Number of students enrolled in higher education in France 1980-2018

In 2018, more than 2.6 million students were enrolled in a higher education structure in France. Since 1980, the number of students has more than doubled. That year there were more than 1.18 million students in higher education in the country, compared to 2.16 million in 2000 and this number has kept rising since then. In 2018, Eurostat has shown that almost 80 percent of individuals aged 25 and over had attained a upper secondary or tertiary education in France.

The democratization of higher education in France

The rising number of students registered in higher education in France shows that higher education has become more accessible and widespread within the French population. French public universities are financed by the State and welcomed more than 1.4 million students in 2017, of which the majority were following a degree course in Art and Humanities. In comparison, only 796,100 students were registered at university in France in 1980. The same increase in the number of students has been seen in preparatory classes for entrance to the selective engineering, business or management schools called Grandes Ecoles.

The limits of the attractiveness of the French education system

No French higher education institutes or universities was found in the ranking by Times Higher Education on the top European Universities in 2018-2019. Despite having 620 universities in 2018, France appears to be struggling when it comes to reach the top best universities in Europe. Public spending could explain the difficulties French universities have, compared to their British counterparts for example. Even though more trainings are now provided in English, French language could also have been an obstacle to attract international prestige. However, France welcomed more than 50 thousand students from the European Union and the European Economic Area in 2012.

Number of students registered in higher education in France between 1980 and 2018

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Release date

August 2019



Survey time period

1980 to 2018

Special properties

Metropolitan France and overseas

Supplementary notes

* Provisional data.

Figures for year 2005 and 2013 were previously published by the source.

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Statistics on "Millennials in France"

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