PhD in France – Complete Guide

PhD in France – Complete Guide

France is known for its elite universities and excellent higher education system. It is not surprising that France boasts the fourth-highest number of Nobel laureates in the world (68) and the second highest-rated student city (Paris).

Producing influential minds such as Descartes, Laplace and Monet, the French higher education system attracts the most significant number of international students in mainland Europe. This is due to its well-funded institutions, affordable fees and excellent PhD research opportunities.

  • Do your Phd from abroad

This blog will cover everything you need to know about pursuing a post-doctoral program from France.

Why choose France for your PhD?

Let us run you through some of the reasons why France is the best choice for your PhD in 2021.

  • Affordability – the French state covers most of the students’ fees at public institutions (regardless of nationality), resulting in significantly lower tuition costs than many other countries.
  • Welcoming to international students – 12% of students in France are international – not surprising given the number of scholarships to attract the top foreign minds for PhD study.
  • Unique higher education system – the French higher education system also features large networks of smaller institutions, offering the benefits of highly specialised universities and a wide range of resources.
  • Leisure and tourism – France repeatedly identifies as the number 1 destination in the world for international tourists due to its rich culture and historical sites

Course Highlights of PhD in France

Here are some critical details of the PhD program for your easy understanding:

Nobel prizes68
Oldest UniversitySuccessors to The University of Paris (c. 1160-1793)
International Students229,623
PhD Duration3-4 years
Typical Fees€380 per year (public institutions)
Academic YearSeptember to June

PhD structure

Since the Bologna Process adoption in 1999, a doctorate (doctorat) in France is a third-cycle degree.

It is usually completed after a Masters (or similar second-cycle qualification) and is intended for students who demonstrate the necessary aptitude to pursue substantial independent research projects.

PhD programmes

Although French universities sometimes advertise specific doctoral research projects, most PhDs are part of a doctoral school programme.

Moreover, there are 266 of these. They are further affiliated with universities and collaborate with associated research laboratories and other centres to provide doctoral training for PhD candidates and develop early career researchers.

Programme length

A ‘doctorat’ is composed of six semesters for a standard 3-year PhD, resulting in two teaching/research semesters per year:

  • Autumn semester – late September-January with a holiday around Christmas and New Year
  • Spring semester – early February-June with some institutions having a spring break at Easter

Institutions typically have exams at the end of each semester and a three-month summer holiday from July-September.

You will usually be studying for your PhD in France for 3-4 years as a full-time student.

PhD fees in France

Fees are significantly lower at public institutions as they invest on an average of €14,000 per student per annum.

You can expect to pay the following depending upon your institution:

  • Public institutes – fees for doctoral students are €380 per year.
  • Private institutes – fees in private institutes, especially business schools, are typically high and cost between €3,000-10,000 per year.

Universities may charge administrative fees, which are typically low as ten euros.

PhD in the USA for Indian Students with Scholarship

The application process for a PhD

The application process is different depending upon your nationality.

For EU students, there are no specific pre-application procedures to go through. Further, you must contact your chosen doctoral school or supervisor and apply to the institution directly.

If you are applying for an advertised project, then you should simply follow the application procedure. You will typically need to provide the following materials with your application:

  • Academic transcripts – Certified copies of your degree contents and qualification certificates, with original stamps. Your transcript may have to be translated into French and approved by a lawyer.
  • Research proposal – If you are applying directly to a doctoral school rather than an advertised project, you will have to submit a research proposal.
  • References – You will usually need to provide at least two academic references who have had experience working with you.

The national closing date for applications at public universities for all candidates is January 31st.

Eligibility requirements

Each institution in France is free to set its criteria and make assessments on an individual basis. However, you will typically be required to have a Masters’ degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject to be enrolled as a PhD student.

You may apply if you are working towards your Masters’ degree and graduated before the doctoral programme start date.

You may also be admitted based on performance in entrance exams and preparatory classes conducted by universities separately.

Language requirements

Most PhD programmes in France are delivered in French, with language requirements set individually by institutions. But some may require international students to produce a thesis abstract in French (with the rest of the thesis written in their native language) as part of their final assessment.

Candidates will have to sit a French proficiency test unless they have studied in a country where French is one of the official languages or already has a proficiency certificate.

It is recommended that you learn basic French levels, even if your PhD is delivered in English. This will allow you to communicate well.

Below we have answered some questions related to pursuing your PhD in France, which might help you resolve your queries.

PhD After B.Tech. : Is It Really Possible?


Q1. Can I work in France after my PhD?

The regulations for working in France after your studies is dependent upon your nationality.

Students from the EU/EEA can work in France without a work permit after graduating. Other international students can apply for a non-renewable temporary residency authorisation (APS) which is valid for 6-months after the expiry of your student’s residence permit. Your APS allows you to work in any job for 60% of the official workweek.

Q2. Is PhD free in France?

Ans. The new tuition fees for international students, starting September 2019, are 2,770 euros per year for Bachelor’s programmes, 3,770 euros per year for Master’s programmes, 380 euros per year for a Doctorate course (same as that for Europeans).

Q3. Is a PhD stipend taxable in France?

Ans. You will receive benefits such as a PhD salary and social security. However, you will also be subject to income tax. The contract is for 3-years and is renewable for 1-year. There are two types of contract resulting in two salary levels: research only (lower pay grade) and research + professional tasks (teaching).

This was our complete guide on PhD in France. Furthermore, we hope we were able to resolve any queries you might have had.

Good luck!