Home to some of the world’s most revered artists, writers, thinkers and musicians, the City of Light needs little introduction. It is hard not to fall in love with its instantly familiar monuments, world-famous cuisine and endless cultural buzz.
But there is far more to discover in Paris than just fine art and patisserie - the city, which is developing fast under its forward thinking mayor, Anne Hidalgo, is awash with the new and innovative, especially for students.
It may seem an expensive city for tourists but students can live a charmed (and cheap) life reaping the benefits of discounted or often free gallery entries, cinema passes, transport and accommodation. Even French fine cuisine comes at student-friendly prices – CROUS Paris offers genuinely good food in 15 restaurants and 30 university cafeterias for as little as €3 for three courses.
Spanning 105 km², Paris is a small city – meaning no matter where you are, you should be able to reach your destination within 30 minutes, using the excellent metro, bus or bike rental (Vélib) system. The picture postcard Paris that most are familiar with covers a relatively small area and the 20 arrondissements each have their own fascinating personalities. The difficulty of study in Paris is not so much settling – it’s the leaving.
Below are some of the best universities to study at in Paris based on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2018.
Best universities worldwide
Top five universities in Paris
Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris is a collegiate university formed in 2010, though some of the member institutions were founded during the Enlightenment (the Collège de France, L'Observatoire de Paris and the Beaux Arts). Originally formed of five institutions, it has grown into 25 self-governing academic and research institutions. It aims to be one of the leading research universities in the world.
One of the member institutions, the highly selective École Normale Supérieure can be traced back to the post-revolutionary National Convention of 1794. It was originally established to train secondary school teachers in order to ensure a consistent national education. Today, it accepts only 200 students a year in sciences and humanities, who receive a salary of about €1,300 (£1,114) per month in return for 10 years of service in the public sector after graduation.
Based 10 miles from the centre of Paris in the small Parisian suburb of Palaiseau, École Polytechnique (also known as l’X) focuses on science and technology and has a student body of just under 3,000.
Approximately a third of students are international and École Polytechnique offers an interdisciplinary approach across undergraduate teaching and graduate research.
As well as six different subjects within science and engineering, undergraduate students must also take a humanities subject and sports. Admission requires two years of preparation during high school (prépas), which culminates in a week of written exams and an oral examination.
French nationals must do eight months of military service in their first year at l’X, because the university is still run by the Ministry of Defence.
3. Pierre et Marie Curie University
Established after the division of the University of Paris in 1970, Pierre et Marie Curie University (UPMC) is the largest scientific and medical complex in the country, with approximately 30,000 students at the Jussieu campus in the Latin Quarter of Paris.
It is known for excellence in mathematics and has eight main teaching hospitals. Named after its two most famous alumni, UPMC has produced a total of 17 Nobel laureates. As well as Pierre and Marie Curie, alumni Nobel prize winners include Françoise Barré-Sinoussi (who discovered the HIV virus), Jean-Baptiste Perrin (for his work on the atom) and Claude Cohen-Tannoudji (an expert in quantum physics).
The university boasts 120 laboratories and 3,750 researchers and professors. It publishes 8,500 journals per year and its focus is on responding to the issues facing 21st century societies.
Beginning life as the Collège de Sorbonne in 1257, the Paris-Sorbonne University – Paris 4 has a long and politically charged history. It has risen to become one of the most prestigious institutions for arts, languages and humanities in France.
It was the setting for some of the most turbulent events of the May 1968 student uprisings in France. Two years later, it was divided into 13 separate institutions – Paris 4 is in the original Sorbonne building, with the other two universities which were created at the time.
Now it has campuses across 12 sites in Paris, including six libraries – one of which (The Sorbonne Library) is home to 2.5 million books. It also comprises the prestigious school of communication (CELSA) and ESPE school of education.
Famous former students include Paul Biya, president of Cameroon and writer Carlos Alvarado-Larroucaua.
Located in the heart of Paris, Paris Diderot University (also known as Paris 7) was once a part of the University of Paris but was named after French philosopher Denis Diderot in 1994.
It is the only multidisciplinary university in Paris to offer a broad selection of degrees in the humanities, medicine and the sciences.
Paris 7 relocated many of its buildings to the Left Bank area of Paris in 2007, not far from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. It offers more than 50 student associations on campus.
Notable alumni include Anne Cheng, a French-Chinese sinologist who works for the Collège de France, Cécile Duflot, a French politician and Minister of Territorial Equality and Housing in the Ayrault Cabinet, and Albert Dupontel, a French actor, film director and screenwriter.
Student experience in Paris
The experience of a British student at École Normale Supérieure de Lyon
International perspective: a Vietnamese student in Paris
Smaller does not mean there is less opportunity - Ècole Polytechnique
Falling in love with studying in Paris
The positives and negatives of studying at a small university in Paris, France
The appeal of a "village atmosphere" on campus
Top universities in Paris 2018
Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2018 results
|Paris Rank 2018||World University Rank 2018||University|
|1||=72||Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris|
|3||=123||Pierre and Marie Curie University|
|5||196||Paris-Sorbonne University – Paris 4|
|6||201–250||Paris Diderot University – Paris 7|
|7||251–300||École des Ponts ParisTech|
|9||501–600||Panthéon-Sorbonne University – Paris 1|
|10||801–1000||Paris Nanterre University|
Read more: The best university cities for students