Top Ten Best Universities in France

The land of love and the home of croissants, France not only excels in giving off a classical vibe, but the country also has a reputation for being home to some of the most prestigious universities in the world.

Ten(10) French institutions are among the top 100 in the QS World University Rankings. This article reveals the top ten best universities in France, based on the QS World University Rankings. These rankings take into consideration the academic standing, research developments, and employer reputation of the universities. The list is in descending order:

10. ENS Paris-Saclay

ENS Paris-Saclay(The École normale supérieure Paris-Saclay or Normale Sup’ Paris-Saclay), formerly called ENS Cachan, was established in 1892 and is a constituent member of Paris-Saclay University.

Located in Gif-sur-Yvette within the Essonne near Paris, Île-de-France, France, the institution ranks 291st in the world after climbing up 21 places on the previous ranking in QS World University Rankings 2020. 

The institution, along with three other écoles normales supérieures in France, makes up a group of institutions that represent the top level of research and academia among other institutions in the French higher education system. 

The university has produced notable alumni such as:

  • Alain Aspect (French physicist)
  • Erwan Dianteill (French cultural anthropologist)
  • Marie-Noëlle Lienemann (French politician)
  • Éloïc Peyrache (French economist)
  • Gabriel Zucman (French economist)
  • Philippe Aghion (French economist)

The above list is not exhaustive. 

9. Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

The university was created in 1971 as an exit of two faculties of the University of Paris. Its motto is “Omnibus Sapientia, Unicuique Excellentia,” and has an administrative staff of 2,770 and an enrollment of more than 40,000 students.

It ranks a joint 287th in the QS World University Rankings 2021. Currently, the institution focuses on economic and management sciences, human sciences, and legal and political sciences.

The university has produced notable alumni such as:

  • Jean-Louis Borloo: former minister, LLB
  • Hazem El Beblawi: Former Prime Minister of Egypt
  • Olivia Fox Cabane: Author, business consultant, and public speakers
  • Alexander Stubb: Former Prime Minister of Finland
  • Jean-Pierre Thiollet: Writer
  • Michel Serres: Philosopher

8. Université de Paris

Also known as the Sorbonne and located in the city of Paris, the foundation of the university was created by merging the Université Paris Descartes, Université Paris Diderot (Paris 7), and the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (The Paris Institute of Earth Physics, IPGP).

Its motto is Hic et ubique terrarum(meaning, Here and Anywhere on Earth). Its history of establishments is as follows: founded around 1150, suppressed in 1793, had its faculties reestablished in 1806, the university was re-established in 1896 and then divided into 13 autonomous universities in 1970 due to the civil unrest of the country in May 1968. 

On the QS World University Rankings 2021 list, the institution ranks a joint 275th place. It has notable alumni, some of who are:

  • Edith Philips, American writer, and educator
  • Paul Biya, President of Cameroon
  • Marie Curie, Scientist
  • Riad Al Solh First Prime-minister of Lebanon
  • Carlos Alvarado-Larroucau, writer

7. Sciences Po Paris

Ranking a joint 242nd on the QS World University Rankings 2021, the institution is one of the most prestigious in  France, with a focus on the humanities such as economics, law, social sciences, etc.

The university(also called The Paris Institute of Political Studies) was established in 1872 and is a grand école. With an enrollment of about 14,000 students, the university has made a name in the political sciences and has produced notable alumni such as:

  • Emmanuel Macron(French president)
  • François Delattre (currently Permanent Representative of France to the UN)

6. École des Ponts ParisTech

Founded by Celia Russo in 1987, the institution is essentially the business school of École des Ponts ParisTech. Located in Paris, France, it offers business degree programmes such as undergraduate programmes, Global Executive MBA (EMBA), a Full-Time Masters in Business Administration (MBA), an Executive Doctorate in Business Administration etc. 

The institution seeks to develop global leaders and resourceful individuals in the international business world. It ranks 242nd on the QS World University Rankings 2021. 

5.  École Normale Supérieure de Lyon

The  École Normale Supérieure de Lyon is one of the four prestigious and world-renowned écoles normales supérieures in France and is one of the leading institutions in research. It has two academic branches: Sciences and Arts, both of which are located in Lyon. The motto of the university is: “L’enseignement par la recherche, pour la recherche,” meaning: “Education through research, for research,” in English. 

With a focus on the humanities and sciences, the university ranks 161st on the QS World University Rankings 2021 and is one of France’s first five universities. With several investments in games of the facility and human capital in research, the university has made a name in the research/academic sector of France. 

4.  CentraleSupélec

Ranking 138th in the QS World University Ranking 2021, CentraleSupélec is a research-intensive university with a focus on engineering. Established on 1 January 2015 as a merger between École Centrale Paris and Supélec, the institution is now a member of the Paris-Saclay University.

3. Sorbonne University

Ranking 83rd in the QS World University Rankings 2021, Sorbonne University was established as a merger between Paris-Sorbonne University and Pierre and Marie Curie University in 2018. Although the university’s legal status as “Sorbonne University” was attained in 2018, in actuality, the institution’s legacy began as Sorbonne College, which dates as far back as 1257.

The university boasts of alumni and professors who are recipients of won Nobel Prizes, 6 Fields Medals, and one Turing Award, some of which are(in order of dates):

  • Emmanuelle Charpentier – PhD – Nobel in Chemistry – 2020
  • Yann LeCun – Ph.D. – Turing Award – 2018
  • Gérard Mourou – PhD – Nobel in Physics – 2018

The motto of the university is “Créateurs de futurs depuis 1257,” meaning “Creators of futures since 1257,” in English. 

2. Ecole Polytechnique (ParisTech)

Located in Palaiseau, France, Ecole Polytechnique is one of France’s first five institutions. It ranks a joint 68th place in the QS World University Rankings 2021. It is the founding member of the reputable ParisTech collegiate university. Its motto is: “Pour la Patrie, les Sciences et la Gloire”, which means “For the Homeland, Science, and Glory” in English. It was established in 1794 and has produced many notable alumni since then. 

1. Paris Sciences et Lettres Research University (PSL)

The Paris Sciences et Lettres Research University (PSL) ranks 52nd in the QS World University Rankings and 1st in France. Located in Paris, France, the university was founded in 2010 and attained the formal legal status of a university in 2019. Its motto is: “Sapere Aude”, which means “Dare to Know” in English. 


France is known for having some of the finest universities in the world as well as some of the oldest, many of which are globally renowned. The above list of the ten best universities in France presents the universities according to their ratings and educational standards.

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