The true City of Lights (regardless of what Las Vegas or Johannesburg have to say on the matter), Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world, and commonly regarded as one of the most beautiful. From the patisseries and cafés, to the imposing architecture and famous fashion sense, the richness of Parisian culture and history is evident everywhere.
Add in the city’s impressive selection of internationally ranked universities, and it’s not so surprising to find Paris heading the latest QS Best Student Cities index, ahead of Melbourne and London. If you’re ready to pack your bags and head to the French capital, check out these 10 top universities in Paris, based on the QS World University Rankings® 2016-2017.
École Normale Superieure (ENS Paris) is the highest-ranked among top universities in Paris and in France overall, placed at 33rd in the world in the latest QS World University Rankings. Situated in the scholastic Latin Quarter just west of the Seine in central Paris, 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.
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 alumni community that includes 13 Nobel Prize winners, as well as all eight French Fields Medals winners – the most coveted prize for young mathematicians.
Ranked joint 53rd in the world, École Polytechnique (ParisTech) is a founding member of ParisTech (an affiliated group of colleges focusing on science and business subjects) and receives its highest rank in the QS World University Rankings by Subject for mathematics, at 18th place.
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!
The Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC), ranked joint 141st in the world, 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 34,000 students, of which 20% are international students, and a faculty of 9,600 staff, of which 80% are in research structures. 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.
The Institute d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, commonly known as Sciences Po Paris, specializes in the humanities and social sciences, with approximately 35% of its budget being used to fund research in these subjects. Currently ranked 220th in the world, Sciences Po offers a total of seven campuses across France, home to 13,000 students overall, of whom 47% are international.
Sciences Po Paris’s main campus is located in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area of the capital, 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.
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 original University of Paris.
Ranked 221st in the world overall, the Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) has a current enrollment of 21,000 students. Within the QS World University Rankings by Subject, it ranks particularly well for subjects within the arts and humanities, receiving its highest rank for modern languages (11th).
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.
The Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne is currently ranked joint 228th in the world, up 12 places from last year. Having inherited the faculty of law and economics from the University of Paris, the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne is another prestigious institution for arts and humanities subjects, placing 12th in the new archaeology ranking.
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.
Ranked joint 241st in the world in the latest QS World University Rankings, Université Paris-Sud 11 prides itself on its wide scope of multidisciplinary courses, and is spread across four campuses in the southern suburbs of Paris. The scientific campus in Orsay is the furthest from the city, set on 200 hectares of land which include woodlands and a botanical garden. While the Orsay campus is a 40-minute drive from central Paris, Université Paris-Sud 11’s medical school is much closer, in an area called Le Kremlin-Bicêtre, which is just an hour’s walk from the city center.
With its new campus located a few streets down from the National Library of France on the banks of the Seine, Université Paris Diderot, otherwise known as Paris 7, is currently ranked joint 262nd 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, means that Université Paris Diderot may appeal particularly to students who are looking to combine an urban environment with a little more calm and space. It has a community of over 26,000 students, 20% of whom are international, and inherited the University of Paris’s distinguished faculty of science. While known for its high standards of research in this field, it’s also strong across a wide range of subjects, including medicine, dentistry, art and humanities and the social sciences.
One of the founding members of the ParisTech group, the École des Ponts ParisTech is now ranked at 268th in the world, a good climb from the previous year’s position of joint 314th. 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 in other areas of the city. A relatively small community, the École des Ponts ParisTech enrolls just over 2,000 students, of which a quarter are female.
Also improving its position this year is the Université Paris Dauphine, up 13 places to rank joint 356th. 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 10,000 students and a faculty of 580 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”, 30% of Université Paris Dauphine’s student body are from outside France.
And a bonus…
In addition to the 10 top universities in Paris, you might also want to consider Université Paris Descartes, up 10 places to rank joint 377th in this year’s QS World University Rankings. Named after 17th century philosopher René Descartes, Université Paris Descartes inherited the University of Paris’ medical department. This legacy is still in evidence, with the institution ranking within the top 150 for both pharmacy and medicine in the latest QS World University Rankings by Subject. With a student body of 38,900 and a faculty of just under 3,500 teachers and researchers, Université Paris Descartes is the only university in Paris (and the whole Ile-de-France region) that teaches medicine, pharmacy and dentistry all in one institution. Like many of the top universities in Paris, it’s situated in the city’s Latin Quarter.
Find out more about studying in France with our complete guide.
Note: This article was originally published in November 2013. It was last updated in September 2016 to incorporate the latest QS World University Rankings results.