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Top Universities in France

Top Universities in France main image

France boasts 39 entrants in the QS World University Rankings® 2018, 16 of which are ranked within the world’s top 400. Think you’d like to study in the land of croissants, champagne and camembert? Here’s a closer look at the country’s top 10 universities.

1. Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris (ENS Paris)

ENS Paris

Ranked first among the top universities in France this year and 43rd in the world in 2018, ENS Paris, founded in 1793, is one of France’s prestigious and competitive grandes écoles and is considered particularly strong in the humanities and sciences. The university’s alumni include 13 Nobel Laureates, as well as philosophers such as Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida.

2. Ecole Polytechnique (ParisTech)

École Polytechnique

École Polytechnique is ranked 59th in the world in 2018 and is the founding member of the ParisTech collegiate university, which specializes in science and business courses. Located 30km outside the Paris city center, the campus offers 120 hectares of green space for its 4,600 students to enjoy.

3. Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC)

Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC)

Up 10 places to rank 131st in the world, UPMC was founded in 1971 when the former University of Paris split into separate institutions, and is now the largest scientific and medical complex in France. It has around 34,000 students, of which 20% are international.

4. École Normale Supérieure de Lyon

 École Normale Supérieure de Lyon

Continuing to improve its position globally, École Normale Supérieure de Lyon is ranked 157th in the world this year, up 20 places from last year. Another of the grande écoles, École Normale Supérieure de Lyon is an elite public institution which trains researchers and teachers in the humanities and sciences.

5. CentraleSupélec


CentraleSupélec is ranked joint 164th in the world in 2018 and was formed by the 2015 merger of École Centrale Paris and the Supélec graduate school of engineering. It’s a founding member of the Université Paris-Saclay, an association of research-intensive French universities.

6. Sciences Po

Sciences Po

Sciences Po, a university that specializes in law, economics, social science, politics, history and related fields, retains its position of 220th in the world in 2018. It has around 13,000 students, of which almost half are international, representing 150 nationalities.

7. Université Grenoble-Alpes

 Université Grenoble-Alpes

The Université Grenoble-Alpes is ranked joint 236th in the world this year, and was formed as recently as January 2016, again through a merger, but its founding institutions date back much further – as far as 1339 in the case of Pierre Mendès-France University.

8. Université Paris-Sud 11

Université Paris-Sud 11

Université Paris-Sud 11, another Parisian institution, is spread across four campuses in the southern suburbs of the city. It’s particularly renowned for its science and mathematics courses and is ranked 242nd in the world in 2018.

9. Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

Ranked 269th in the world, the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne was also formed as a result of the former University of Paris being divided. It’s now one of the country’s largest universities, with around 40,000 students. It will merge with UPMC to create the new Sorbonne University in January 2018.

10. École des Ponts ParisTech

École des Ponts ParisTech

The final of the top 10 universities in France is École des Ponts ParisTech, which is ranked joint 270th in the world this year. One of the smaller French universities, just over 2,000 students study here. The university is another founding member of ParisTech.

Université de Strasbourg

The remaining top universities in France are:

  1. Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) – ranked joint 293rd in the world
  2. Université de Strasbourg – ranked 303rd in the world
  3. Université Paris Diderot - Paris 7 – ranked joint 305th in the world
  4. Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan– ranked 330th in the world
  5. Université Paris Dauphine – ranked joint 355th in the world
  6. Université de Montpellier – ranked 381st in the world

After the top 400, the ranking continues in ranges, starting at 401-410, continuing up to 801-1000. Click here for more information.

  1. Université Aix-Marseille – ranked 411-420 in the world
  2. Université Paris Descartes– ranked 441-450 in the world
  3. Institut National des Sciences Appliquées de Lyon (INSA) – ranked 451-460 in the world

Three French universities are ranked 501-550, making them joint 20th in France:

=20. Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1

=20. Université de Bordeaux

=20. Université Paul Sabatier Toulouse III

=23. Université Lille 1, Sciences et Technologie – ranked 551-600 in the world

=23. Université Panthéon-Assas (Paris 2) – ranked 551-600 in the world

  1. Université Nice Sophia-Antipolis – ranked 601-650 in the world
  2. Université de Rennes 1 – ranked 651-700 in the world

The next four universities are ranked 751-800, making them joint 27th in France:

=27. Université de Lorraine

=27. Université de Nantes

=27. Université Lumière Lyon 2

=27. Université Toulouse 1, Capitole

Université de Poitiers

Finally, the remaining nine French universities are all ranked 801-1000 in the world, making them joint 31st in France:

=31. Université Charles-de-Gaulle Lille 3

=31. Université de Caen Basse-Normandie

=31. Université de Cergy-Pontoise

=31. Université de Poitiers

=31. Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3

=31. Université Lille 2 Droit et Santé

=31. Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense

=31. Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3

=31. University Toulouse – Jean Jaurès

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This article was originally published in September 2016. It was updated in June 2017.

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Written by Sabrina Collier
Sabrina is a content writer for, providing guidance on a wide range of topics. A graduate of Aberystwyth University, Sabrina is originally from the West Midlands but now lives in London. 

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