Compared to other countries, France has a complex system of higher education.
The French higher education system is made up of several different types of establishment, which may be in either the public or the private sector:
- The universities
- The “grandes écoles” post graduate schools
- The specialized schools (“écoles spécialisées”)
Courses are based on three levels:
- Licence (bachelor’s degree) – 180 ECTS
- Master (Master’s degree) – 120 ECTS
- Doctorat (doctoral degree)
The academic year is split into 2 semesters, the first one from September to December and the second one from January to June.
5 big domains:
- Art – Humanities –Language (design, applied foreign languages, humanities, music…)
- Law – economy – management – political and social sciences (economic and social administration, law, journalism, management, political sciences…)
- Human and social sciences (philosophy, psychology, geography, history, art history, sport sciences, theology…)
- Science, technology (chemistry, physics, engineering sciences, life sciences, mathematics, earth and environment…)
- Health (dental, physiotherapy, maieutics, medicine, orthoptics, pharmacy)
Some courses are taught in English for example in Political science, business, sciences, hostel management, aerospace, engineering, multimedia, economics etc.
For more information.
Les Grandes écoles – Post graduate schools
The “grandes écoles” or post-graduate schools offer five-year courses, which usually include two years of initial preparation in the post-graduate school itself or in preparatory classes offered by secondary schools. These preparatory classes (Classes Préparatoires aux Grandes Ecoles, CPGE) or « prépa » prepare students over a two-year period to take the entrance examinations for one or more « grandes écoles ». However many schools today offer alternative admission procedures, which allow international students to apply at different stages of their academic careers.
The grandes écoles are very selective.
Degree programs in the grandes écoles usually include international internships and study abroad.
For more information :
“Conference des grandes écoles” : to have information about schools, admissions…
State recognition of the institution and the degree:
- For engineering schools, this recognition is granted following a review by the Commission on Engineering Degrees (CTI)
- For management schools, following a review by the Management Training and Qualifications Assessment Committee (CEFDG)
The « classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles »
Two years courses following the “baccalauréat” (end of secondary school exam) usually dispensed in an high school and preparing students for the competitive entrance examination to the Grandes Ecoles. CPGEs are highly selective, at the application and during the courses themselves.
For more information (in French)
Around 220 schools offer courses leading to a degree in engineering, including for some components of universities.
These schools prepare to the “diploma d’ingénieur” (engineering degree). This is a national diploma that is equivalent to a Master’s and entitles its holder to apply to a doctoral program.
Management and busisness schools
Many management/business schools exist today, with around 85 of these institutions recognised by the State.
Many are private institutions. Annual tuition varies widely, but is generally between 2000€ and 15000€ by year.
Ecoles Normales Supérieures (ENS)
The ENS offer four high-level year of education in cultural and scientific training programs for students who would like to pursue fundamental or applied scientific research, university teaching or, more generally, civil-service careers in the public administrations.
There are 4 ENS:
- ENS Paris Ulm: main studies literature and languages, exact sciences, humanities and social sciences, law, theory of art
- ENS Lyon: main studies humanities and social sciences, exact sciences
- ENS Cachan: main studies exact sciences, humanities and social sciences, languages
- ENS Rennes: main studies in law and economics, exact sciences, sport
Institute of political studies (Institut d’études politiques IEP)
- Science po Paris (in English)
- IEP d’Aix-en-Provence (in English)
- IEP de Bordeaux (in English, spanish, german, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Chinese)
- IEP de Grenoble (in English and Spanish)
- IEP de Lille
- IEP de Lyon
- IEP de Rennes (in English)
- IEP Saint-Germain-en-Laye
- IEP de Strasbourg (in english)
- IEP de Toulouse
Others “Grandes écoles”
- Ecole Nationale des Chartes: specialized in humanities and social sciences and particulary in History. Short description on Campus France website in English.
- ENA – Ecole nationale d’administration: the ENA, France’s top institution for the training of future senior civil servants (hauts fonctionnaires), top politicians and managers
- CELSA (Centre d’Etudes Littéraires et Scientifiques Appliquées) is a school specialized in journalism, communication, marketing, advertising, and medias.
- Veterinary school, 4 schools in France VetAgro Sup (Lyon), ENVA (Maison-Alfort), Nantes ONIRIS (Nantes) and ENVT (Toulouse). 5 years of school after a competitive examination open after 2 years of higher education.
There are a lot of schools often called “écoles spécialisées” in several domains such health, paramedical studies, multimedia, communication, journalism, social work, fashion, design, tourism, culinary arts, hotel management and agriculture.
- Ecole Lenôtre
- Alain Ducasse Education
- Le Cordon bleu
- Ferrandi: l’école française de gastronomie
- Institut Paul Bocuse
Schools of Arts
Campus Art: a Campus France portal specialized in Arts studies.
Schools of Architecture
20 Écoles Nationales Supérieures d’Architecture (ENSA) , public schools under the ministry of Culture and Communication provide national degrees. Two other institutions confer diplomas that are recognized as equivalent to the national diplomas given by the ENSAs The Institut National des Sciences Appliquées (INSA) de Strasbourg, public school and The École Spéciale d’Architecture (ESA), private school
All schools are opened to students who already have an undergraduate or postgraduate diploma in law (at the University) after a competitive examination.
- Lawyer: competition opened after a M1 in law (but 80% has a M2), 18 month in one of the 12 centers “CRFPA”
- Bailiff: competition opened after a M1 in law. 2 years in the “Ecole Nationale de procédure” (ENP)
- Magistrate: competition opened after a M1 in law, 31 monthe in the “Ecole Nationale de Magistrature (ENM)”
In order to go to medical schools, you have to begin with a first year common of medical study at the University.
This first-year common curriculum in health (Première Année Commune aux Etudes de Santé PACES) is the same for medicine, dental surgery, pharmacy and midwifery (and sometime physiotherapist). Two examinations by year (after each semester). The possibility to pursue in medical school is determined by your place in the ranking (numerus clausus).
Download a desciptive document in English : Health studies in France
- Medecine: 9 to 11 years
- Dental surgery: 6 to 8 years
- Pharmacy: 6 to 9 years
- Midwifery: 5 years
In order to go to paramedical schools you have to succeed a competitive examination. Some doesn’t require the “baccalauréat” as auxiliary nurse competition or child care assistant competition and some does as nurses, orthoptists, speech therapist, psychomotor therapist…
They require 2 or 3 years of study.
The Brevet de Technicien Supérieur (BTS)
Offered in the upper technical sections (STS) of vocational secondary schools, BTS programs require 2 years of study (120 ECTS credits). They are designed to train middle managers in one of 144 specialties.
List of BTS (in French). These programs also allow graduates to continue on for a more advanced degree, such as a licence professionnelle (bachelor degree).
The Diplôme Universitaire de Technologie (DUT)
The DUT is awarded by France’s 116 IUTs—university-based institutes of technology attached to universities. Designed to train mid-level technical personnel in 2 years, IUT programs also allow graduates to continue on for a more advanced degree, such as a licence professionnelle (bachelor degree). In fact, about 80% of IUT graduates do just that.
For more information (in French)
The Diplôme d’études universitaires scientifiques et techniques (DEUST)
The DEUST is a career-oriented degree offered in 2-year university programs. Each DEUST specialties is very specific, having been created in response to local labor-market needs. The curriculum of DEUST programs is often designed in consultation with employers and local governments.
The Licence professionnelle
The licence professionnelle degree is a “Bac + 3” level certificate organized in partnership with companies and administrations granted after 1 year of further study to students who had already successfully completed 2 years of postsecondary study (BTS, DUT, DEUST).
To find the list of all “licence professionnelle” on LegiFrance.
To have information about the application procedure go to the page of our website « application procedure »
The large majority of higher education institutions in France are state-funded.
Annual tuition charges in France’s public universities are set by law. In 2016-2017 the charges were as follows:
- €184 for licence programs
- €256 for master’s programs
- €391 for doctoral programs
- €610for students in public engineering schools
For more information
Many business schools, however, are privately owned, and tuition fees are going from 2000€ to 20000€ a year.
The French government offers a large number of scholarships each year to international students.
More information on the website Campus bourse.
CNOUS centre (Centre national des oeuvres universitaires et scolaires) offers accommodation in University residences (not expensive), but this is only available to students with scholarship. You have to complete a student’s social file on the regional CROUS center website where you are going to study.
The Alliance Française foundation has a list of host families offering rooms for rent.
Useful websites (in French):
- Union nationale pour l’habitat des jeunes
- Lokaviz: to find information about public student accomodation
- Adele: to find information about private student accomodation
To find your own place:
Health care system
You have to register with the student social security and medical inspection
More information about France’s health care system.
Information on the official website of French health insurance (list of student’s social security and fees in French)
Learn french: more information on this page.
The Onisep’s website (in French)
The French student portal (in French)
Campus France is an online portal run by the French government that assists students in their university applications, from choosing a university up to visa processing (in English)
CIEP : Dedicated to the development of the French language worldwide and education