REVEALED: Which French cities are most expensive for students?

Martin Greenacre
Martin Greenacre - [email protected]
REVEALED: Which French cities are most expensive for students?
Place de la Sorbonne in Paris. Photo: ERIC PIERMONT / AFP.

The French students' union Unef has published its annual report on the cost of living. While life is more expensive for most students, local policies have reduced housing and transport costs in certain cities.


The cost of living will be 2.5 percent higher for students in France in 2021-2022 than in the previous year, according to Unef. That represents an additional €20.61 of expenses every month.

The figures were published in two new reports released by Unef this week. The first looks at the evolution of the cost of living for French students, and the second breaks this down according to each university city.

No prizes for guessing which city will cost you the most.


Paris on top

Unsurprisingly, Paris is the most expensive city in France for students - those studying in the capital will have to shell out on average €1,277 each month, although costs have fallen 1.54 percent over the past year.

The Paris suburbs of Nanterre (€1,171) and Créteil (€1,134) come in second and third place, and the trend continues - nine of the ten most expensive towns are in the Paris region.

The one exception is Nice, in ninth place. That is partly due to the city's high rent prices, with the average student handing over €623 per month.

The cost of living increased most in the Paris suburb of Evry (5 percent), followed by Toulon (4.58 percent) and Angers (4.03 percent).


Huge disparities

Life is much more affordable in smaller towns. Of the 47 university towns evaluated, Limoges in west-central France was the cheapest, costing €793 per month. It was closely followed by Poitiers, St Etienne and Le Mans.

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Rent prices also vary wildly - in Le Mans, students pay on average €353 each month for housing, compared to €850 in the capital. The average student in France spends €551 on rent.

Public transport costs meanwhile range from €90 per year to €350 depending on where you live. You will have to fork over more than €300 In Île-de-France, Lille, Lyon and Dijon.

Impact of social measures

The reports did however highlight the positive impact of local policies aimed at helping students. These include rent control laws, which have resulted in the average rent students pay remaining more or less the same compared to last year, while in Paris rents fell by 3.95 percent.

Many cities have also introduced free or low-cost public transport for some or all students. According to Unef, transport prices fell by 6.3 percent for students eligible for a means-tested bourse (grant), and by 0.4 percent for the rest.

The difference is stark in certain towns such as Saint-Etienne, where transport costs fell almost by half from €213 to €110 per year, and Perpignan where they went from €149 to €90.

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Unef has called for rent controls to be extended to all university cities, "since this measure has already fully shown its effectiveness in the reduction of rent prices in Paris".

The students' union has also demanded an end to higher university fees for non-EU students.

Overall, Unef said the cost of living for students had increased by 10.72 percent since Emmanuel Macron became President in 2017, while students receive €39 less per year in government assistance.


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