rench Education System
Higher education in France
Did you know that each year France spends 20% of its national budget on education?
Thatís a lot of money and it means that French higher education can offer you the following advantages :
Programs in all fields and at every level
An exceptional network of 400 institutions of higher education and internationally renowned research centers
Degree programs and learning strategies adapted to every type of personal and professional goal
A system of public oversight that assures the quality of educational programs and confers internationally recognized degrees
Partial government funding for the educational program of every student !
An outline of French higher education
The French educational system is unique in offering students three complementary educational options :
University study
University degree programs provide general and specialized instruction at all levels in the principal fields of study. Such programs are offered by all 87 of Franceís prestigious universities some of which have been in existence for as many as 800 years.
Two types of university education...
General education is offered in all of the traditional academic disciplines: arts, sciences, law and medicine. Students acquire broad knowledge as they develop their capacity for critical thinking and independent inquiry.
Specialized training is offered in a wide range of fields including international trade, multimedia, computer science and management. Such programs provide professional training and are more selective than general educational programs. Students are prepared for professional life through internships built into the curriculum.
...Organized into three sequential stages :
University studies are organized into three successive levels or cycles. Upon successfully completing each level, the student receives a national diploma. This method of structuring the curriculum emphasizes flexibility and allows students to choose degree programs that meet their personal and professional goals.
The first level is the gateway into higher education and lasts two years. French students enter the university with the baccalauréat (bac), which signifies the successful completion of 12 years of primary and secondary education. Several short programs enable students to begin their professional careers after completing the first two years of postsecondary education.
The second level comprises one or two more years of study. Students prepare for further academic work in their chosen specialty or earn a degree that enables them to enter professional life.
At the third level students prepare for an academic career or do advanced professional work that will enable them to become a leader in their field. Studies at this level have great appeal for international students !
French universities are constantly widening the range of their programs often by creating specialized schools or institutes. In recent years, several universities have added engineering and management programs. Others have created centers for French-language studies.
Specialized institutions (Grandes Ecoles)
Advanced study programs found in schools of management engineering and political sciences offer specialized advanced study options for students with prior postsecondary education and experience.
The specialized institutions known as Grandes Ecoles are a unique feature of the French system of higher education. Designed to train executives administrators and managers the grandes écoles offer justly renowned education that is in high demand and highly demanding. Contrary to what their name implies most of the grandes écoles are small enrolling fewer than 1,000 students.
Students may enroll in the grandes écoles at several different levels enabling them to specialize after having received their initial training in France or abroad. The course of study requires from 1 to 3 years depending on the level at which the student enters the school.
Each school has its own admission requirements based on the applicantís prior degrees and academic record and on the results of the schoolís entrance examination.
Grandes Ecoles educate students in three fields :
Business and management
Political sciences
All of the grandes écoles (CGE)
Schools of business and management
More than 100 business schools throughout France offer upper-level training in management and finance.
Beginning from a common base the curriculum typically leads to a specialization such as auditing, finance, marketing, international trade, human resources or accounting.
Tuition varies widely but generally ranges between 3,000 and 6,000 Euros per year.
Management education in France (FNEGE)
Schools of engineering
Approximately 250 schools of engineering (some of which are housed within universities) offer a curriculum that is approved by a national commission. Some such as the Ecole Polytechnique the Ecole Centrale and the Ecole des Mines-train generalists whereas others follow a more specialized curriculum in a specific field such as aeronautics agronomy or electronics.
Most engineering schools require French applicants to pass an entrance examination but typically have parallel paths to admission for international students. In such cases, students are placed at a level determined by their prior studies in France and abroad.
Engineering schools may be public or private. Annual tuition is generally about 600 Euros.
Engineering schools in France (CEFI)
Institutes of Political Science (IEP)
Nine Institutes of political sciences-known familiarly as ďSciences PoĒ exist in France : Aix en Provence, Bordeaux, Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Paris, Rennes, Strasbourg and Toulouse.
The curriculum normally requires 3 years of study. In the first year students take core courses followed by 2 years of specialization in one of four tracks :
Public Service
Economics and Finance
Communication and Human Resources
International Relations
All nine institutes of political sciences accept students with sufficient prior training into the second year of the curriculum.
Specialized postsecondary schools
Specialized programs cover a wide range of disciplines such as art, architecture, agriculture and design. Public and private institutions offer programs of varying lengths and at different levels. Many such programs prepare students for professional practice in a specific field.
Specialized postsecondary institutions offer training that enables students to practice in specific professional areas such as Nursing, Special Education, journalism and theater.
For some of these professions (such as nursing) the specialized schools provide the only path to practice. For others (such as journalism) students may choose a specialized institution or another path (university, IUT, grande école).
Specialized public institutions are accredited by one of several ministries (Education, Health, Culture, Defense or Social Affairs). Chambers of Commerce and Industry accredit other specialized postsecondary institutions. Some of the specialized institutions are private.
Specialized institutions offer national diplomas in some areas (such as the allied health fields). In other areas diplomas may be unique to the institution that awards them.
In some fields such as business, tourism, communication, arts and media one finds large numbers of private institutions that very widely in quality. Prospective students are advised to obtain full information before enrolling. Find out when the school was founded how the curriculum is structured and how much it charges. Ask about the qualifications of the faculty and the jobs its graduates have found.
Remember ! The academic year runs from September to June in nearly all of Franceís institutions of higher education.
National diplomas awarded by the universities
Letís take a look at the national diplomas awarded by French universities. The curriculum leading to each of these degrees is the same from university to university because the French government sets it. That means that the quality of your program is guaranteed and your degree will be recognized regardless of the specific institution in which you choose to study.
French universities also offer other credentials that are specific to each institution and not regulated at the national level.
The most common national diplomas are listed below followed by a literal English translation.
Diplôme díEtudes Universitaires Générales
(DEUG - General university studies)
Diplôme Universitaire Scientifique et Technique
(DEUST University studies in science and technology)
Diplôme Universitaire de Technologie
(DUT Technical studies)
Diplôme des Instituts Universitaires Professionnalisme
(IUP Graduate of a university professional institute)
Maîtrise de Sciences et Techniques (MST)
Maîtrise de Sciences de gestion (MSG)
Diplôme díEtudes Supérieures Spécialisées
(DESS-Master's Specialized advanced studies)
Diplôme díEtudes Approfondies
(DEA Advanced studies)
Diplôme de Recherche Technologique
(DRT Technological research)
Diplôme díEtudes Universitaires Générales (DEUG General university studies)
Students earn the DEUG in 2 years of university study during which they focus on one major field (Languages, Sciences, Social Sciences...) and a minor field (Classics Earth Sciences...). The curriculum is divided into required and elective (optional) units of instruction.
What do students do after the DEUG. Most move up to the second level of university study ; some transfer to a school of engineering business or another speciality. The DEUG is not a professional degree ; that is it does not qualify students for professional practice.
Diplôme díEtudes Universitaire Scientifique et Technique (DEUST University Studies in Science and Technology)
The DEUST is a terminal professional degree granted after 2 years of study. The curriculum includes theoretical and practical studies as well as internships and practical training.
Diplôme Universitaire de Technologie (DUT Technical studies)
The DUT is awarded to upper-level technical students. The goal of the curriculum is to train managers possessing a thorough knowledge of all aspects of their technical specialty and able to perform a wide range of functions in their field.
The DUT requires the bac plus 2 years of study in a university institute of technology (IUT).
IUTs are public institutions affiliated with universities. In some cases a DUT may be earned in 1 year (called a ďspecial yearĒ) designed for students who have already completed 2 years of postsecondary education.
What happens after the DUT? Many students go on to specialized 1-year courses further studies in the university (usually to earn a professional degree) business school or engineering.
Licence (License)
The license (1 year of study after the DEUG) is the first stage in the second ďcycleĒ in the French university system. It is an intermediate degree that gives graduates access to masterís programs.
Many students enroll in a masterís program after earning their license. Some Grandes Ecoles (Engineering Schools, Institutes of Political Sciences and others) are open to holders of the license.
Earned in 1 year of study following the licence a masterís allows the student to pursue his or her chosen specialization through course work and research toward a thesis.
Students holding a masterís may enter the job market without further study.
Those who choose to continue their higher education enter the third level of university study or enroll in a Grande Ecole or other professional school (Business, Law, Engineering).
Diplôme des Instituts Universitaires Professionnalises (IUP Graduate of a university professional institute)
IUPs train business managers in 3 years of postsecondary study leading to a national diploma at each stage of the curriculum (a DEUG after 2 years a licence after 3 years a masterís after 4 years).
Admission is competitive and is based on the applicantís record. Continuation in the program sometimes depends on passing an exam after the first or second year.
The curriculum includes at least 6 months of practical training and leads to the terminal degree of
- Ingénieur Maître (Master Engineer).
- Maîtrise de Sciences et Techniques (MST Master of science and technology)
An MST is awarded to holders of the DEUG or equivalent following 2 years of further study. No intermediate degree (e.g. licence) is required. MSTs are purely professional degrees. Admission to MST programs is very selective.
- Maîtrise de Sciences de Gestion (MSG Master of management sciences)
Like the MST the MSG requires 2 years of study following the DEUG or equivalent and without an intermediate licence. MSG degrees are purely professional. Admission is very selective.
- Magister (Masterís)
The magister is a university degree requiring 3 years of study after the DEUG or equivalent. Students may earn a joint DEA or DESS.
Admission is competitive and is based on the applicantís record an interview and in some cases an entrance examination.
- Diplôme díEtudes Supérieures Spécialisées (DESS - Specialized advanced studies)
- DESS degrees prepare students for professional practice in a large range of disciplines. A DESS requires at least 300 hours of course work and a 3-month internship. Earned after 1 year of study following the Maîtrise the DESS provides very solid professional preparation.
- Diplôme díEtudes Approfondies (DEA Advanced studies)
A 1- year introduction to an academic research career DEA programs are open to students holding the Maîtrise or equivalent. The DEA is the prerequisite for enrollment in a doctoral program.
- Diplôme de Recherche Technologique (DRT Technological research)
DRT programs are open to IUP graduates and to students in the last year of engineering studies at a Grande Ecole. The curriculum requires 18 months of applied research on a technical problem identified by a cooperating business or industry.