An Overview of Higher Education in France

France is home to one of the finest higher education institutes in the world and offers an excellent standard of education at a remarkably modest annual cost. Public Universities in France 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 have wide ranging study disciplines.

The notable feature of France’s Higher Education is outstanding research, which is publicly funded and carried out in the public universities. The professionalization of university education gives opportunity to students take internships and university programs have also become more open to exchanges with the professional world.

France follows a three level system of higher education which divides student life into the following grades:
  • Doctorat /Doctorate
  • Master/Masters
  • License et License Profesionnelle/Bachelors
These three grades of higher education mirror the system followed in other European nations as well. This is done to facilitate the international mobility of French students. The License or Bachelor’s degree programs are for the duration of 6 semesters. A Master’s course lasts for 4 semesters. Each level of higher education is based on parcours/paths which guide a student through modules or Unites d’Enseignement.

Undergraduate (License) and Master’s degrees in French institutions are within specific domaines (domains) and students can specialize in research or professional fields during the second year of the Master’s degree program. Continuing education is also provided to professionals who want to improve their qualifications or people who want to complete their education. Professional experience is also counted as a educational advantage through the Validation des Acquis de l’Experience.


French higher education is carried out at universities. All graduates who are admitted into France’s universities must have passed the baccalaureate examination. Medium sized French cities have 2 to 3 universities and a few specialized higher educational institutions. Larger cities such as Paris have as many as 10 to 13 universities.

Public/ State Universities

There are 83  public universities in this nation, according to Campus France, a governmental body of higher education and international studies. Universities are officially referred to by the name of the city they are located in. For instance, currently there are 13 institutions known the University of Paris, numbered from I to XIII. The universities are funded by the state and administrated by educational departments of the French government.

Catholic Universities

Such universities have official as well as common names. For example, the Institut Catholique de Lyon is known as Universite Catholique de Lyon among local people. Catholic universities have a huge number of courses. These universities are as well respected as state universities. Students can move freely between the two types of institutions.

Grandes Ecoles

These are specialized institutions which offer premier education. Highly talented and academically gifted students are given admission here. These institutions admit graduates following Baccalaureat directly or also those who has passed this examination and completed 2 years of validated studies. There are different types of grandes ecoles including those devoted to subjects such as engineering, business management and political studies. Elite politicians, leaders and thinkers have graduated from these specialized schools in France.

Technical Institutes/Instituts Universitaires Technologiques or IUTs

These are vocational institutes which are attached to universities. They offer advanced technical education which prepares students for the job market. Some of these institutes which offer intensive vocational education are referred to as Instituts Universitaires Professionnalises or IUPs. These institutes also provide placement opportunities for students.

Private Higher Educational Institutions

These institutions or etablissement prive d'enseignement superieur are known for their excellent education. These include over 13 private universities, according to the Ministry of Higher Education and Research in France.

Popular Courses Taught In France

Some of the most popular courses in France include art and film making. French artists are known for their talent and skill. Art courses in this nation are a common choice for those who want to opt for a career in graphics, design, sculpture or painting. International business is another course which is opted for by many students in France. Top business schools such as INSEAD (Institut Europeen d'Administration des Affaires) are in France.

Some other courses for which French higher educational institutions are renowned include information technology,  biotechnology, communication, journalism or mass media studies, law and legal studies, finance or accounting, engineering, applied arts, visual arts, design and creation, industrial design, and photography.

France As A Top Study Destination

State run or public universities in France are a destination for many international students. According to Campus France, about 10% of the students enrolled in French public universities are international students.  It has also aggregated data indicating that France is a top destination for students worldwide because it is highly ranked for its excellence in education. French institutions have been rated as leaders in education by reviewers such as :
  • Classification of Universities- Shanghai
  • Financial Times
  • European Report on Science and Technologies (a publication of the European Commission)
Tuition rates at French institutions are identical for domestic as well as international students according to Campus France.  This is an indication that French higher educational institutions are fair towards foreign students and care for them on equal terms as they do for domestic students. All students are given housing assistance and health coverage regardless of their origins. The French government spends around €10,800 per student regardless of whether they are from France or foreign countries. In the past 10 years, the entry of international students in France has increased by a massive 75%. Nearly 12% of the country’s students enrolled in higher education are from foreign countries, according to Campus France.

The French educational institutions are considered the most productive in the world. It delivers excellent courses and programs which equip students to excel in a wide range of fields. The employability of students who have completed their education from France is very high. This nation is known for its commitment to quality education.
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