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
SECTOR AT A GLANCE
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).
ÉCOLES SUPÉRIEURES OR GRANDES ÉCOLES
A simple baccalauréat certificate is not enough to gain entry to one of the highly sought-after