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 the most beautiful. Whether it’s the pastry, the architecture or the fashion, the richness of Paris’s history and culture is evident everywhere. It is also home to many of the world’s greatest philosophers of the past and present, such as Sartre and Foucault, great authors from Rousseau to Dumas, and pioneers of modern thought like feminist writer Hélène Cixous and deconstructivist Jacques Derrida.
Having played a key part in many movements in literature, art and politics throughout many centuries, Paris remains the hub of the French economy and culture. Most notably perhaps, for those looking to study, is the historic University of Paris, which was founded in the 12th century and became an institution of outstanding credentials before splitting into 13 different specialist universities in 1970 and scattering around the city, each still holding world-leading academic status.
It is for these and many more reasons, that Paris topped the QS Best Student City Rankings 2012 as the number one student city in the world, just beating London to the number one spot. Ready to pack your bags and head to France? Have a look at the top ten universities in Paris, and what each has to offer:
École Normale Superieure, Paris (ENS Paris)
ENS Paris is France’s top university and ranks at 28th in the world, according to the latest QS World University Rankings®. Situated in the scholastic Latin Quarter just left of the Seine in central Paris, ENS Paris is within walking distance of sights such as the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Jardin du Luxembourg, the second largest public park in Paris.
ENS also offers the only residential campus in central Paris, along with two more campuses in the city suburbs. A research-led institute, it’s counted among France’s prestigious grandes écoles and is particularly known for its Humanities and Science departments. ENS 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.
École Polytechnique ParisTech
École Polytechnique ParisTech (ranked 41= in the world) is a founding member of ParisTech (an affiliated group of colleges focusing on science and business subjects) and is ranked among the world’s top 50 universities for engineering and technology.
Although having once been situated in the Latin Quarter, the university 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 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.
Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC)
UPMC is ranked at 112th in the world and is one of the largest teaching institutes of science and medicine in Europe, with over 125 laboratories. Established in 1971 after the division of the famous University of Paris, UPMC has a community of 31,000 students including 6,000 international students and a faculty of 10,000 staff and 5,820 teacher-researchers. Divided amongst 18 different campuses in four French regions, UPMC’s central campus is located in the vibrant and historic Latin Quarter, neighboring the river Seine and the National Museum of Natural History.
Université Paris-Sud 11
Université Paris-Sud 11 (ranked 189= in the world) is comprised of four campuses in the southern suburbs of Paris. Most notably the scientific campus located in Orsay, the furthest from the city, is set in 200 hectares of land consisting of woods and a botanical garden. Paris-Sud University 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, Paris-Sud’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.
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 – Paris 7 (ranked 205= in the world) is a multidisciplinary urban university within the eastern limits of the city.
The relocation from the densely populated Latin Quarter, where many of the top universities in Paris are amassed together, means Université Paris Diderot, with a community of over 26,000 students including 6,000 foreign students, will be valuable to students who are looking to study and live in an urban environment but also want downtime and space on campus. The institute was an inheritor of the University of Paris’s distinguished faculty of science and is known for its standards of research in this field as well as in medicine, dentistry, art and humanities and the social sciences.
Sciences Po Paris
The Institute d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, otherwise known as Sciences Po Paris, specializes in the humanities and social sciences, and approximately 40% of its budget is used to fund research in these subjects. Ranked 214th in the world, the school’s seven campuses across France are home to 11,000 students, 42% of which are international.
Sciences Po campus is located in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area, 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 (Paris IV)
Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) is a co-founder of the Sorbonne University alliance (another collective of universities in Paris, which also includes UPMC) and an inheritor of the arts, languages and humanities faculties from the University of Paris.
Ranked 216= in the world and 32nd for arts and humanities, Paris IV enrolls 14,000 undergraduates and 10,000 graduate students every year. 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, such as operas, theater performances, poetry competitions, dance events and music gigs.
Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
The Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (ranked 225th in the world), having inherited the faculty of law and economics from the University of Paris, is ranked 54th in the world for social sciences. One of the largest universities in France, the school 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.
Université Paris Descartes
Named after 17th century philosopher René Descartes, the Université Paris Descartes (ranked 274= in the world) also gained something from the dissolution of the University of Paris, having inherited the medicine department, and currently stands at 57th in the world in the life sciences and medicine rankings. The university enrolls 38,900 students and has a faculty of 2,480 teachers and researchers and it is the only university in the Ile-de-France region that teaches medicine, pharmacy and dentistry. It is also situated in the Latin Quarter.
École des Ponts ParisTech
One of the founding members of the ParisTech group, École des Ponts ParisTech (ranked 299= in the world) is known for its culture of invention and innovation, and 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 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, École des Ponts enrols just over 2,000 students, a quarter of which are female.
And a bonus…
Université Paris Dauphine
That’s the top 10 universities in Paris, but as a bonus extra, you might also want to check out Université Paris Dauphine (ranked 358= in the world), 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”, the university can boast that 50% of its PhD students are international along with 30% of its student population as a whole.
Image credits: LPLT- ENS/Ecole Polytechnique; UPMC; Business Week; Mbzt - Paris Diderot; Sciences Po; Emmanuel Brunner - Paris Descartes; ENPC; Paris Dauphine.