Paris, the true City of Lights (regardless of what Las Vegas or Johannesburg have to say on the matter) is one of the most visited cities in the world, and commonly regarded as one of the most beautiful. From the patisseriesand cafés, to the imposing architecture and famous fashion sense, the richness of Parisian culture and history is evident everywhere.
The French capital is also known for its history of being a hub for many of the world’s greatest philosophers, such as Sartre and Foucault; great authors from Rousseau to Dumas; and pioneers of modern thought like deconstructivist Jacques Derrida and feminist writer Hélène Cixous. Having played a key part in many movements within literature, art and politics across a number of centuries, Paris remains one of the world’s most iconic and sought-after destinations – for students as much as anyone.
Those looking to study in Paris may be interested in the history of the University of Paris, an institution founded in the 12th century that gained outstanding credentials before splitting into 13 different specialist universities in 1970. Nowadays, the majority of these universities remain, scattered across the city, each still holding world-leading academic status.
It is for these and many more reasons, that Paris has yet again topped the latest QS Best Student Cities, as the world’s number one city for students, ahead of Melbourne and London. So, thinking of packing your bags and heading to France? Take a look at the top 10 universities in Paris below, and see what each has to offer…
1. École Normale Superieure, Paris (ENS Paris)
École Normale Superieure (ENS Paris) is the highest-ranked of all the universities in Paris, placed at 24th in the world in the latest QS World University Rankings®. Situated in the scholastic Latin Quarter just west of the Seine in central Paris, École Normale Superieure (ENS Paris) is within walking distance of famous sights such as the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Jardin du Luxembourg, the second largest public park in Paris.
École Normale Superieure (ENS Paris) also offers the only residential campus in central Paris, along with two more campuses in the city suburbs. A research-led institute, the school is counted among the prestigious French universities which form the ‘grandes écoles’, and is particularly known for its departments of humanities and science. ENS Paris boasts an alumnus community that includes 12 Nobel Prize winners, as well as all eight French Fields Medals winners – the most coveted prize for young mathematicians.
2. École Polytechnique (ParisTech)
École Polytechnique (ParisTech), ranked 35th in the world, is a founding member of ParisTech (an affiliated group of colleges focusing on science and business subjects) and is ranked just outside of the world’s top 50 universities for engineering and technology within the latest QS World University Rankings by Faculty, ahead of all other French universities.
Although having once been situated in the Latin Quarter, École Polytechnique relocated to just south of the city in 1976. Located approximately 30 kilometers outside of central Paris and with a community of over 4,600 students and teachers, École Polytechnique’s main campus offers over 160 hectares of open space and a range of outside sporting facilities which many campuses within the city center can only dream of!
3. Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC)
The Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC) is ranked 115th in the world and is one of the largest teaching institutes of science and medicine in Europe, with more than 125 laboratories. Established in 1971 after the division of the famous University of Paris, the Université Pierre et Marie Curie(UPMC) has a community of 32,000 students, including over 6,000 international students, and a faculty of more than 10,000 staff and 5,800 teacher-researchers. Divided amongst 18 different campuses in four French regions, Université Pierre et Marie Curie’s central campus is located in the vibrant and historic Latin Quarter of Paris, neighboring the river Seine and the National Museum of Natural History.
4. Université Paris-Sud 11
Université Paris-Sud 11, ranked 209th in the world in the QS World University Rankings 2014/15, is comprised of four campuses in the southern suburbs of the city of Paris. Most notably, the scientific campus located in Orsay, the furthest from the city, is set on 200 hectares of land comprised of woodlands and a botanical garden. Université Paris-Sud 11 prides itself on its wide scope of multidisciplinary courses and is involved in all educational fields excepting the human sciences. Although the Orsay campus is a 40-minute drive from central Paris, Université Paris-Sud 11’s school of medicine is much closer, in an area called Le Kremlin-Bicêtre, which is just an hour’s walk from the city center.
5. Université Paris Diderot (Paris 7)
With its new campus located a few streets down from the National Library of France just on the banks of the Seine, Université Paris Diderot, otherwise known as Paris 7, is currently ranked 210th in the world and is a multidisciplinary urban university within the eastern limits of the city.
The school’s recent relocation away from the densely populated Latin Quarter, where many of the top universities in Paris are amassed together, means that Université Paris Diderot, with a community of over 26,000 students including 6,000 foreign students, may appeal particularly to students who are looking to combine an urban environment with a little more calm and space. Université Paris Diderotwas an inheritor of the University of Paris’s distinguished faculty of science and is known for its high standards of research in this field. However, it’s strong across a wide range of subjects, including medicine, dentistry, art and humanities and the social sciences.
6. Sciences Po Paris
The Institute d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, commonly known as Sciences Po Paris, specializes in the humanities and social sciences, with approximately 40% of its budget being used to fund research in these subjects. Currently ranked 222nd in the world, Sciences Po offers a total of seven campuses across France, home to 11,000 students overall, 42% of which are international.
Sciences Po Paris’s main campus is located in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area of the city, which once was the center of the existentialist movement, associated with author Simone de Beauvoir and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Today the area continues to be a hub of creative culture and is also home to many famous Parisian cafés.
7. Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV)
Université Paris-Sorbonne, or Paris IV, is a co-founder of the Sorbonne University alliance (another collective of leading French universities, which also includes UPMC) and is an inheritor of the arts, languages and humanities faculties from the famous University of Paris.
Ranked 227th in the world overall, and as high as 33rd for arts and humanities, the Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) has a current enrollment of almost 14,000 undergraduates and 7,000 graduate students. The university has seven campuses in the lively and student-oriented Latin Quarter, where its cultural department organizes more than a hundred national and local arts events every three months, including operas, theater performances, poetry competitions, dance events and music gigs.
8. Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
The Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne is currently ranked 228th in the world. Having inherited the faculty of law and economics from the University of Paris, the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne particularly excels within the faculty of social sciences, for which it ranks 50th in the world. One of the largest French universities, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne enrolls some 40,000 students in more than 14 teaching and research departments. Again located in the vibrant Latin Quarter, the university operates across several famous historic buildings, including part of the Sorbonne itself, making it a prestigious and heritage-rich place to study in Paris.
9. Université Paris Descartes
Named after 17th century philosopher René Descartes, the Université Paris Descartes is ranked 278th in this year’s QS World University Rankings. Also benefitting from the dissolution of the University of Paris, Université Paris Descartes inherited the old university’s medicine department, leading to a particularly high rank among the world’s top universities for life sciences and medicine, this year placed at 107th. Currently holding a student body of over 33,000 and a faculty of over 2,400 teachers and researchers, Université Paris Descartesis the only university at which to study in Paris (and the whole Ile-de-France region) that teaches medicine, pharmacy and dentistry all in one institution. It is also situated in the Latin Quarter.
10. École des Ponts ParisTech
One of the founding members of the ParisTech group, the École des Ponts ParisTech is this year ranked at 290th in the world. Known for its culture of invention and innovation, the École des Ponts ParisTech offers programs in the fields of engineering, management, economics, transportation, urban planning and environment. The university’s main campus is a 20-minute train ride north of central Paris, although many students choose to live in the city center in order to be close to the liveliest areas. The school offers housing in the student-centered Latin Quarter and all around the city. A relatively small community, the École des Ponts ParisTech enrolls just over 2,000 students, a quarter of which are female.
And a bonus…
11. Université Paris Dauphine
That’s the top 10 universities in Paris, but you might also want to consider Université Paris Dauphineamong your list of places to study in Paris, currently ranked at 367th in the world. Université Paris Dauphine is a multidisciplinary institution which specializes in subjects such as economics, math, business, IT, law and the social sciences.
The university has three campuses in central Paris; the main campus is located in Porte Dauphine near the famous Arc de Triomphe and hosts 8,500 students and a faculty of 500 teachers. There is also a small school of journalism and one business center in the heart of the Parisian business district, La Defense. Proclaiming a “resolutely international outlook”, Université Paris Dauphine boasts a student body comprised of 30% international students, with half of all PhD students being international.
Note: This article was originally published in November 2013. It was updated in November 2014 to incorporate the latest QS World University Rankings.