources accurate as of 6 Dec 2019

Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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