France

RegionCentral Europe
CapitalParis
LanguageFrench
Population67,076,000
Expenditure on higher education5,05 %
Unemployment8,87 %
EuroUniversities in top 10021
EuroUniversities in top 25036
EuroUniversities in top 50048
EuroUniversities in top 1000102
Students1,500,000
Foreigner students15,9 %
Enrollment rate in higher education64,8 %

France is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The public service of higher education comprises all post-secondary training courses. It meets general objectives with regard to raising the scientific, cultural and professional levels of the French nation and the individuals who make it up, major concerns being the reduction of social inequalities, equality between the sexes, development of research, and finally, construction of the European Higher Education and Research Area (The law no. 2013-660 of 22 July 2013 on higher education and research (ESR) redefines the policy and management of higher education and research in France. It contributes to the success of all students, the growth and competitiveness of the economy and the creation of employment policy taking into account economic, social, environmental and cultural needs. It participates in the promotion and the spread of French-speaking in the world in addition to the reinforcement of interactions between science and society.

The French higher education system is characterised by the coexistence of a plurality of institutions which dispense higher education. They belong to various legal categories, defined in the French Code of Education (book VII):

  • Universities;
  • Schools and institutes outside of universities;
  • Higher education institutions, French schools abroad and “Grands Établissements” (major institutions);
  • “Communautés d’universités et établissements” (COMUE – Communities of Universities and Schools)

These institutions dispense courses with a variety of aims and admission requirements. Although the obtainment of the baccalauréat (or its equivalent or exemption) is a necessary condition for access to any higher course of studies, it is not necessarily enough for admission to certain types of courses. Distinctions may therefore be made between:

  • courses for which there is no selective admission; i.e. university courses. Enrolment takes place at the beginning of the Bachelor’s degree;
  • courses for which students are selected on the basis of their application forms: classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles (CPGE – classes preparing for admission to the “Grandes écoles”), which are selective higher education institutions which recruit their pupils through a competitive examination, sections de techniciens supérieurs (STS – Advanced vocational courses), courses dispensed in instituts universitaires de technologie (IUT – University institutes of technology), in instituts universitaires professionnalisés  (IUP – University institutes of professional education), in Écoles Supérieures du Professorat et de l’Éducation (ESPE – Higher Schools for Teaching and Education) and in Specialised schools;
  • courses for which admission is granted through a competitive examination, carried out in the “Grandes Écoles“.

All higher education institutions and most of the courses they offer are structured into three study cycles (Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and Doctorate) and based on ECTS credits, in compliance with the Bologna Process principles.

System Governance is ensured by a contractual policy set up by the State with the institutions, which have administrative and budgetary autonomy. The policy has been through considerable development in recent years, under the influence of the law of 10 August 2007 bearing on the liberties and responsibilities of universities, the LRU law or the Pécresse law in addition to the promulgation of the law on higher education and research (ESR) in 2013.

Pôles de recherche et d’enseignement supérieur (PRES – Higher Education and Research Hubs) were created in 2006 by planning law no.2006-450 of 18 April 2006 in order to offer a more understandable research system and one that is better adapted to regions’ needs. They have enabled a site policy to be initiated in France and a policy of pooling together the resources and activities of universities, “Grandes Écoles” and research organisations.

With the application of the ESR law in 2013, a new type of hub was put in place, with the objective of extending this site strategy. This creates the Communautés d’Universités et Établissements (COMUE – Communities of Universities and Schools), which replace the PRES. The reform leads to the decompartmentalisation of lycées and universities, the signing of site contracts between the Secretary of State for Higher education and Research and the COMUEs. Approximately thirty site contracts will emerge from a process that will include the appropriate local authorities (régions, départements and metropolitan areas) and stakeholders from the socio-economic world.

The ESR Law also calls for broadening the competences of the Conseil National de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche (CNESER – National Council for Higher education and Research). This Council is consulted on higher education and research policy and may be required to intervene in disciplinary matters. A new Conseil Stratégique de la Recherche (C.S.R. – Strategic Council for Research) has also been created: it defines the broad outlines of the strategic agenda, France Europe 2020, for research, transfer and innovation. Reporting to the French Prime Minister, the C.S.R. brings together scientists and high level French and international experts, as well as figures from the socio-economic and political world.

Moreover, university governance has become more democratic and more collegial. A new independent administrative authority has been put in place, in order to evaluate institutions, research units and courses. This is the Haut Conseil de l’Évaluation de la Recherche et de l’Enseignement Supérieur (High Council for the Evaluation of Research and Higher Education) which replaces the Agence d’Évaluation de la Recherche et de l’Enseignement Supérieur (Evaluating Agency for Research and Higher Education). The law also replaces the Conseil Scientifique (CS – Scientific Council) and the Conseil des Formations et de la Vie Étudiante (CFVU – Council for Studies and Student Life) with the Conseil académique (Academic Council). This body is now responsible for examining individual matters concerning the recruitment, posting and careers of research-teaching staff.
 
One year after the passing of the law, it has led to real progress, including:

  • improving career orientation mechanisms, shifting from an imposed to a chosen career orientation;
  • simplifying the range of training courses, to make them more accessible and understandable for young people, families, employers and foreign students;
  • implementing the FUN Platform, France Université Numérique, opening 98 MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) as of March 6th 2015;
  • improving the gender equality recognition,
  • creating the Pôles Étudiants pour l’Innovation, le Transfert et l’Entrepreneuriat (PEPITE – Student Clusters for Innovation, Transfer and Entrepreneurship);
  • simplifying intellectual property.

On 22 July 2014, two thirds of the implementation decrees of the ESR Law were published. The last third was pending approval by the State Council.

Bachelor

Branches of Study

The “licence” (or bachelor degree) in the LMD system replaced the former university first cycle of studies leading to a “Diplôme d’Études Universitaires Générales” (DEUG – General University Studies Diploma) prepared in two years and followed by a “licence” (or bachelor degree) prepared in one year. University studies leading to the “licence” (LMD) are structured into six semesters (3 university years). They are organised into domains, in the form of standard initial and continuing training courses. These courses lead to the awarding of various “licence”  that confirm a validated level by obtaining 180 European credits. They allow the awarding, on the intermediate level, of various types of national diplomas validating a level corresponding to 120 European credits.

On 16 December 2013, the new national framework for Bachelor’s degree was adopted.

Universities can also organise courses targeting new objectives, either in terms of the “licence” or an intermediate level.

One of the objectives was decreasing the Bachelor’s degree failure rate. In 2007 the minister at the time, launched (for the 2008-2012 period) the “Plan pluriannuel pour la Réussite en Licence” (Multi-year plan for success in the Bachelor’s degree). This plan engaged significant resources in compliance with three major objectives:

  • Making the “licence” a national qualification, both for professional integration and further studies;
  • Strongly reducing the failure rate in the first year of “licence;
  • Contributing to achieving the objective aimed at ensuring that 50% of an age category gains a higher education diploma.

This plan has already allowed universities to motivate their teaching staff to act against failure, ensure personalised follow-up of students and initiate innovative teaching methods. The appraisal of measures implemented is taken into account in the elaboration of five-year contracts between the State and institutions.

In France, there is also the “licence professionnelle” (vocational bachelor degree), obtained after 3 years of technical higher education. The vocational bachelor track is actually one year long as it completes a 2-year advanced course of study resulting in a DUT or BTS. For this reason, the “licence professionnelle” is classified in the “short higher education cycles”.

Since the ESR law passed, in 2013, there have been:

  • 45 general Bachelor’s degree titles instead of 1800 diplomas and 320 former titles;
  • 173 vocational Bachelor’s degree titles instead of 1844 previously.

Admission Requirements

To enrol at university, it is necessary to have the French baccalauréat, an equivalent qualification or dispensation: bearers of the “Diplôme d’Accès aux Études Universitaires” (DAEU – diploma opening to university education) or Capacité en Droit (legal capacity) can access higher education without the baccalauréat. Awarded by universities authorised for that purpose, the DAEU is aimed at applicants having interrupted their initial studies for at least two years. It is thus a major means of encouraging a return to studies for students who, for whatever reason, left education too early. The diploma is awarded after a year’s training and after successfully passing an individual written and oral examination assessing knowledge and general culture and applicants’ methods and know-how according to the requirements of continued higher education. The DEAU gives the same entitlements as those attached to the baccalauréat.

The “Capacité en droit” is a short course (2 years) dispensed by law faculties and preparing students without the baccalauréat for legal and administrative professions. In certain conditions, it opens access to long higher education. Access to the “Capacité en droit” training is available without conditions from the age of 17 and the diploma is considered to be the equivalent of the baccalauréat.

Instituts universitaires de technologie (IUT – technological university institutes) are subject to selection based on applications and interviews of baccalauréat graduates.

Moreover, access to different post-baccalauréat courses dispensed by an institution controlled by the Secretary of State for Higher Education and Research – whether a university, an institute or a public school – can also be authorised through validation of acquired experience. Holders of foreign qualifications or diplomas may apply for their validation. The president of the university or head of the institution decides on that validation after recommendation by the teaching commission.

For information about tuition fees please refer to chapter 3 “Funding of Education”.

Curriculum

The order of 22 January 2014 structures studies into six semesters and organises it into domains in the form of standard initial and continuing training tracks.

The training combines theoretical, methodological, practical and applied teaching, to various degrees depending on the courses. Depending on training objectives, while ensuring that students acquire general culture, it can include elements of pre-professionalization, professionalization, individual or collective projects and one or several work placements. The law of 31 March 2006 on equal opportunities provided a compulsory work placement agreement, a limitation in the length of work placements outside educational courses to six months and compulsory remuneration for courses longer than two consecutive months.

Signed on 26 April 2006, the “Charter of student placements in companies” clarified the role of the higher education institution, the host company and the student required to put his or her knowledge into practice. The placement charter also provides three new guarantees aimed at securing work placement: statutory mentoring by a teacher and a member of the company; a standard agreement binding the three signatories: the teacher, the member of the company and the student; the introduction of assessment and monitoring methods.

Pursuant to the principles of the placement charter, each teaching institution, within the framework of its training policy, elaborates a placement policy that will be assessed as part of the contract binding the State and the institution. More recently, law no.2014-788 of 10 July 2014 has brought a further guarantee to the work placements framework and to the improvement of the “stagiaire” (trainee) status.

Curricula include teaching of university work methods and documentary resources. The courses are organised as compulsory teaching units (UE) chosen freely by the student and optional teaching units if applicable. Training includes appropriate modern languages and the use of IT tools.

The Certificat de Compétences en Langues de l’Enseignement Supérieur (CLES – Higher Education Language Competence Certificate), created by the order of 22 May 2000, is a certificate accredited by the Department of Education and endorsed by the Common European framework of reference for Languages (CECRL). It evaluates students’ operational communication skills in several languages. The CLES is a complete certification system as it directly assesses 5 competences:

  • oral comprehension;
  • written comprehension;
  • written production;
  • oral production;
  • oral interaction.

It is currently available in 9 languages: English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Arabic, Polish, Modern Greek and Russian. The offer is progressively enriched by new languages.

The CLES is aimed at students in initial training: all students enrolled in any type of higher education institution, regardless of their year, as long as they are not specialists in the CLES certification language that they want to take. For example: an English student cannot take an English CLES (regardless the CLES level) but can take a Spanish CLES to certify his/her skills in this language which is not his/her specialist language. Finally, students can take any CLES level exam at any time in their university career.Moreover, the circular dated 30 April 2002 introduced the IT and internet certificate (C2i® level 1) to give students the skills needed to continue higher education and to assess their skills according to technological developments. All universities have now set up C2i® level 1. In view of the increasingly important role played by information and communication technology in society, the provisions of circular no. 2011-012 of 9th June 2011 specify the approved institutions, relevant target groups, preparatory training to be taken by students enrolled in an institution, certification conditions, follow-up and transitory provisions.

According to these provisions, the preparation for certification should, whenever possible, start in the first year of the “licence” (bachelor degree) cycle, in particular, in the course of the first semester and be integrated into institutions’ LMD models.

The skills targeted by the C2i® level 1 are developed in the repository that covers 20 skills divided into 5 domains, i.e.:

  • Working in a changing digital environment;
  • Being responsible in the digital era;
  • Producing, using and broadcasting digital files;
  • Organising information search in the digital era;
  • Working in a network, communicating and cooperating

These skills are to be acquired through teaching activities involving one or several or cross-cutting through different disciplines. The aim is to pass the C2i® level 1 before the end of the “licence” (bachelor degree) cycle.

Teaching Methods

As for the curricula, each institution is responsible for its teaching organisation. For university teaching, there are nevertheless national regulations setting the general provisions for the organisation of teaching. Training is mainly dispensed in the form of lectures, tutorials and practical work which the university is required to balance according to the purposes of each course.

Progression of Students

In order to guarantee consistent teaching, universities define the rules of progress within the framework of the courses they organise, in particular the conditions whereby a student can take various teaching units (UEs) proposed. This organisation allows reorientation by setting up gateways.

Studies can start with a guidance semester. It allows students to discover university and the subject chosen, but also check the relevance of their choice and, if necessary, change direction early enough so as not to lose a year. The 18th of June 2013 circular letter on the improvement of the “Admission Post-Bac” website facilitates chosen and anticipated orientation, from upper secondary to higher education.

In addition, the organisation of the first year of “licence” should allow real guidance at the end of the first semester. The decision to continue to study or change direction after the end of the initial semester lies with the student. In the second semester the student may choose:

  • to continue with the “licence”;
  • to continue with another “licence”;
  • to ask to change course: STS, IUT, etc.

In universities, teaching is organised in the form of Teaching Units (UE) that are added up. UEs are definitively acquired and may be added up on condition of the student achieving the average grade. The acquisition of UEs and diplomas is organised according to the principles of building up and compensating for units within the framework of the European credits system. The acquisition of the EU automatically leads to acquisition of corresponding European credits (ECTS).

Employability

Law no. 2007-1199 of 10 August 2007 bearing on university freedoms and responsibilities gives higher education institutions a guidance and professional integration mission so that they may accompany their students towards the world of work. Universities now have the obligation to publish statistics on their success rates in examinations but above all on the professional integration of their graduates.

In order to allow universities to fulfil this mission, the law of 10 August 2007 stipulates that they should create professional integration bureaux. These bureaux will circulate work placement and job vacancies corresponding to the training courses offered by the university and will help students to find placements and their first job.

It is also indispensable to improve information of pupils and students on the type of training courses offered by higher education institutions and make them aware of job prospects open to them at the end of their higher education. This more precise knowledge of the realities of jobs will allow them to elaborate their career plans with full knowledge of available outlets.

That is why article 20 of the law of 10 August 2007 specifies that “All candidates are free to enrol in the institution of their choice, subject to having firstly applied for pre-enrolment allowing them to benefit from the information and guidance services of the said institution, which should be set up in partnership with lycées.

Pre-enrolment combines a procedure whereby the candidate expresses one or several wishes and an information and guidance service called “active guidance”. This active guidance is an advice and support approach set up by universities and targeting future baccalauréat holders. Its aim is to fight against university drop-out by helping young people to make informed guidance choices and enrol in courses matching their profile. Active guidance has established strong momentum between universities and secondary schools, ensuring that young people receive real support in their career choices. Furthermore, throughout the first year of university, students can ask to be interviewed to envisage a change of direction.

An internet portal grouping together all higher education courses is also available to future students. This is called the “Admission Post-Bac” portal. It is one of the active guidance actions set up and allows future students to pre-enrol and receive guidance on training proposed by higher education institutions. In 2009 this portal was extended to all académies. It lists more than 12 000 courses (Licence (bachelor degree), STS, IUT, CPGE, schools) for 2 000 public institutions and private institutions under contract.

More recently, the 2013 ESR law bearing on higher education has attempted to reinforce the policy for Bachelor’s degree work placements and student mobility. Article L611-2 of the education Code, modified by the Article 22 of the ESR law, provides that any course may be organised in the form of work-linked training. This measure comes into force in the context of existing schemes, through apprenticeship, professionalisation contracts and industrial training by research agreements (CIFRE).

Student Assessment

Diplomas are awarded by passing written and/or oral examinations on the content of each cycle’s teaching units (UE). All students are allowed two examination sessions, separated by two months, usually in June and September.

In non-university institutions, a continuous assessment system or annual examinations may assess students’ progress from the first year of studies, until the end diploma is completed. Usually, training includes a practical placement which results in a report or technical project, taken into consideration in the assessment of the diploma.

In each Teaching Unit (UE), aptitudes and knowledge acquisition are evaluated either by “continuous assessment” or by an end-of-year examination. The most frequent assessment template is as follows:

  • Continuous assessment is standard. It is the most appropriate framework for in-depth and progressive acquisition of knowledge. It is organised in the form of tests taking into account a series of work; personal work, unlimited in time, timed tests, presentations, etc.
  • “Partial examinations” are taken in a closed room, under the teacher’s responsibility.

On the whole semester, students’ evaluation can be done by cumulating both types of exams. The marks obtained in the tests are tallied by taking into account the weighting factor allocated to them. These assessment methods are specified for each subject.

Continuous assessment requires regular attendance of lectures and tutorials: partial absence or non-attendance in one of the continuous assessment tests leads to the score of 0/20 for the relevant exercise. After examination of the student’s personal situation, the teacher can, if he/she desires, propose a replacement solution, if not the student may ask to benefit from a dispensation with a view to being able to take the final examination. Absence from a final examination also leads to the score of 0/20 for the relevant examination.

The two annual assessment examinations are organised as follows:

  • the examination conditions guarantee anonymity of written examinations,
  • material organisation and roll-out of examinations are covered by a circular available to students from each of the component’s offices;
  • the conditions of assessment of aptitudes and knowledge are decided by the Commission de Formation et de la Vie Universitaire (CFVU – Training and Student life Committee).

Moreover, the validation of semesters (echelons in the European credit system) leads to the number of corresponding European credits (ECTS). An echelon (semester) can be acquired:

  • either by validating each of the UEs making it up (a mark above or equal to 10/20 in each UE);
  • or by compensation between these UEs (weighted average of the UEs above or equal to 10/20), the compensation being automatic only if the candidate has obtained a mark above or equal to 7/20 in the different UEs.

The echelon mark (semester) is equal to the weighted average of the marks of the Teaching Units (UEs) making it up. The respective weights of Teaching Units marks are proportional to the number of credits of these Teaching Units. The Teaching Units validated individually are definitively acquired. However, the student is entitled to refuse validation of an echelon acquired by compensation if he/she believes it possible to improve his/her results of Teaching Units not acquired (mark lower than 10) the following year.

Finally, “echelon” and “diploma” juries can be led to attribute “jury points”. The diploma jury, which decides on the attribution of the diploma on the basis of decisions by the different echelon juries can, over and above scheduled validation patterns, reconsider, at the end of the course, the whole student’s progress, even if some echelons have not been acquired.

Certification

The “licence” as well as intermediate diplomas are attributed by universities and, possibly, by other scientific, cultural and professional public institutions (EPCSCP) qualified for this purpose by the State Secretary for Higher Education.

Authorisation to attribute the diploma is granted or renewed by the State Secretary for Higher Education on the basis of an application filed by the institution, assessed by the scientific and technical mission composed of experts and examined by a comité d’expertise pédagogique des projets d’établissement (CEPPE – teaching expert committee on the institution’s projects) or a national committee, after approval by the Conseil national de l’enseignement supérieur et de la recherche (CNESER – National Council for Higher Education and Research).

National diplomas that can be attributed during studies leading to the “licence” (bachelor degree) are as follows:

  • capacité en droit (law capacity);
  • diplôme d’études universitaires scientifiques et techniques (DEUST – university and technical studies diploma);
  • diplôme universitaire de technologie (DUT – technological university diploma);
  • diplôme d’études universitaires générales (DEUG – General university studies diploma) attributed within the framework of professional university institutes or on the request of bachelor degree’s students.

Articles D613-17 to D613-25 of the French Code of education state that the national “licence” (bachelor), master and doctorat (PhD) diplomas can be issued within the framework of international partnerships. International partnerships are organised by an agreement signed between one or several French high education institutions and one or several foreign higher education institutions. The agreement in particular defines the training methods, constitution of teaching teams, testing of knowledge and aptitudes and certification methods.

Second Cycle Programmes

Branches of Study

Courses offered at the master’s degree level satisfy a dual objective of preparing students for research and providing courses leading them to high level professional integration. The master’s degree is awarded after acquisition of 120 credits after the “licence” (bachelor degree) on the basis of training organised in four semesters.

The first 60 credits (M1) can, by request of the student, receive an intermediate level national “maîtrise” diploma. The remaining credits lead to the awarding of the national “master” diploma.

One year after the adoption of the 2013 law on Higher Education, there are now 259 masters’ titles instead of the 5900 previous specialisations.

Universities are now bound by the Bologna process and have integrated their old courses into these new ones.

Admission Requirements

Following the reform of the organization of programmes leading to the Master’s degree (decree no. 2017-83 of January 25th, 2017), two main principles were established:

  • the Master’s degree is a 4-semesters’ programme (thus without an intermediary student selection), that has to be based on a one-and-only recruitment process before the 1st semester;
  • Every holder of a Licence’s degree (Bachelor’s degree) has to have a possibility to continue his studies in a programme leading to a Master’s degree.

The selection process now takes place before the beginning of the programme instead of during the programme as it was previously the norm. Moreover, the reform recognizes every student’s right for studies’ continuation. This right may be immediate or delayed (Validation des Acquis de l’Expérience – VAE programmes in particular).

The Recteur of the Région académique where the student did get his Licence will be responsible for this right. The Recteur will have to make the student three propositions after discussions with HEIs master’s degree programmes. These propositions will have to take into account the number of places available, the student’ career choice, the programme’s prerequisites, etc.

The “maîtrise” diploma, an intermediate qualification between the “licence” (180 European credits) and the master (300 European credits), is issued to students who ask for it if they validated the first 60 ECTS after the “licence“.

In addition, access to the different levels of post-baccalauréat training dispensed by an institution supervised by the Department of Higher Education and Research – whether a university, institute or public-sector school – can also be authorised after validation of acquired experience. Holders of foreign qualifications or diplomas may apply for their validation. The president of the university or head of the institution decides on that validation after recommendation by the teaching commission.

For information about tuition fees please refer to chapter 3 “Funding of Education”.

Curriculum

Training provided in view of obtaining a Master is theoretical, methodological and applied and, when required, involves one or several work placements. It also includes an introduction to research, in particular, the drafting of a dissertation or other personal study work.

The organisation of training as well as knowledge and aptitude testing methods are featured in the authorisation request filed by the institution with the Department of Higher Education.

The Master diploma can only be issued after validation of the student’s aptitude in at least one foreign language. Standard training courses therefore need to include teaching time to enable students to acquire this aptitude.

Teaching Methods

As for the curricula, each institution is responsible for its teaching organisation. For university teaching, there are nevertheless national regulations setting the general provisions for the organisation of teaching. Training is mainly dispensed in the form of lectures, tutorials and practical work which the university is required to balance according to the purposes of each course.

Progression of Students

In universities, teaching is organised in the form of teaching units (UE) that are added up. UEs are definitively acquired and may be added up on condition of the student achieving the average grade. The acquisition of UEs and diplomas is organised according to the principles of building up and compensating for units within the framework of the European credits system. The acquisition of the EU automatically leads to acquisition of corresponding European credits (ECTS). Access to the second year of the master’s degree  is decided by the head on recommendation of the director of studies.

Employability

The master’s degree is highly valued on the labour market and is required to work in numerous professions. Some professions are regulated, i.e. professions in which the practice requires a diploma, or another formal qualifications, thus requiring a (sometimes specific) master’s degree in order to work. Professions such as psychiatrist, court administrators or court-appointed agents, lawyers, engineers or notaries are regulated professions and require a master’s degree. Since the initial teacher training reform, a master’s degree is required to teach in primary and secondary schools as well.

A master’s degree requires research skills and methods, the use of documentary resources, a methodology to write and defend a thesis. A master’s degree allows the graduate to apply to the highest university title, the doctorate, in doctoral schools.

Law no. 2007-1199 of 10 August 2007 bearing on university freedoms and responsibilities gives higher education institutions a guidance and professional integration mission so that they may accompany their students towards the world of work. Universities now have the obligation to publish statistics on their success rates in examinations but above all on the professional integration of their graduates.

It is also indispensable to improve information of pupils and students on the type of training courses offered by higher education institutions and make them aware of job prospects open to them at the end of their higher education. This more precise knowledge of the realities of jobs will allow them to elaborate their career plans with full knowledge of available outlets.

More recently, the 2013 ESR law bearing on higher education has attempted to reinforce the policy for Master’s degree work placements and student mobility. Article L611-2 of the education Code, modified by the Article 22 of the ESR law, provides that any course may be organised in the form of work-linked training. This measure comes into force in the context of existing schemes, through apprenticeship, professionalisation contracts and industrial training by research agreements (CIFRE).

Student Assessment

Diplomas are gained through passing written and oral examinations on the content of teaching units (UE) making up each cycle. Assessment of aptitudes and knowledge is defined after approval is given by the Commission de Formation et de la Vie Universitaire (CFVU – Training and Student life Committee) All students are allowed to take (if necessary) two examination session, separated by two months, usually June and September.

As far as the master’s degree is concerned, knowledge testing is defined by the institutions within the framework of their autonomy. It should be stated in the authorisation application. This diploma is awarded to students having been successfully tested in knowledge and aptitudes on the basis of teaching dispensed, the research dissertation or any other personal study work, thus starting work that will be required for PhD students and, one or several work placements, if required by the course. Finally, the Master diploma can only be issued after validation of the student’s aptitude in at least one foreign language.

In non-university institutions, a continuous assessment system or annual examinations may assess students’ progress from the first year of studies, until the end diploma is completed. Usually, training includes a practical placement which results in a report or technical project, taken into consideration in the assessment of the diploma.

In each Teaching Unit (UE), aptitudes and knowledge acquisition are evaluated either by “continuous assessment” or by an end-of-year examination.The most frequent assessment template is as follows:

  • Continuous assessment is standard. It is the most appropriate framework for in-depth and progressive acquisition of knowledge. It is organised in the form of tests taking into account a series of work; personal work, unlimited in time, timed tests, presentations, etc.
  • “Partial examinations” are taken in a closed room, under the teacher’s responsibility.

Over the course of the semester, students’ evaluation can be done by cumulating both types of exams. The marks obtained in the tests are tallied by taking into account the weighting factor allocated to them. These assessment methods are specified for each subject.

Continuous assessment requires regular attendance of lectures and tutorials and partial absence or non-attendance in one of the continuous assessment tests leads to the score of 0/20 for the relevant exercise. After examination of the student’s personal situation, the teacher can, if he/she desires, propose a replacement solution, if not the student may ask to benefit from a dispensation with a view to being able to take the final examination. Absence from a final examination also leads to the score of 0/20 for the relevant examination.

The two annual assessment examinations are organised as follows:

  • examination conditions guarantee anonymity of written examinations;
  • material organisation and roll-out of examinations are covered by a circular available to students from each of the component’s offices;
  • assessment of aptitudes and knowledge is ordered after approval is given by the Training  and Student Life Committee, and brought to the attention of students one month after teaching has begun at the latest.

Moreover, the validation of semesters (echelons in the European credit system) leads to the number of corresponding European credits (ECTS). An echelon (semester) can be acquired:

  • either by validating each of the Teaching Units (UE) making it up (a mark above or equal to 10 in each UE);
  • or by compensation between these Teaching Unit (UEs) (weighted average of the UEs above or equal to 10), the compensation being automatic only if the candidate has obtained a mark above or equal to 7 in the different UEs.

The echelon mark (semester) is equal to the weighted average of the marks of the Teaching Units (UEs) making it up. The respective weights of UE marks are proportional to the number of credits of these UEs. The UEs validated individually are definitively acquired. Students are however entitled to refuse validation of an echelon acquired by compensation if they believe they can improve the results of UEs not acquired (marks lower than 10) the following year.

Finally, “echelon” and “diploma” juries can be led to attribute “jury points”. The diploma jury, which decides on the attribution of the diploma on the basis of decisions by the different echelon juries can, over and above scheduled validation patterns, reconsider, at the end of the course, the whole student’s progress, even if some echelons have not been acquired.

Certification

The “maîtrise” diploma, an intermediate diploma between the “licence” (bachelor’s degree – 180 ECTS) and the master’s degree (300 ECTS), is given to the students who ask for it after validating the first 60 ECTS after the “licence”.

With 300 credits, the national master’s degree is awarded. The university grade of master can be conferred by the state, after a national assessment and examination at the Conseil National de l’enseignement supérieur et de la recherche (CNESER – National Council for Higher Education and Research) to holders of other diplomas such as:

  • qualified engineers, after assessment by the commission des titres d’ingénieurs (CTI – engineers’ diploma committee);
  • the end of course diploma awarded by anInstitut d’Études Politiques (IEP – political studies institute);
  • the Diplôme de Recherche technologique (DRT – Technological Research Diploma);
  • the veterinarian surgeon’s state diploma;
  • the end of course diploma of certain business and management schools ;
  • the architect’s state diploma;
  • the heritage restorer’s diploma;
  • the École du Louvre second cycle diploma;
  • the Special Military Academy of Saint-Cyr diploma.

Articles D613-17 to D613-25 of the French Code of education state that the national “licence” (bachelor), master and doctorat (PhD) diplomas can be issued within the framework of international partnerships. International partnerships are organised by an agreement signed between one or several French high education institutions and one or several foreign higher education institutions. The agreement in particular defines the training methods, constitution of teaching teams, testing of knowledge and aptitudes and certification methods.

Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Organisation of Doctoral Studies

The “doctorat” (PhD) is prepared in six semesters (it corresponds to 8 years of study beyond the baccalauréat diploma). The diploma is awarded after presentation of a thesis.

This third level is one of high specialisation and research training. After the master’s degree or a recognised equivalent, students showing aptitude for research can access PhD studies within the framework of doctoral schools. These schools allow the preparation of a doctorate (PhD) in three or four years (presentation of a thesis or of a set of work). In compliance with the commitments taken in the “Pacte pour la recherche” (Pact for research), expressed by the planning law for research no. 2006-450 of 18 April 2006, doctoral training has been renovated: the new order of 7 August 2006 bearing on doctoral training is consistent with the orientations set out in the “European Charter for Researchers” especially as regards the status of PhD students.

Moreover, attention paid to the implementation of the “thesis charter” guarantees quality insofar as it defines the rights and duties of each party. The preparation of a thesis should be part of a personal and professional project clearly defined in its objectives and resources.

Consecutive to this reform adopted by the order of 7 August 2006, PhD training should offer young PhDs excellent training, attractive nationally and internationally, and the best possible career prospects. Four major orientations are defined: reassertion of doctoral schools as places to structure French doctoral training; primacy given to “quality assurance”; recognition of the doctorat (PhD) as “a professional research experience” and strengthening of measures to guarantee excellent training; creation of doctoral schools made accessible to all higher education institutions.

Doctoral studies allow:

  • a scientific framework guaranteed by recognised research units or teams;
  • training useful for steering their research project and elaborating their professional project;
  • international opening, that enables multi-year residence permits and the setting up of unique portals on campuses;
  • the possibility of doing a work placement;
  • integration monitoring.

During their doctoral training, PhD students take support training courses and pictograms in teaching sessions, seminars, missions or placements organised within the framework of the doctoral school.

Admission Requirements

Admission to a doctoral school with a view to preparing a PhD is open to holders of a national master’s diploma or another diploma conferring the grade of master, an engineering diploma or equivalent diploma through the validation of acquired experience. Enrolment is confirmed by the head after proposal by the doctoral school head and validation by the thesis supervisor and research unit director. It confirms admission to the training dispensed by the doctoral school. Enrolment should be renewed at the start of every university year.

For the first PhD enrolment:

  • the head of the doctoral school ensures that the scientific, material and financial conditions are brought together to ensure the smooth operation of the candidate’s research work and this preparation, after validation by the director of the research unit supervising the quality of the project;
  • the thesis charter is signed by the PhD student, thesis supervisor, head of the doctoral school and manager of the host unit or team.

For information about tuition fees please refer to chapter 3 “Funding of Education”.

Status of Doctoral Candidates

Since 2007, the State Secretary for Higher Education is committed to ensuring that the PhD becomes the flagship diploma of the national and European training system and has taken various initiatives in application of the planning law for research of 18 April 2006 which recognises PhD students as young research professionals

To reinforce the appeal of the PhD further, a new contract for PhD students has been proposed with more guarantees and which can be adapted for each individual case. This new “doctoral contract”, created by the ESR Law on higher education tends to reinforce doctorate recognition in the public and private sectors (Article 78 and Article 82 particularly). Moreover, the objective of the Fridenson mission is to ensure recognition of the doctoral degree by companies in their competency and pay scales. Finally, doctors will have access to the 3rd ENA competition, an acknowledgement of up to three years of professional experience.

The other status for PhD students may be students benefiting from a study grant (scholars). There are several sources of grants for PhD studies:

Grants or Allowances from the Department of Higher Education and Research

Every year, the Department awards a continent fund of allowances to the Doctoral School which it makes available after having defined the thesis subjects and host teams. Allowances are attributed by the Doctoral School to the best candidates after examination of their applications: the results of the master’s degree are particularly decisive. The aim is to allow PhD students to dedicate themselves fully to research work for the preparation of their thesis. The allowances are for three years. Applicants should be aged under 25 but a dispensation is possible for under 30s. Prerequisite diplomas are: master’s degree or an equivalence/dispensation. Applicants should be French (or naturalisation in process) or citizen of a member state of the EU or have gained the Master’s degree in France. It is possible to work as a supervisor/tutor. For social security, the general system applies as for pension contributions.

Grants through the Convention Industrielle de Formation par la Recherche (CIFRE – Industrial training research agreement)

These are agreed as part of a partnership between a public research laboratory and a company. A laboratory receiving a CIFRE grant usually publishes a call for applications from students liable to be interested. The aim is to be able to prepare a thesis while working for a company in a research and development programme in liaison with a research team outside the company and at the same time reinforce the company’s technological capability. The candidate should be under 26 but may be of any nationality. Two directors (an HDR teacher-researcher and person working in the company’s studies or research department) should supervise the PhD. The allowances are for three years.

Bourses de Doctorat pour Ingénieurs (BDI – Engineer PhD grants)

These are awarded by the CNRS which totally or partially funds them with another research organisation (a company) or a public local authority (e.g. a region). They are awarded (or not) to laboratories associated with the CNRS which have filed an application to the CNRS detailing the thesis subject, host team and the CV of the PhD candidate. The candidate should be under 27 and preferably should have an engineering or equivalent diploma (in addition to the DEA).

Regional grants or public authority allowances

Public local authorities (mainly Regions) can offer thesis grants or allowances to research laboratories on subjects deemed to be of priority to them. Depending on the region, allowance awarding conditions are subject to the same aforementioned BDI process (subject, laboratory, candidate’s CV).

Grants from other research organisations

Like the CNRS, other research organisations or agencies (INSERM, INRIA, INRA, INED, CNES, IFREMER, ONERA, ADEME, ANVAR…) can fund or jointly fund thesis grants. Allowance awarding conditions are subject to the same aforementioned BDI process (subject, laboratory, candidate’s CV).

Funding by private organisations

Within the framework of their partnership with the private or semi-public industrial sector, some laboratories can benefit from grants or wages for PhD students. To obtain this type of funding, candidates are invited to contact laboratories and consult the websites of major state-of-the-art industrial companies: automotive, aeronautics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electronics, petroleum, etc.)

Grants for foreign students

The Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) awards a grant to foreign Master’s graduates. Furthermore, depending on the country, it is possible for certain foreign students and in certain conditions to obtain a thesis grant from their government and/or the French government.

Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique (CEA – Atomic Energy Agency) grants

The CEA can sign a thesis contract with PhD students preparing their thesis in its laboratories. This thesis contract is designed to allow selected young PhD students to conduct a research project in one of the CEA’s many fields of expertise: fundamental research in physics and life science, technological research for industry, R&D for nuclear energy, nuclear defence, protection and safety activities (research themes of CEA laboratories). The fulfilment and performance of the research project, supervised by a confirmed engineer or researcher, as well as a thesis supervisor approved by the University (universities having signed a framework agreement with the CEA) allow the presentation of a thesis and awarding of the University PhD diploma. In all cases, the thesis contract is 3-year fixed term work contract for which the CEA is the employer.

Supervision Arrangements

The order of 7 August 2006 opens PhD training to all scientific partners with the sole goal of achieving excellence in research. Attention paid to the implementation of the “thesis charter”, a genuine moral contract between the PhD student, his or her thesis supervisor, the doctoral school head and the director of the host laboratory, guarantees quality insofar as it defines the rights and duties of each party. The preparation of a thesis should be part of a personal and professional project clearly defined in its objectives and resources. In the preparation of his or her thesis, the PhD student is an integral part of the research unit. A thesis may be supervised jointly by two thesis supervisors.

The order of 6 January 2005 stipulates that to consolidate the construction of the European higher education and research area and develop international cooperation, a French higher education institution authorised to award the PhD can sign an agreement with one or several foreign higher education institutions, benefiting in their countries from the same status, aimed at organising joint international thesis supervision as per the terms set in the order hereto. International joint supervision aims to strengthen the international dimension of doctoral schools, favour mobility of PhD students in different scientific and cultural environments and develop scientific cooperation between French and foreign research teams.

The agreement can either be a framework agreement accompanied, for each thesis, by an application agreement or an agreement signed specifically for each thesis. These agreements should specify the name of the contracting higher education institutions and, for each thesis, the name of the student in question and thesis subject. They bind contracting institutions on the basis of a reciprocity principle.

PhDs awarded within the framework of the order hereto are rightfully recognised in France. Agreements should mention the forms of recognition in the other country or countries. When the rules applicable to PhD studies in the relevant countries are incompatible with each other, French institutions are authorised to dispense from the provisions of the aforementioned order of 25 April 2002 on these specific aspects, while respecting the provisions of the order hereto as per the terms defined by the agreement.

PhD students conduct their work under the responsibility, in each relevant country, of a thesis supervisor who undertakes to exercise his or her supervisory role in cooperation with the other thesis supervisors. The thesis supervisors and PhD student sign the agreement mentioned in article 3 for the relevant thesis. The thesis is prepared in periods alternating between the relevant institutions according to a balance and terms defined in the agreement.

Employability

PhD training consists in training through research, in research and innovation. It is a genuine professional research experience, opening up the way to a career, in variable conditions and with variable responsibilities depending on the sector.

Obtaining a PhD can also be followed up by registration with the Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches (HDR – research-supervision accreditation), a diploma confirming the aptitude to implement original high level research and ability to supervise young researchers. The key purpose of this diploma is to allow access to university professors’ body.

Assessment

PhD students conduct their work under the control and responsibility of their thesis director.

The functions of thesis supervisor or co-supervisor can be occupied by:

  • lecturers and assimilated staff as set out by the provisions bearing on the designation of members of the Conseil National des Universités (national university council) or by equivalent ranking teachers not supervised by the Department of Education; by personnel of higher education institutions, public research organisations and research foundations, qualified to supervise research;
  • other personalities, PhD holders, chosen owing to their scientific competence by the head, as proposed by the head of the doctoral school and validated by the institution’s scientific committee.

The institution’s scientific committee decides on the maximum number of PhD students to be supervised by a thesis supervisor, possibly according to the relevant subject fields, after approval from the doctoral schools’ boards. With respect to this, the provisions agreed by the institutions are taken into account in the regular assessment of doctoral schools.

Certification

Authorisation to present a thesis is given by the head, after approval from the head of the doctoral school head and proposal by the thesis supervisor. The candidate’s work is previously examined by at least two assessors appointed by the head, approved to supervise research or belonging to one of the categories set out in article 17 above, by proposal of the doctoral school head after approval from the thesis supervisor. The assessors should not belong to the doctoral school and the candidate’s institution. Assessors belonging to foreign higher education or research institutions could be called in. The assessors will notify their decision in written reports on the basis of which the institution’s head authorises the thesis, after approval from the doctoral school’s head. These reports are given to the jury and candidate before the presentation of the thesis.

The thesis jury is appointed by the head, after approval from the doctoral school head and the thesis supervisor. The jury can be composed of 3 to 8 members. At least half of them are French or foreign personalities, external to the doctoral school and candidate’s enrolment institution and chosen owing to their scientific competence, subject to provisions bearing on international thesis co-supervision. When several institutions are qualified to jointly award the PhD, the jury is designated by the relevant heads of institution as per the conditions set out by the agreement that binds them. At least half of the jury should be composed or lecturers or assimilated as per the provisions bearing on the designation of members of the Conseil national des universités (National university council) or teachers of equivalent rank not supervised by the Department of Higher Education. The members of the jury choose a chairperson from their members and, if applicable, a thesis reporter. The chairperson should be a lecturer or assimilated teacher or teacher of equivalent rank as per the previous paragraph. The thesis supervisor, if he/she participates in the jury, may not be chosen as the thesis reporter or chairman of the jury.

The thesis is presented publicly, unless a dispensation is exceptionally issued by the head if the subject of the thesis contains proven confidential material. Before the presentation, the summary of the thesis is circulated within the institution or institutions benefiting from joint accreditation. After the presentation, the thesis is circulated within the university community. As part of its deliberations, the jury assesses the quality of the candidate’s work, his or her aptitude to position it in its scientific context and his/her presentation qualities. When the work corresponds to collective research, the personal share of each candidate is assessed by a dissertation that he/she drafts and presents individually to the jury.

The admission or adjournment is announced after the jury’s deliberation. The chairman signs the thesis report which is countersigned by all the members of the jury. This report can indicate one of the following grades: honourable, very honourable, very honourable “cum laude” (this mention’s deliverance is highly discipline-related). The highest grade, which is reserved for candidates with exceptional qualities demonstrated by their work and presentation, may only be awarded after a secret and unanimous ballot of members of the jury. In this case, the chairperson of the jury drafts an additional report justifying this distinction. The thesis report specifies, if applicable, that the institution does not award a grade. The thesis report is communicated to the candidate.

The national PhD diploma is awarded by the head or heads after the compliant proposal by the jury. The name and seal of the institution or institutions awarding the PhD are featured on the certificate. The subject field, title of the thesis or name of the main work, the name of the doctoral school and the names and titles of the members of the jury and, if applicable, indication of an international thesis joint supervision are also mentioned.

The awarding of the national PhD diploma confers the grade of PhD or Doctor. In the specific field of healthcare, the total term of training, also organised into three cycles, varies, depending on subjects, and leads to the awarding of the following diplomas:

  • In medicine: 9 to 11 years of study are required to obtain the State doctor of medicine diploma and specialised study diploma (4 years for medical specialization and 5 years for surgical specialization);
  • In odontology: the State diploma in dental surgery is obtained after 6 years of study or 8 years when completed by a certificate of further dental surgery studies (training taken by house physicians);
  • In pharmacy: the State diploma in pharmacy is obtained after 6 years of study or 9 years when completed by a certificate of specialist studies.

Besides these national diplomas approved by the Department of Higher Education, universities can set up diplomas under their own responsibility (university or institution diplomas). These diplomas fall under the exclusive competence of institutions without the State being able to intervene on their recognition or control their quality. Institutions can resort to this practice to satisfy specific or transitory needs, professional in particular. However, the policy conducted by the Department of Higher Education aims to favour the national diploma system which provides students with better guarantees.

Mobility in Higher Education

Student Mobility

Higher learning students have several kinds of programmes enabling them to carry out part of their studies abroad: bilateral or multilateral programmes and European-type programmes.

Par ailleurs, il convient de rappeler ici que la France a réformé en 2002 la structure de son système d’enseignement supérieur (licence-master-doctorat) et généralisé le système E.C.T.S. (unités de valeur transférables), en accord avec les principes du processus de Bologne et dans le but de faciliter la mobilité des étudiants dans l’espace européen.

Mobility programs for Students

Foreign language assistant teachers
A multilateral programme
Candidates; 2nd or 3rd university year students preparing a language diploma or, for certain destinations, in letters, history-geography, the education sciences, the language sciences, plastic arts, etc.
Timeframe: 7 to 9 months
Characteristics: French assistant teachers in non-French-speaking countries.
Activities: oral language practice with pupils; participation in certain educational activities in the school; running a language club; language internships; personalised aid; participation in implementing an exchange project; initiation in the home culture.
Funding: compensation varies according to the host country.
Operator: CIEP

Fulbright Scholarship
A Franco-American programme
Candidates: 3rd year licence students or Masters, all disciplines.
Timeframe: one school year.
Characteristics: teaching assistant for French in the United States; teaching assistant at university or school level; 2 compulsory courses in a university on civilisation, history or literature.
Objectives: confirming language skills.
Funding: Fulbright scholarship.
Operators: CIEP; Franco-American Commission; the cultural service of the French embassy in the United States; the Institute of International Education.

Entente Cordiale
A Franco-British programme
Candidates: French and British students at the post-graduate level and under 35 years old.
Timeframe: one year.
Characteristics: individual mobility; a study or research year in the United Kingdom.
Objectives: consolidation of Franco-British ties; experience of daily life in Britain; a study period in the United Kingdom.
Funding: €10,000.
Operator: the British Council

France is actively involved in 2 major European initiatives designed to enhance student mobility in Europe via the aforementioned EFTLV programme.

Erasmus Programme
A European programme
Candidates: 2nd year pupils in a higher technical section.
Timeframe: 3 to 12 months.
Characteristics: a period of study abroad or an internship in a company; recognition of the time spent in the host institution, with the transfer of ECTS credits or in the host company.
Objectives: strengthening language skills; learning about a new educational system; developing notions of European citizenship.
Funding: mobility allowance.
Operator: 2E2F

Comenius Assistant
A European programme
Candidates: Students studying to becomes professors or having finished their teacher training without yet having taught.
Timeframe: 13 to 45 weeks.
Characteristics: a stay in a foreign institution; teaching the future teacher’s discipline or the modern languages he or she masters or their mother language and culture.
Objectives: comparison with another educational system; training enrichment; improvement of language skills and an European cultural approach; improvement of teaching skills.
Funding: the national agency pays for travel, living and dining expenses. The overall amount of the scholarship is defined by the national agency depending on the destination country and the length of assistant teaching.
Operator: Agence Europe Education Formation France

Besides, for private technical higher education institutions and institutions under the authority of a Chamber of Commerce, in particular engineering schools and higher business and management schools, student mobility is also reflected in the organisation of compulsory time spent abroad (academic stays in universities and other partner higher education institutions and work placements in companies) and, for some, the signing of double diploma agreements.

Mobility Grants for Students

Several types of grants are available to students, enabling them to fund their studies abroad.

ERASMUS and ERASMUS MUNDUS scholarships
A student taking part in an ERASMUS exchange may be granted a scholarship (€200 per month on average) to study at another European university for a minimum of 3 months without having to once again pay for their tuition.
And ERASMUS scholarship may also be allocated to enable selected students to carry out an internship in Europe (over €400 per months).
European students who are selected to prepare a Masters or a Doctorate in the ERASMUS MUNDUs community programme (2009-2013) may also benefit from scholarships set up for this purpose.

Other possible grants

Other grants may come from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, other ministries, regional councils, etc.

a.    Scholarships awarded by the ministry for national Education

Mobility grants for work placements
In the domain of post-baccalauréat vocational training and technical education, scholarships designed to support work placements in a European Union country are provided to students preparing for a BTS diploma. The placement, with a 3 to 10-week duration, must be in a foreign language, within an industrial or commercial company.

Studying in the countries of the Council of Europe
French students or students from the European Union who wish to pursue higher education in a public higher education institution in one of the member countries of the Council of Europe can benefit from a grant awarded based on social criteria, in the same conditions as in France, for the preparation of a foreign national qualification. For that they must be enrolled, full time for a university year or two semesters depending on the country, in a higher learning institution officially recognised by the State to pursue advanced studies leading to a national diploma,. Courses which, in France, are not under the authority of the ministry of national Education (e.g.: architecture, veterinary studies etc.) and language upgrade courses are excluded from this scope.

b.    Scholarships awarded by the ministry of foreign Affairs

International mobility aid
This aid is intended to support the international mobility of students wishing to pursue advanced training abroad as part of an exchange programme or carry out an international internship. This training or internship must figure in the framework of their study curriculum.
It is done in the form of supplementary aid to the social-criteria grant for recipient students. The monthly amount is €400.
Recipients of this aid, which is subject to an annual quota, are selected by the higher education institution where they are enrolled. It should be noted that only those higher learning institutions governed by the four-year contracting procedure with the Ministry of Higher Learning may grant this aid for international mobility.
The aid is paid directly by CROUS based on recipient lists communicated by institutions.

Aid for studying in France
The ministry for foreign Affairs also awards scholarships within the framework of specific programmes. Three scholarship programmes designed to attract the best foreign students are mentioned hereafter:

  • “Eiffel” excellence scholarship: set up in 1999, the “Eiffel excellence scholarship” programme is aimed at the best foreign students who want to continue their higher education in France, at master or doctorate level in 2nd and 3rd cycle levels, in three major domains: engineering sciences, economics – management, law – political science.
  • “Major” excellence scholarship programme: the objective of this excellence scholarship programme, launched at the beginning of the 2000 university year, is to facilitate the continuation of studies for former pupils of French lycées abroad, holders of a French baccalauréat who already benefit from a first 2-year excellence scholarship programme, managed by the Agency for French education abroad (AEFE). More specifically, the scholarship awarded enables those who completed their first cycle to continue studying for 3 more years, in grandes écoles or university cycles, until they are awarded the master qualification.
  • French Government scholarships: these are awarded for studies, placements or language trips to France. Most of them are awarded by the cultural cooperation and initiative Services of the French Embassies and general Consulates abroad. There are several categories of scholarship:
  • Study scholarship: the “study scholarship” is granted to students enrolled in the regular cycle of a French higher education institution with a view to obtaining a diploma awarded by this institution;
  • Placement scholarship: the “placement scholarship”, the duration of which varies on average from 3 to 12 months, is awarded with a view to training, perfecting, or specialised study connected with a professional occupation. It can also be a short-term language scholarship or short-term pedagogical placement scholarship (3 months), for training courses authorised by the Ministry for national education;
  • High level scientific trip scholarship: the “high level scientific trip scholarship”, with an average duration of one to three months, is granted within the framework of a high-level cultural, scientific, technical or industrial research and exchange programme.

In addition, it should be underlined that foreign students, who do not benefit from a scholarship, can benefit, in the same capacity as French students, from particularly low enrolment fees for universities and public education institutions on the authority of the Ministry for national education.

Academic Staff Mobility

National policy objectives relating to the mobility of staff in higher education

France’s strategy for promoting staff mobility in higher education rests in large measure on the country’s participation in EU programmes as part of its European commitments with regard to the Bologna Process. Mobility is a priority at European level, thus it is one for France as well.

Beyond the EU framework, public authorities are involved in international mobility actions at bilateral level: the Department for Higher Education and for Research and the Department for Foreign and European Affairs work closely with their foreign opposite numbers to encourage mobility of French researchers abroad, and of foreign researchers towards France. Target figures, in particular concerning mobility amongst higher-education staff, have not been set at national level, but the “internationalisation” of higher-education establishments (their training and their research projects involving scientific staff) is clearly part of the development strategy of higher education and of research in France. International openness represents one of the aspects of evaluation adopted by the French Evaluation Agency for Research and Higher Education (Agence d’évaluation de la recherche et de l’enseignement supérieur – AERES)

National mobility programmes for higher-education staff

In France, mobility amongst higher-education staff concerns young researchers in particular (doctoral and post-doctoral students) and teaching staff (research professors, university professors). Outside the numerous exchange programmes (like the “Marie Curie” programme) and international mobility programmes set up at the initiative of other countries (e.g. the USA “Fulbright” programme), mobility amongst higher-education staff essentially comes within the framework of:

  1. bilateral exchange programmes and financial assistance for mobility, set up under the supervision of the Department for Foreign and European Affairs as well as the Department for Higher Education and for Research;
  2. partnerships set up by higher-education establishments exercising their educational and budgetary independence.

National programmes under the supervision of the Department for Foreign and European Affairs as well as the Department for Higher Education and for Research

Those are programmes and financial assistance to mobility that fit into the framework of the Department of Foreign Affairs’ policy of supporting international scientific and technological exchanges; they are implemented with the support of the Department for Higher Education and for Research. Here are a few examples:

  • The Hubert Curien partnerships (Partenariats Hubert Curien – PHC), the aim of which is to develop scientific and technological exchanges of excellence between research laboratories attached to scientific communities, by encouraging new co-operation. PHCs are aimed at public and private research laboratories that are attached to higher-education establishments, research bodies, or businesses. The support allocated is aimed at financing mobility amongst researchers engaged in partnerships;
  • The Hermès programme, the aim of which is to enable young post-doctoral researchers in the human and social sciences from countries in Asia, Latin America, and South Africa to undertake research placements in France. Those placements last for between three and nine months. They are designed to enable invited researchers to carry out an individual research project within a host laboratory, and to set up long-lasting co-operation between their home institutions and the host establishments. The Hermès programme was set up at the initiative of the Department for Foreign and European Affairs, in relation with the House of Human Sciences Foundation (Fondation Maison des Sciences de l‘Homme – FMSH), the Department for Higher Education and for Research, and the “Humans and Society” Department of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (Centre national de la recherche scientifique – CNRS). The FMSH provides scientific and administrative management for the programme;
  • The Diderot Scholarships, established in July 1989 by a joint initiative of the Department for Foreign and European Affairs, the Department for Higher Education and for Research, the Department for Culture and Communication, and the CNRS. Its aim is to invite post-doctoral researchers in the human and social sciences to spend long-term research placements in French research laboratories that provide them with a scientific host context. Since 2010, the Diderot Scholarships – whilst retaining their own identity – have been incorporated into the new “Fernand Braudel – IFER” (International Fellowships for Experienced Researchers”) programme, which is supported by the European Union (Mare Curie Action Programme);
  • The CAPES-COFECUB Agreement (Co-ordination for Training Higher-Level Staff – French Committee for Evaluating University Co-operation with Brazil – Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior – Comité Français pour l’Évaluation de la Coopération Universitaire avec le Brésil ) was signed in 1979 between France and Brazil. It aims at continuing high-level scientific exchanges between the two countries. It enables equal-shares co-financing of short missions by university researchers and lecturers, as well as the provision of training for Brazilian doctorate holders in France and French doctorate holders in Brazil who work on projects of scientific excellence across the range of disciplines;
  • The USP-COFECUB Agreement (University of São Paulo – French Committee for Evaluating University Co-operation with Brazil – Universidade de São Paulo – Comité Français pour l’Évaluation de la Coopération Universitaire avec le Brésil) was put in place in 1994 at the joint initiative of the Department for Foreign and European Affairs and the University of São Paulo. It aims at setting up a system of academic exchanges that enables Brazilian and French research professors to develop high-level joint research across the range of disciplines;
  • The Zhang Heng programme, aimed at young French researchers from research laboratories attached to higher-education establishments or to public bodies. It enables finance to be provided for a one-week stay in China with the purpose of giving French researchers knowledge of research carried out in China in the field of infectious diseases, more particularly in relation to topics chosen for implementing Franco-Chinese scientific co-operation in the field of emerging infectious diseases;
  • TheFranco-Argentine Bernardo Houssay programme, which provides finance for mobility amongst post-doctoral students (up to a maximum of 10 years following thesis defence) in the context of common research projects;
  • The Partner University Fund (PUF): set up in 2007 to facilitate the implementation of long-lasting academic partnerships between the USA and France. It enables financial support to be provided for large-scale calls for projects that are open to all French and USA higher-education establishments and research bodies. The actions are financed for three consecutive years by the Department for Foreign and European Affairs as well as by private USA donors, and are very diverse by nature: student mobility and joint honours, joint supervision of theses, lecturer visits, joint publications, etc.

Partnerships put in place by higher-education establishments exercising their independence

By virtue of the independence that is granted to higher-education establishments under law (law no. 68-978 of 12 November 1968, law no. 2007-1199 of 10 August 2007), they can set up international partnerships with other universities in Europe and around the world, in order to develop common research projects. Those partnerships very often include mobility amongst researchers and research professors. In a context of increased international competition in the field of research and innovation, French higher-education establishments are strongly engaged in putting in place strategies to boost their visibility on the international scene, which involves mobility and co-operation actions with their partners abroad.

For an example of that type of strategy, please consult the international section of the University of Paris – Descartes.

Authorities responsible for organising, co-ordinating, and financing those programmes

As has been mentioned above, in France, the mobility of higher-education staff fits into the framework of exchanges and financial assistance for mobility set up under the supervision of the Department for Foreign and European Affairs as well as the Department for Higher Education and for Research; partnerships set up by higher-education establishments exercising their independence. Concerning the first category of mobility programmes, the bodies responsible for organising and financing them are the Department for Foreign and European Affairs and the Department for Higher Education and for Research. The latter is often more involved in implementing programmes, for example as regards the evaluation of projects presented by candidates for mobility. The management of arrangements is generally given to a public establishment placed under the supervision of the Department for Foreign and European Affairs as well as the Department for Higher Education and for Research. Campus France: the Campus France Agency was set up by the law of 27 July 2010. It is tasked with managing international mobility amongst students, researchers, experts, and guests. The decree of 30 December 2011 sets out the Agency’s organisation and terms of action.

Furthermore, mobility partnerships and plans put in place by higher-education establishments are managed by bodies within the establishments. By way of example, at the University of Paris – Descartes, those plans are managed by the “International Partnerships Directorate” (“Direction des partenariats internationaux”), placed under the responsibility of the University Vice-Chancellor and of the Director General of the departments; its mission is, inter alia, to manage the means made available for the development on the international scene of the university in all its aspects: mobility amongst students and research professors, joint training or research programmes. Since law no. 2007-1199 of 10 August 2007 was passed, universities have enjoyed full independence in terms of budget management: thus, it is possible for them to finance part or all of an exchange programme. In general, that takes the form of “financial assistance for mobility”, a grant intended to finance mobility costs for researchers involved in a scientific co-operation project with other partners in Europe and around the world.

The financial means made available by universities – and that come from their budgets – can be added to by other sources of finance for mobility, such as:

finance granted by the French National Research Agency (Agence nationale de la recherche – ANR) (a public establishment that is administrative in character) to projects of excellence. The ANR has included amongst its priorities the development of European and international collaboration; in the context of signing agreements with foreign finance agencies, it sets up bilateral or multilateral partnerships on topics of common interests that are deemed strategic by the agencies;
scholarships for help with mobility that are made available by certain local authorities (municipalities, départements, and regions).

Evaluating the impact of those programmes

The AERES is tasked with evaluating higher-education and research institutions, research bodies, higher education training programmes and degrees and with validating their staff-evaluation procedures. Examining the strategy of international openness amongst various institutions (setting up international partnerships; availability of mobility scholarships for students and researchers; transparency and legibility of training programmes, etc.), are part of its task of overall evaluation of each institution.    

Financial conditions for taking part in the programmes

In the majority of cases, financial support for mobility is represented by scholarships. They cover all travel costs, and may include a per diem payment for day-to-day expenses. In the case of partnerships between universities, mobility is financed by “additional” scholarships, aimed at financing only the additional cost of travel abroad; thus, one speaks of mobility “assistance” (made available by: universities and research bodies; national agencies like the ANR; local authorities, etc.) 

Mechanisms for encouraging participation in those programmes (e.g. career advancement) for the staff concerned

In the case of research professors, the provisions of articles 39 and 55 of decree no. 84-431 of 6 June 1984 setting out the common statutory provisions applicable to research professors, and giving special status to the corps of university professors as well as the corps of lecturers and university professors, provide that a seniority bonus of one year, taken into account for advancement along the scale, is granted on request to lecturers (article 39) and university professors (article 55) who have, in that quality, completed a period of mobility of at least two years, or of one year if the mobility was accomplished within a higher-education or research establishment of a Member State of the European Union or the European Economic Area, other than France.

A similar provision is in place in favour of researchers who come under decree no. 83-1260 of 30 December 1983, which sets the common statutory provisions for the corps of civil servants at public scientific and technological establishments.

Article 11 of that text provides that a seniority bonus of one year, taken into account for advancement along the scale, is granted to researchers who, from the date of publication of the decree, complete a period of mobility of at least two years in another research or higher-education body, abroad, or within a State administrative body, a local authority, or a public or private business.

In addition, various actions are carried out at local or international level in order to foster possibilities for joining research teams in other countries.

The challenge faced by distribution networks resulting from electric cars

Electric vehicles (EVs) offer many advantages, including less CO2, less noise and above all zero fine particles. The European Commission anticipates an end to the sale of combustion engines by 2035. However, the ability of […]

Magnetic nanofibers for new MEMS applications

A research team carried out the analysis of iron nanofibers and revealed its special magnetic properties. This work, published in Nanotechnology, paves the way for new developments in MEMS. MEMS, the invisible technologies in our […]

Bring the best out of your research with École Normale Supérieure de Lyon

Expertise in research programs The ENS de Lyon can provide you with cutting-edge expertise and help you set up research programs tailored to your needs. The school collaborates with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and […]

«Artificial photosynthesis» team of scientists wins Royal Society of Chemistry’s Horizon Prize

An international collaboration has been awarded a prize by the Royal Society of Chemistry for a device producing fuels from water, CO2 and sunlight. Interview with Martin Foldyna, CNRS physicist at Laboratory of Physics of […]

Bachelor students from all over Europe team up for first ever CUVICA european week

From 8 to 11 June 2021, some 40 undergraduate students from Sciences Po, Bocconi University, the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) and The London School of Economics (LSE) took part in the first edition of […]

Welcome to the Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines

University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (UVSQ) is a leading multidisciplinary higher education and research institution. The quality of UVSQ’s undergraduate and graduate programs (master’s programs, doctorates, post-doctoral fellowships) is backed by the compelling research programs conducted […]

HR excellence in Research of Université de Rennes 1

Université De Rennes 1 has obtained the HR excellence in Research label, acknowledging its contribution to the construction of the European Research Area, as well as the quality of its HR policy towards researchers. The […]

Interview with Gianluca Manzo, Computational & Analytical Sociologist

The Sorbonne Center for Artificial Intelligence (SCAI) has been holding a webinar series titled ‘AI in Action’ since February 2021. Once a month, experts gather on zoom to explore the diverse application fields of artificial intelligence, focusing […]

University of Bordeaux

The University of Bordeaux was founded in 1441 in France. The university is part of the Community of universities and higher education institutions of Aquitaine. It is one of the two universities in Bordeaux, with Bordeaux Montaigne University. The University of […]

University Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas

Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas University advocates diversity and cultivates a true synergy between research, instruction, and application. It offers a broad choice of courses both in initial and continuing education, coalescing study abroad and field work. […]

Magnetic nanofibers for new MEMS applications

A research team carried out the analysis of iron nanofibers and revealed its special magnetic properties. This work, published in Nanotechnology, paves the way for new developments in MEMS. MEMS, the invisible technologies in daily […]

Salt caverns to store hydrogen?

Deep underground, France hides deposits of crystallized salts over a large part of its territory. In total, more than 20,000km² of salt, hundreds of meters thick, were deposited by the ocean before being covered by […]

Covid-19 restrictions to remain in place, Macron warns protesting students

Macron was meeting a group of students at Paris-Saclay university, to hear their complaints and concerns over issues raised by Covid-19 restrictions, such as loneliness and despair over the economic downturn impacting their job prospects. Students, like everyone else, are […]

Muslims in India: sciences po, princeton and columbia launch a new research program

The Universities of Sciences Po, Princeton and Columbia are launching a major three-year research project on Muslim communities in India thanks to the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation. The resulting research will offer new […]

Université de Montpellier

For the past 800 years, the University of Montpellier (UM) has strived to address scientific and societal challenges. With 16 schools and institutes, and 78 research structures, UM brings together a vast community of knowledge ranging […]

European Higher Education Organization is a public organization carrying out academic, educational and information activities on higher education in Europe.

The EHEO general plan stresses that:

  • Higher education systems require adequate funding and, as an investment in economic growth, public spending in higher education should be protected.
  • The challenges faced by higher education require more flexible governance and funding systems, which balance greater autonomy for education institutions with accountability to stakeholders.

Thus, EHEO plans:

  • improve academic and scientific interaction of universities;
  • protect the interests of universities;
  • interact more closely with public authorities of European countries;
  • popularize European higher education in the world;
  • develop academic mobility;
  • seek funding for European universities.