The French Education System - Higher Education

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Higher Education

Structure and Duration
Higher education is characterised by a great variety of institutions. Organisation and admission vary according to the type of institution and the purpose of the education provided.

Higher education institutions include:

universities, which offer short courses (Baccalaureat + 2, first cycle) or long courses (Baccalaureat + 3 or more, second and third cycles);
public or private colleges or institutes, which provide higher vocational education under the supervision of various ministries. This takes the form of short courses (technological, commercial or paramedical training etc.) or long courses of three or more years after the Baccalaureat (political science, engineering, commerce and management, veterinary science, notarial skills, architecture, telecommunications and art).
Post-baccalaureat courses are offered by general and technological lycees: classes preparatoires aux grandes ecoles (CPGE); higher technical sections (STS), which prepare students in two years for the brevet de technicien superieur (BTS).

Long courses are offered by the grandes ecoles, which can be private or public. Most of France's senior civil servants and engineers have passed through this type of educational institute. The limited number of places, allied to the fact that most graduates of a particular grande ecole enter the same profession, creates important networks. Courses last three years.

Most private institutions recognised by decree of the Ministry for Higher Education have the right to award official certificates.

Academic Year
As a rule, the academic year runs from the beginning of October until the end of June.

Entry Requirements
A) Qualifications

To enrol at a university, applicants must hold a Baccalaureat or a certificate judged equivalent, or must have the national diploma providing access to university studies (diplome d'acces aux etudes universitaires - DAEU). To enter a grande ecole, students must, after obtaining the Baccalaureat, prepare for the entry examination in a classe preparatoire aux grandes ecoles (CPGE). European citizens must possess the qualification allowing them to enter higher education in their home country.

B) Admission

Universities are obliged to admit all Baccalaureat candidates to the first year of courses. Applicants to the grandes ecoles have to take an entry examination, prepared for in a CPGE, admission to which is subject to scrutiny of the applicant's school record by a committee of teachers in the CPGE itself. The entry examinations are organised by the grandes ecoles themselves. Admission to these institutions is very selective.

Other higher-education establishments apply selection criteria and methods that they decide on themselves (entry examinations, scrutiny of applicants' records, interview etc.). In addition to an entry examination, each grande ecole can apply its own selection criteria and methods. EU citizens are subject to the same rules as French students.

The yearly registration with the "service de scolarite" at the university in question has to take place before 31 July (inquire carefully, because some universities have earlier closing dates). Course registration (inscription pedagogique) takes place at the beginning of the academic year.

C) Numerus Clausus

No numerus clausus rules are applied by French universities, except the medical faculties. In other subjects, students are admitted according to the institution's capacity. However, students have to pass the two-year degree (DEUG or DEUST) to be admitted to continue for further degrees. Grandes ecoles always apply the numerus clausus rule.

D) Languages

To enter university, EU citizens must have a good knowledge of French. Some categories of citizen are exempt from this requirement.

Tuition Fees
Administrative registration involves the payment of tuition fees (holders of grants from the French Government are exempt from paying tuition fees.) Various other costs have to be added. Some are obligatory (such as provisions for health insurance and social security), others voluntary (such as fees for membership of a mutual benefit or sports association). After payment of registration fees, students are issued with a student identity card (Carte d'etudiant).

University tuition fees for courses leading to national degrees are laid down each year by a decree of the Minister responsible for higher education. Foreign students from EU Member States, with the exception of Erasmus students, must pay these fees unless they are receiving a grant from the Ministry responsible for higher education. The same applies to all public higher-education establishments. The fees for public and private ecoles superieures are higher and vary.

Academic Recognition

A) Recognition of Certificates of Aptitude for Higher Education

The holders of a foreign secondary-school or higher-education certificate wishing to study in France should apply to the establishment of their choice: decisions concerning the recognition of diplomas are taken by the head of the establishment in question. A full or partial academic waiver may be granted by an education committee, which takes its decisions on a case-by-case basis. Some courses, however, have different entry requirements (medicine, pharmacy, paramedical training, architecture, agronomy, music, dance, plastic arts etc.).

B) Recognition of Final Qualifications

Information on the recognition of higher-education qualifications awarded by other EU countries can be obtained at NARIC centres.

At university level, the intermediate and final qualifications are as follows:

first cycle; DEUG (diplome d'etudes universitaires generales) or DEUST (diplome d'etudes universitaires scientifiques et technologiques), lasting two years (Baccalaureat +2);
second cycle; basic and professional education leading to the degree of Licence (DEUG +1) and Maitrise (Licence +1); professional education leading to a technical Maitrise (DEUG +2); three-year course of study leading to an engineering degree (Maitrise +1); courses at IUP (university institutes of vocational education) and IUFM (university institutes for teacher training);
third cycle; professional education leading to a certificate of advanced specialised studies (diplome d'etudes superieures specialisees - DESS, Maitrise +1) or research training leading to an advanced studies certificate (diplome d'etudes approfondies - DEA). The DEA can be followed by the Doctorat.
All public and private institutions and grandes ecoles issue a final certificate in their field of specialisation.

Financial Assistance

A) Grants (from the Ministry of Youth, Education & Research)

Two types of grants are available for both French and European citizens: those awarded on social criteria and those awarded to third-cycle students on the basis of academic and social criteria.

Social grants are awarded on the basis of family income and outgoings and, in some cases, students' incomes. They are available to students who are under the age of 26 when they submit their first application and who wish to study full-time or to follow a correspondence course or open distance-learning course (on a digital campus) for a national or other approved degree . If they have to repeat part of their course or if they change subject, students in the first or second cycles, students studying engineering, medicine or pharmacy, and students studying for a teaching qualification are eligible for grants for three years in the first cycle and one supplementary year in the second cycle.

B) Eligibility

Grants are awarded on the basis of family income and outgoings assessed according to a national scale laid down each year by interministerial decree on the basis of performance on courses and in preparation for the end-of-year exams or for full-time courses or correspondence courses, or in open distance-learning courses (on a digital campus). Students must be enrolled in the first or second cycle, in technical higher education sections or in preparatory classes for grandes ecoles. They have to be under 26 if starting studies.

For the third-cycle, scholarships on the basis of university (DEA) and social (DESS) criteria are quantified and granted by the regional education authorities on the basis of a ranking drawn up by the university presidents in the light of the candidates' results. EU citizens are eligible for such aid in accordance with the Community rules.

For more information you can consult Eurydice, which provides information on the national education systems of the Member States. The information is available only in English.

You can also visit the Ploteus website (Portal on Learning Opportunities throughout the European Space), which has information about education and training opportunities throughout Europe. In particular, the site provides information on available grants, contact points and other specific information about the country you may want to go to.

Source EUROPA © European Communities, 1995-2004

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The French Education System - Higher Education
Page 4 of 4 Higher Education Structure and Duration Higher education is characterised by a great variety of institutions. Organisation and admission vary according to the type of institution...

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