Pre-higher education:

Duration of compulsory education:

Age of entry: 6

Age of exit: 16

Structure of school system: Primary

Type of school providing this education: Ecole Primaire

Length of program in years: 5

Age level from: 6 to: 11

Lower Secondary

Type of school providing this education: Collège

Length of program in years: 4

Age level from: 11 to: 15

Certificate/diploma awarded: Brevet des Collèges

Upper Secondary

Type of school providing this education: Lycée d'Enseignement général et technologique

Length of program in years: 3

Age level from: 15 to: 18

Certificate/diploma awarded: Baccalauréat général or Baccalauréat technologique


Type of school providing this education: Lycée professionnel

Length of program in years: 2

Age level from: 15 to: 17

Certificate/diploma awarded: Certificat d'Aptitude professionnelle (CAP) Or Brevet d'Etudes professionnelles (BEP)


Type of school providing this education: Lycée professionnel

Length of program in years: 2

Age level from: 17 to: 19

Certificate/diploma awarded: Baccalauréat professionnel


School education:

Primary education lasts for five years. After lower secondary education (lasting four years), pupils may opt either for general/technological education in lycées preparing for the Baccalauréat or the Baccalauréat technologique in three years; or for technical/vocational education in lycées professionnels preparing first for the Certificat d'Aptitude professionnelle (CAP) or the Brevet d'Etudes professionnelles (BEP) in two years and then, for those who want to continue, for the Baccalauréat professionnel in two more years.


Higher education:

Higher education in France is characterized by a dual system : it is provided in universities (including Instituts nationaux polytechniques) open to a large number of students, whose programmes are generally geared towards research and its applications and in Grandes Ecoles and other professional higher education institutions with selective admission policies. Whereas most institutions come under the responsibility of the Ministry of Youth, Education and Research, some Grandes Ecoles come under other Ministries. Universities are made up of units offering curricula in academic fields and of various institutes and schools - such as the IUT - offering courses in Engineering and Technology and special programmes in Management, Political Science, Languages and Physical Education, the IUFM (Instituts Universitaires de Formation des Maîtres) which offer training courses for primary and secondary schools teachers, the IUP (Instituts Universitaires Professionalisés) which offer technological courses and practical training with an introduction to research and foreign languages. The Grandes Ecoles offer a high standard of professional education in three or more years after two years of preparatory classes and the passing of a very selective competitive entrance examination. They offer scientific training, teacher training or advanced business studies. Five Catholic higher education institutes prepare for either national and professional diplomas or for church diplomas. National diplomas are conferred by universities.


Main laws/decrees governing higher education:

Decree: Law #84-52 Year: 1984

Concerns: New Doctorate

Decree: Law #85-1371 Year: 1985

Decree: Law #89-486 Year: 1989

Decree: Loi du 12 Juillet 87 Year: 1875

Concerns: Private higher education


Academic year:

Classes from: Sep to: Jun

Long vacation from: 1 Jul to: 15 Sep

Languages of instruction: French


Stages of studies:

Non-university level post-secondary studies (technical/vocational type):

Non-university level: Technical/vocational:

Short-study courses last for two years after the Baccalauréat and lead to a terminal diploma : Brevet de Technicien supérieur (BTS), a national diploma awarded in vocational and service areas. Courses are provided in Lycées; Diplôme universitaire de technologie (DUT) offered in Instituts universitaires de Technologie to train middle-level managers in Industry and Commerce; Diplôme d'Etudes universitaires scientifiques et techniques (DEUST) offered in various fields related to national or regional needs. DUT and DEUST diplomas are offered in University institutions and are equivalent to a first cycle in a University. A DUT graduate may, in some cases, pursue higher studies leading to the Licence and other degrees.


University level studies:

University level first stage: Premier Cycle (2 years):

The first cycle of long study courses corresponds to basic training in a specific field. It leads, two years after the Baccalauréat, to the Diplôme d'Etudes universitaires générales (DEUG) with mention of the major field of study. In Medicine, the first cycle is called PCEM. Two years in Classes Préparatoires aux Grandes Ecoles (CPGE) are required to enter a Grande Ecole. In Instituts Universitaires Professionnalisés (IUP), the first cycle is called DEUP (Diplôme d'Etudes Universitaires Professionnalisées).


University level second stage: Deuxième Cycle (2 years):

The second cycle normally leads after one year to the Licence and after another to the Maîtrise. In professional fields, the following Maîtrises are awarded two years after the DEUG : Maîtrise des Sciences et Techniques (MST), Maîtrise des Sciences de Gestion (MSG), Maîtrise des Méthodes informatiques appliquées à la gestion (MIAGE). The Magistère is awarded three years directly after the DEUG (or the DUT). In Medicine this cycle (DCEM) consists of four years of study and hospital internship. In Dentistry and Pharmacy, it leads to the Diplôme d'Etat de Docteur en Chirurgie Dentaire and to the Diplôme d'Etat de Docteur en Pharmacie after six years. In the Grandes Ecoles, a Diploma is awarded in Engineering, Commerce or literary fields, generally three years after the DEUG, the DUT, or the CPGE. The Titre d'Ingénieur (engineering Degree) is conferred by independent engineering schools or by engineering schools attached to universities, upon successful completion of five years of study beyond the Baccalauréat. Some engineering schools accept students on the basis of a competitive examination generally taken two years after the Baccalauréat (in this case, studies last three years at most) or according to the Baccalauréat results, followed by aptitude tests and an interview (in this case, studies last four or five years). Catholic higher education institutes, besides preparing to State diplomas at this level (in agreement with a public university), offer four-year and six-year ecclesiastic canonic qualifications.


University level third stage: Troisième Cycle:

The third cycle is devoted to specialization and training for research. It offers two channels: a professional one, leading in one year to the Diplôme d'Etudes Supérieures Spécialisées (DESS), a terminal degree. A doctoral channel leads in one year to the Diplôme d'Etudes Approfondies (DEA) and then to preparation of a Doctorat. The latter is obtained three or four years after the DEA and after extensive research, either individual or as part of a group supervised by a Directeur de Thèses and the preparation and successful defence of a thesis. Several schools of Engineering, Business and Management offer a Mastère spécialisé to students who are recipients of Engineering degrees or the DEA. The Mastère spécialisé is a specialized 12-month programme (including four months'  training). Since 2000, a Mastaire is awarded to holders of a DEA or a DESS or an Engineering Diploma. Engineers with a Maîtrise from a university (Ingénieurs-Maîtres) and engineering students in their last year of engineering school can work towards a Diplôme de Recherche technologique (DRT) (Technological Research Diploma), a third cycle diploma issued after completion of a course centring on innovation through technological research in the industrial sector and service industries. The DRT marks the successful completion of a programme of 18 months to two years that is carried out in an industrial or service-oriented scientific environment under the joint responsibility of two advisers, one being a teacher-cum-researcher, the other coming from the industrial sector or a service industry. In general Medicine, the third cycle culminates in the Diplôme d'Etat de Docteur en Médecine after two years' further study following DCEM. In specialized Medicine, it leads to the Diplôme d'Etudes spécialisées (DES) after four to five years' further study.


University level fourth stage: Post-doctorat:

The Doctorat may be followed by a post-doctoral degree, the Habilitation à Diriger les Recherches, which constitutes the highest national award and is offered to academics who display the ability to carry out high level scientific research and to supervise thesis.


Teacher education:

Training of pre-primary and primary/basic school teachers

Training lasts for one year following success in a competitive examination. Candidates must hold a Licence or a three-year diploma granted within the EU to be allowed to sit for the competitive examination. In order to prepare themselves, candidates can decide to be trained in one year at an Institut Universitaire de Formation des Maîtres. They must present a portfolio and/or pass an interview. This year of preparation is not compulsory.


Training of secondary school teachers

Secondary school teachers train for one year following success in a competitive examination. Candidates must hold a Licence or a three-year diploma granted within the EU  or a four-year diploma granted outside the EU to be allowed to sit for the competitive examination. In order to prepare themselves, candidates can decide to be trained in one year at an Institut Universitaire de Formation des Maîtres. They must present a portfolio and/or pass an interview. This year of preparation is not compulsory.


Training of higher education teachers

The Doctorat is a prerequisite to sit for competitive examinations leading to the positions of Maître de Conférence and Professeur d'Université. In the fields of Pharmacy, Law and Economics and, now, in many other fields, positions are restricted to holders of an Agrégation de l'Enseignement Supérieur. The Habilitation à Diriger les Recherches is required to become a Professeur d'Université.


Non-traditional studies:

Distance higher education

Télé-enseignement universitaire is offered to students who are unable to attend regular courses. 29 universities cooperate in this. The Centre national d'Enseignement à Distance (CNED) provides training leading to technical diplomas - BEP, BP, BTS, in addition to competitive entrance examinations for recruitment to the civil service and to adult education courses.


Lifelong higher education

Education permanente is a system of continuing education allowing people with full-time careers to attend evening classes in universities and thus obtain a degree without interrupting their working schedules. The Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers (CNAM) offers such facilities leading to the award of an Engineering diploma. Catholic universities organize upgrading traineeships and courses leading to diplomas.


Higher education training in industry

Several higher education institutions (public and private ) offer professional training "en alternance" (sandwich courses), consisting in theoretical training and practice periods in business or industry.


Other forms of non-formal higher education

Both private and public institutions have "Universités du Troisième âge". In these "third age" universities, senior citizens are offered two options: either to follow university courses with other students or attend seminars and lectures especially devised to improve their life and cultural background; their advice is also sought when it comes to choosing study topics of common interest. Finally, cycles of Physical Education, Handicraft, cultural visits and outings are also organized.




Administration & co-ordination:

Responsible authorities:

Ministère de la Jeunesse, de l'Education nationale et de la Recherche (Ministry of Youth, Education and Research)

Head: Luc Ferry, Minister

110, rue de Grenelle
75357 Paris 07 SP

Tel: +33(1) 55-55-10-10

Fax: +33(1) 55-55-30-65




Role of governing body: Administers and controls public institutions, supervises private ones and maintains a coherence on regulation of national diplomas.


Conférence des Présidents d'Université (CPU)(Conference of University Presidents)

Head: Jack Lang, Président

Administrative officer: Bernard Belloc, 1er Vice-Président

103, blvd. Saint Michel
75005 Paris

Tel: +33(1) 44-32-90-00

Fax: +33(1) 44-32-91-02




Role of governing body: Examines matters concerning university system.


Union des Etablissements d'Enseignement supérieur catholique (UDESCA)(Union of Catholic Establishments of Higher Education)

Head: Gaston Vandecandelaere, Président

21, rue d'Assas
75270 Paris Cedex 06

Tel: +33(1) 44-39-52-00

Fax: +33(1) 45-44-27-14


Role of governing body: Coordinates relations between catholic universities and coherence of their policies.


Conférence des Directeurs d'Ecoles et de Formations d'Ingénieurs (CDEFI)

Head: Jack Lang, President

Administrative officer: Guy Gautherin, Vice-President

151 bd de l'Hopital
75013 Paris

Tel: +33(1) 44-24-63-20

Fax: +33(1) 44-24-63-26



Office national d'Information sur les Enseignements et les Professions (ONISEP)(National Office for Information on Study and the Professions)

Head: Jérôme Chapuisat, Directeur

BP 86 Lognes
12, Mail Barthélemy-Thimonnier
77423 Marne-la-Vallée Cedex 2

Tel: +33(1) 64-80-35-00

Fax: +33(1) 64-80-35-01



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