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Comparing the Top Universities in France: Université PSL vs École Polytechnique

Universities in France: Main image

Université PSL (Paris Science & Lettres) and École Polytechnique are the two top universities in France this year.  

The newly released QS World University Rankings® 2021 saw Universitié PSL rise one place to rank 52nd this year, while École Polytechnique fell eight places to 68th.

So, how do these two top universities in France compare, and how can you decide which is the best choice for you? Below we have a brief comparison of the two, followed by a more in-depth look at the similarities and differences.

 

Université PSL

École Polytechnique

QS World University Rankings® 2021

Ranked 52nd in the world overall in 2021

Rated 73rd in the world by academics and 20th by employers

20th for faculty/student ratio

421st for research impact (citations per faculty member)

280th for percentage of international students; 202nd for percentage of international faculty members

Ranked 68th in the world overall in 2021

Rated 195th in the world by academics and 15th by employers

31st for faculty/student ratio

178th for research impact (citations per faculty member)

129th for percentage of international students; 45th for percentage of international faculty members

Subject strengths, based on the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020

Ranked among the world’s best for 37 subjects; in the top 50 for eight of these.

14th in the world for mathematics.

19th in the world for mineral and mining engineering and philosophy

21st in the world for statistics and operations

Joint 26th in the world for natural sciences.

Ranked among the world’s best for 14 subjects; in the top 50 for four of these.

 Joint 26th in the world for natural sciences.

Joint 27th in the world for mathematics.

34th in the world for mechanical engineering.

Joint 37th in the world for physics and astronomy

Location

Located in the heart of France’s capital city, Paris.

Located in Palaiseau, a suburb 20km south of Paris.

Student community

Around 17,000 students in total, of which about 5,800 are bachelor’s students, 11,200 are postgraduate students

Source: PSL Quick Facts

Around 2,880 students in total, of which about 500 are bachelor’s students, 250 master’s students and 130 PhD students, 2,000 engineer candidates

Tuition fees & living costs

 

In France, for undergraduate programs, standard fees are €170 per year for EEA students and €2,770 per year (approx. US$3127) for international students

Master’s programs cost €243 per year for EEA students and €3,770 per year (approx. US$4260) for international students.

All PhD students pay €380 (approx. US$429)

Standard fees for undergraduate, master’s and doctorate students on all courses except Ingénieur Polytechnicien international students

 

Full time Ingénieur Polytechnicien international students are required to pay tuition fees for the entire duration of their studies. 

 

For EU students, fees are €3,500 for year one and €7,750 for each of years two and three.

 

For non-EU students, fees are €7,000 for year one and €15,500 for each of years two and three

 

Scholarships & loans

 

Various scholarships and grants available for international students.

Various scholarships and grants available for international students.

QS World University Rankings® 2021

ecole_polytechnique

In the latest edition of the QS World University Rankings, France’s top two universities rank within the top 100, with Université PSL in 52nd place and Ecole Polytechnique in 68th.

Both of France’s top universities boast exceptional global reputations amongst employers and academics alike.

Université PSL’s slight lead is largely due to the strength of its academic reputation. In the large global surveys of academics and employers conducted by QS, Université PSL is currently rated 73rd in the world by academics and 20th by employers. In contrast École Polytechnique ranks continues to lag a little behind, at 195th in the world for employer reputation. However, it narrowly beats PSL in the academic reputation indicator, ranking 15th worldwide. 

Despite École Polytechnique’s significantly lower student intake, PSL claims the slightly stronger score for faculty/student ratio – a measure based on the number of full-time academic staff employed per student – which may suggest its students can expect more individual contact-time. Both universities score well for this indicator however, with PSL in 20th place and École Polytechnique in 31st.

École Polytechnique claims a significantly higher score for research impact (based on research citations per faculty member), ranking 178th worldwide, compared to PSL’s 421st place.

École Polytechnique also outperforms PSL in the international faculty and international students indicators, ranking 129th and 45th respectively. These indicators reflect the universities’ success in attracting academics and students from across the world. PSL ranks 280th for its international faculty and 202nd for the international diversity of its student population. 

Subject strengths 

PSL

The QS World University Rankings by Subject – which ranks universities in five broad subject areas and 48 subjects – reflects the focus on technical and scientific disciplines shared by both of France’s leading universities.

In this year’s ranking, PSL features 37 different subjects with 22 of these in the world top 100 and EPFL offers 14 subjects, with seven of these in the world top 100.

See how the two universities compare across the different subject areas below.

PSL and École Polytechnique in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021

 

PSL

École Polytechnique

Accounting & finance

=49th

--

Agriculture & forestry

151-200

--

Anthropology

51-100

--

Arts and humanities

=76th

--

Biological sciences

51-100

351-400

Business and management

51-100

--

Chemistry

101-150

151-200

Communication and Media

151-200

--

Computer science

39th

51-100

Earth & marine sciences

101-150

--

Economics

51-100

51-100

Engineering (chemical)

51-100

101-150

Engineering (civil)

101-150

--

Engineering (electrical)

101-150

101-150

Engineering (mechanical)

51-100

34th

Engineering & technology

65th

=57th

English Language & Literature

101-150

--

Environmental sciences

151-200

301-350

Geography

151-200

--

History

51-100

--

Law

151-200

--

Life Sciences & medicine

=144th

--

Linguistics

101-150

--

Mathematics

14th

=27th

Medicine

101-150

--

Materials Science

51-100

101-150

Natural Sciences

=26th

=26th

Philosophy

19th

--

Physics

37th

=37th

Politics

151-200

--

Psychology

19th

--

Sociology

51-100

--

Social Sciences & management

68th

213th

Statistics

21st

--

Location

Paris Eiffel Tower

Located in the heart of Paris, PSL’s campus is the ideal setting for an enriching student experience. Throughout the year, cultural, artistic and sporting events bring the campus to life and create a warm and fulfilling environment for each and every student. There are also plenty of arts, science and music events across Paris to get involved with, and countless restaurants to enjoy.

PSL has excellent transport links, with 14 Metro lines, five RER light-rail lines and hundreds of city bus lines making it easy to travel around Paris. There are also plenty of bike lanes around campus to encourage cycling.

École Polytechnique, in contrast, is generally a bit quieter, located approximately 20km south of Paris, on a campus spanning almost 160 hectares.

There are a range of events held on campus, from scientific seminars, shows, exhibitions and Heritage Days. The school is located in the middle of the Paris-Saclay research and business cluster, which may account for at least part of its excellent employment reputation score.

You can travel to and from the university using the Massy-Palaiseau station or the Lozère station, using buses that connect the station to the campus. 

Tuition fees and living costs 

France’s fees are relatively low for domestic, EU and international students, compared to those in countries such as the US or the UK. However, since Autumn 2019, international students have paid higher tuition fees than domestic students at French universities.

If you are from France or a resident of a country within the EEA, you will be charged €170 per year for bachelor’s programs, €243 per year for master’s programs, €601 per year for engineering courses, €380 per year for PhD programs.

For international students you will need to pay €2,770 (approx. US$3,130) for bachelor’s programs, €3,770 per year (approx. US$4,260) for master’s programs, €380 per year (approx. US$430) for PhD programs. 

At École Polytechnique, tuition fees for students studying Ingénieur Polytechnicien programs are different depending on which year you’re in. For EU undergraduate students the cost of studying is €19,000 for three years: €3,500 for year one and €7,750 each for years two and three. For non-EU students, fees will cost €38,000 overall (approx. US$42,900):  €7,000 in year one (approx. US$7,900), €15,000 in year two (approx. US$16,930) and €15,000 in year three.

French students at École Polytechnique have the option to serve under military status and receive payment for the duration for their studies. There are no study costs for these French students, but they do have to work for the civil service for at least 10 years within the 20 years following graduation.

The overall cost of living in Paris is notoriously high, with a one-bedroom apartment in the city center costing you around €1,177 per month (approx. US$1,325).

Scholarships and loans 

There are a variety of scholarships and grants available for international students and domestic students alike, both government-funded and non-government funded.

The French Foreign Ministry awards many scholarships to international students. These include the Eiffel Scholarship program of excellence for students at master’s and PhD level and Major programs for international students who have graduated from French high schools abroad. Many of these scholarships are provided by French embassies abroad.

The ERASMUS + offers financial assistance which partly covers travel and subsistence expenses.

France also offers the Excellence-Major Scholarships Program which helps international students attend university for up to five years in France. 

PSL recommends using  Campus France grant search engine to search for grants you might be eligible for. You can also search for scholarships here. You can find out about PSL’s available funding opportunities here.

École Polytechnique offers several scholarships for international students, which you can view here.

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Which of these top universities in France will you choose? Let us know in the comments below.

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Written by Chloe Lane
A Content Writer for TopUniversities.com, Chloe has a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK. 

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