Top 10 Universities in France

It’s Bastille Day, the French national day, on 14 July and to celebrate this great country, we’ll take a look at the ten best universities in France.

France is a country of 68 million inhabitants with the first universities in the country emerging around 1150. With such numbers and history, it’s no wonder France is home to some of the best universities in the world. If you’re interested in studying in France, either for your whole degree, or for a year abroad like Erasmus exchange, check out this post. Once you’ve found the perfect university for you, you’ll need to find some accommodation. Here at, we list student accommodation in France in dozens of cities across the country.

The rankings in this article are based on the prestigious QS rankings and their newly published World University Rankings 2024.

A view of Auxerre, France
France is full of beautiful towns and cities.

1. Paris Sciences et Lettres University (PSL University)

Location: Paris

Local name: Université Paris Sciences et Lettres (Université PSL)

Global university rank: 24th

The Paris Sciences et Lettres University is made up of 11 constituent schools, the first of which was founded in 1530. PSL University itself was only founded in 2010 though, and received full university status in 2019. The university has quickly established itself as one of the premier institutions of higher learning in the world. Located in the Latin Quarter in central Paris, Université PSL has a great location too. Studying here you’ll get a world-class education in the middle of one of the most exciting cities in the world. What’s not to love!

The École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts of the PSL University
PSL University has some very stylish buildings (photo credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra – Flickr)

2. Polytechnic Institute of Paris

Location: Palaiseau, Paris

Local name: Institut Polytechnique de Paris

Global university rank: 38th

The Polytechnic Institute of Paris is a university that focuses on the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It consists of five grande écoles, French specialised institutions of higher learning. Located in the southern suburbs of Paris, about 17km from the city centre, it has especially strong programmes in the fields of Mathematics, Engineering and technology, and Statistics and operational research. It was formed in its current format in 2019 when it was separated from the Paris-Saclay University and today has just under 10,000 students.

The École Polytechnique of the Polytechnic Institute of Paris behind a lake
The École Polytechnique of the Polytechnic Institute of Paris is located on a beautiful lakeside (photo credit: David Monniaux – Wikipedia)

3. Sorbonne University

Location: Paris

Local name: Sorbonne Université

Global university rank: 59th

Sorbonne University is a world-famous institution whose history reaches back to at least 1257, when Robert de Sorbon founded a theological college and named it Sorbonne College. Throughout its long history, Sorbonne has had many notable students and staff, such as Marie and Pierre Curie. Marie Curie was the first female professor in the university’s long history. Sorbonne’s alumni and staff have won a total of 33 Nobel Prizes, six Fields Medals and one Turing Award.

The historical Place de la Sorbonne
Place de la Sorbonne in the Latin Quarter of Paris is the historical home of Sorbonne University (photo credit: Mbzt – Wikipedia)

4. Paris-Saclay University

Location: Orsay, Paris

Local name: Université Paris-Saclay

Global university rank: 71st

Paris-Saclay University was established in its current format in 2019 but can trace its history all the way back to 1150 and the founding of the original University of Paris. It’s a combination of a university and a technological research institute with several locations in the Paris metropolitan area. Paris-Saclay University is made up of 15 constituent colleges and the French government has explicitly said it wants Paris-Saclay to rival top American technological universities like MIT or Caltech.

Arc de Triomphe in Paris during sunset
The Paris area has a large number of top level universities.

5. École Normale Supérieure de Lyon

Location: Lyon

Global university rank: 184th

The highest-ranked university in France outside the Paris metropolitan area, the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon is located in the third-largest city in France, Lyon. It has two academic units, one for arts and one for sciences. It’s a small university of just over 2,000 students, with particularly strong programmes in the fields of Mathematics, Physics and astronomy, and Earth and marine sciences. ENS de Lyon is a grande école, meaning it’s separate but parallel from the French public university system.

The city of Lyon with the Saone River and colourful houses
Lyon is the home to the best French university outside the Paris metropolitan area.

6. École des Ponts ParisTech

Location: Paris

Global university rank: 192nd

Another top grande école, which was established already in 1747, is the Paris-based École des Ponts ParisTech. It’s one of the oldest grande écoles in the country, and also generally considered as one of the most prestigious. Historically an engineering school, it’s still very strong in engineering sciences, but also has high-level programmes in for example Environmental sciences and Computer science. It’s also a very cosmopolitan university, with over 30% of its students coming from outside France.

A view of the Seine River in Paris during twilight
Paris is the powerhouse of French higher education.

7. Paris Cité University

Location: Paris

Local name: Université Paris Cité

Global university rank: 236th

Paris Cité University is another one of the current Paris universities that can trace its origins to the founding of the University of Paris in 1150. The current Paris Cité University was created in 2019 from the merger of the universities of Paris V and Paris VII. It’s headquartered on the centrally-located Boulevard Saint-Germain and unlike many other top French universities, Cité is a very large one, with over 60,000 students. Over 10,000 of these students come from outside France, so you’ll be studying in an international atmosphere at the Paris Cité University.

A beautiful, columned building of the Paris Cité University
Paris Cité University is housed in some very beautiful buildings in central Paris (photo credit: Emmanuel Brunner – Wikipedia)

8. Grenoble Alpes University

Location: Grenoble

Local name: Université Grenoble Alpes

Global university rank: 294th

Grenoble Alpes University is the second university on this list outside the Paris metropolitan area, located in the small city of Grenoble. It’s one of the oldest universities in France, having been founded in 1339. Today it’s also one of the largest in the country, with about 60,000 students. Traditionally strong in natural sciences and engineering, Grenoble Alpes University also has highly ranked programmes in fields such as linguistics, philosophy and politics. The university also has one of the four institutes researching artificial intelligence in France.

A view of Grenoble at sunset
Grenoble is one of the leading centres for scientific research in Europe.

9. Paris Institute of Political Studies

Location: Paris

Local name: Institut d’études politiques de Paris (Sciences Po)

Global university rank: 319th

Established in 1872, Sciences Po is, as the name suggests, a university that has historically focused heavily on political sciences. In recent years, the university has started to expand to a wider range or social sciences, but it’s politics programme is still the main star, being ranked as the third best Politics programme in the world in the 2023 QS World University rankings by subject. It also has strong programmes in for example Social policy and administration, and Sociology. These days most graduates end up in the private sector, with auditing, consulting and finance sectors being some of the most typical career paths for Sciences Po graduates. Politics is still popular as well though, and five of the eight presidents of the French Fifth Republic attended Sciences Po: Georges Pompidou, François Mitterrand, Jacques Chirac, François Hollande and Emmanuel Macron.

Champs-Elysees at night, with the Arc de Triomphe in the background
Sciences Po has an excellent location in central Paris.

10. Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University

Location: Paris

Local name: Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Global university rank: 328th

Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University was established in 1971, but like some other universities on this list, it can trace its origins to the original University of Paris that was founded around 1150. The university’s headquarters has a great, central location in the Latin Quarter of Paris, and it occupies part of the original Sorbonne campus. About 20% of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University’s student population is from outside France, and the university offers high-quality programmes in a number of fields, most notably Classics and ancient history, Archaeology, and Arts and humanities.

The Paris skyline from above
Paris is a giant in the field of French further education.

So there we have it, the 10 best universities in France. As we can easily see from the list, Paris dominates also this aspect of French life, with 8 out of the 10 best universities in France located in the Paris metropolitan area, with Lyon and Grenoble getting one university each on the list. Four of these universities are also ranked as being among the best 100 universities in the whole world, and all ten are within the best 350. So whichever of these universities you choose, you can be guaranteed to get a high-quality education. It’s just a question of finding the right university and the right degree programme for you. Good luck!