France’s leading universities are expanding their campuses abroad

France is known and recognized for the quality of its higher education. More and more foreign students are coming to France to study and French universities are expanding throughout the world.


French-educated mathematicians are popular with the leading banks of the City and Wall Street, our engineers work on major projects worldwide and our sales and marketing specialists are “exported” to all four corners of the globe. Meanwhile, it has long been the case that many foreigners wish to study for a time in Paris, Lyon, Toulouse or Bordeaux, so as to gain a qualification from a renowned university. In 2013, 300,000 foreign students, making up over 12% of France’s student population, completed a portion of their studies in our country, making France the third most popular host country for foreign students, after the United States and the United Kingdom. According to figures published by UNESCO, these young people come from the Maghreb, China and India, as well as the European Union, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Africa. They mainly take courses in scientific fields (nearly 36%), information technology (20%) and management (19%).

However, it is no longer necessary for Chinese, Japanese or Emirati students to expatriate in order to gain a French qualification. This is because a growing number of French universities are setting up branches abroad, especially in Asia, to provide courses just like those offered in France.

Top destination: Asia

China seems particularly popular with French universities. Polytech Nantes has had a branch in Canton since 2011, while École Centrale has a branch in Beijing where classes are held in French (741 students in 2014), has had one in Hyderabad (India) since 2013 (231 students) and plans to inaugurate a new campus in Casablanca (Morocco) in September 2015. EM Lyon has a campus in East China Normal University in Shanghai, with 600 students. The business schools SKEMA and KEDGE have chosen Suzhou, a city with over 10 million inhabitants in eastern China. HEC business school teaches its MBA not only in Paris, but also in Beijing, Shanghai and Saint Petersburg. The engineering school ParisTech Shanghai Jiao Tong, meanwhile, was born of a strategic partnership between ParisTech and Jiao Tong University in Shanghai. This school was financed by Chinese capital and inaugurated on 26 April 2013 by President François Hollande. As for students in Japan, they can take courses at the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées and Sciences Po. Montpellier Business School and IAE Montpellier School of Management, which is part of Montpellier University, offer a triple qualification in partnership with the Graduate Business School of Burapha University in Thailand. The Institut Catholique d’Arts et Métiers (ICAM) has gone even further, opening an engineering and technology school in partnership with Loyola College in 2010, in Chennai, the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu in south-eastern India. The school currently has 1609 students spread across four year groups.


ESSEC Business School led the way thirty years ago when it established a partnership with Keio University in Japan. It moved up a gear in 2005 by opening its own campus in Singapore, where 4413 students and professionals (July 2014 figures) receive high-quality teaching, in English, by professors from France and across the world. Another establishment had already taken the plunge a few years earlier in the city-state: INSEAD inaugurated a school with a capacity of 53 MBA students per year in October 1999. The “Asia Campus” of this famous management school has expanded over the years and now provides teaching to over 385 students each year. The efforts made by Singapore to become the focal point for education in Asia have paid off, as other prestigious French universities such as EDHEC, Dauphine and Panthéon-Assas have also chosen to set up branches in this small country, which occupies just 648km2.

The Gulf is pushing ahead, with Africa close behind

The Persian Gulf region is also on the way to becoming a popular destination for French schools. HEC offers courses in Doha in Qatar and INSEAD set up a campus in Abu Dhabi in 2010 and has offered MBAs since 2013. Paris Sorbonne University is also present in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, with a campus that hosts 700 students from 75 different countries each year.

ICAM, meanwhile, trains engineers on its campuses in Pointe-Noire in the Congo and Douala in Cameroon. “French-style” education remains highly acclaimed...

— Marco Rangi

N.B.: The claims and opinions contained in this article, which aims to provide information on contemporary France, have no official value.

Dernière modification : 26/01/2015

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