HigherHig Ed­u­ca­tion

With nearly 1,000 uni­ver­si­ties and more than 90,000 cour­ses, France of­fers a wide range of fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion op­tions. Kate McNally takes a look at what’s on of­fer

Living France - - Insight -


To give an idea of the wide choice of higher ed­u­ca­tion in France, the of­fi­cial ap­pli­ca­tions web­site lists more than 90,000 cour­ses to choose from pro­vided by 982 dif­fer­ent uni­ver­si­ties, ‘schools’ and in­sti­tutes. So who of­fers what, and to whom?


A French univer­sity is a pub­lic es­tab­lish­ment teach­ing higher ed­u­ca­tion cour­ses of a “sci­en­tific, cul­tural or pro­fes­sional na­ture”, which is funded pri­mar­ily by the state, but also by re­gional au­thor­ity fund­ing and tu­ition fees. They en­joy a rel­a­tively high level of au­ton­omy in terms of de­cid­ing and de­liv­er­ing the ed­u­ca­tional of­fer­ing, how­ever ev­ery four years they must sub­mit both course con­tent and de­tails of teach­ing staff to the French Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion for ap­proval. This ap­proval is needed to val­i­date their de­gree cour­ses and se­cure con­tin­ued fund­ing.

Uni­ver­si­ties are open, upon ap­pli­ca­tion, to all stu­dents equipped with a bac­calau­réat or com­pa­ra­ble qual­i­fi­ca­tion, although cer­tain cour­ses, usu­ally for science- and maths-re­lated sub­jects, are re­stricted to stu­dents with a bac science or bac économique et so­ciale ( see fact box on page 52).

In gen­eral, there is no en­trance exam or in­ter­view. Some uni­ver­si­ties which have am­ple avail­abil­ity have no se­lec­tive process and the ma­jor­ity of ap­pli­cants are guar­an­teed a place. Oth­ers have a se­lec­tive process and will of­fer places to stu­dents in line with their course re­quire­ment cri­te­ria and the stu­dents’ aca­demic achieve­ment. Hence, as in the UK, most stu­dents with a good aca­demic record are likely to be ac­cepted by their first or sec­ond choice of univer­sity, while those with a less im­pres­sive Stu­dents out­side the Sainte Ur­sule chapel, part of the Sor­bonne record will need to be more re­al­is­tic.

There are cur­rently 74 French uni­ver­si­ties across France and French over­seas ter­ri­to­ries. In terms of gov­ern­ment fund­ing, there is a cer­tain per­cent­age (around 20% of the over­all HE bud­get) that is al­lo­cated ac­cord­ing to a univer­sity’s aca­demic per­for­mance, which ex­plains why the élite pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions such as the grandes écoles re­ceive pro­por­tion­ally more money.

Both uni­ver­si­ties and the grandes écoles fol­low the Euro­pean LMD sys­tem – with spe­cific ed­u­ca­tional units al­lo­cated for each year of a li­cence (a three-year de­gree), a mas­ter’s (five years) or a doc­tor­ate (min­i­mum eight years).


A sim­ple bac­calau­réat cer­tifi­cate is not enough to gain en­try to one of the highly sought-af­ter

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