French Higher Education System

The higher education system in France is internationally recognized for the quality of its teaching and research. The system is made up of several different types of establishment in the public and private sector.

Public universities

France's public universities are funded by the national government, which closely regulates the "national diplomas" granted by the universities. This system allows the universities to offer students an excellent education at a very affordable price. France's universities are comprehensive, offering study programs in all disciplines. Of the 2.2 million students in the French higher education system, 80 percent attend the country’s public universities and about 10% of enrollments are international students.

The Bachelor - Master - Doctorate system (BMD)

The higher education system in France was reformed with the Bologna process, which aims at creating shared European standards for university studies. There are three principal degrees:

  • Bachelor (“Licence”): three years (6 semesters) = 180 ECTS
  • Master (“Master”): two years (10 semesters in total) = 300 ECTS
  • Doctorate (“Doctorat”): three years on average (16 semesters in total) = 480 ECTS

Health Studies

Competitive entrance examination

The first common year of health studies ends with a highly selective entrance examination. Afterwards, students may join specialized courses in dental surgery, pharmacy, midwifery, ergotherapy, massage and physiotherapy and electroradiology technician qualification.

Students can register for one or more examinations, as long as they have followed the specific related teaching units. However sitting more than one examination requires a very heavy workload, which should be taken into consideration before registering.

The end-of-year examination takes place in two phases:

  • Phase 1 in January: end of first semester - examinations based on the core curriculum teaching in semester 1.
  • Phase 2 in May: end of the second semester - examinations based on the core curriculum teaching in semester 2 and the special tuition chosen.

To pass in one of your chosen examinations, you need to be ranked within the limit of the number of places available (numerus clausus) in the sector for which you have been examined.

European Credits Transfer System (ECTS)

Each level is attained by acquiring ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) credits. The academic year is divided into two semesters, and the validation of one semester is equivalent to 30 ECTS credits. The accumulation of credits at the higher education level depends on academic workload, number of course hours and course objectives. 

An increasingly international Higher Education System

The European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) is a rating system developed by the European Union that attests to students’ educational level and facilitates the recognition of study levels within the European area. The ECTS grading scale thus facilitates the transfer of students and their grades between European higher education institutions, by allowing national and local grading systems to be interchangeable. As a result, the advantages for the internationalization of higher education in France (and throughout Europe) are numerous:

  • It is easier to move from one country to the other (within the European Higher Education Area) – for the purpose of further study or employment;
  • The attractiveness of European higher education has increased, so that many people from non-European countries also come to study and/or work in Europe;
  • The European Higher Education Area provides Europe with a broad, high-quality advanced knowledge base, and ensures the further development of Europe as a stable, peaceful and tolerant community benefiting from a cutting-edge European Research Area;
  • A greater convergence between the U.S. and Europe as European higher education adopts aspects of the American system.

Updated on 07/11/2017