France - Introduction

country: France

There are four types of programmes in the French tertiary education system:
  • University education,
  • Preparatory classes for grandes écoles,
  • Higher technical education sections,
  • Specialised schools or grandes écoles.
These categories can be broken down further into:
  • Those which can be accessed directly with a baccalauréat  or an equivalent diploma, involving no pre-entry selection process: university programmes, with the exception of university institutes of technology;
  • Those which are accessed through a pre-entry selection process: preparatory classes for grandes écoles (CPGE), higher technical education sections (STS), Instituts Universitaires de Technologie ( IUT or University institutes of technology) and specialised schools. Selections are made based on an admissions application. The type of baccalauréat earned and the marks obtained by the pupil in the last two years of lycée are determining factors,
  • Those for which the selection process occurs after the student has obtained a licence. This is the case for IUFM (university teacher training institutes) programmes,
  • Grandes écoles recruiting by competitive examination following two or three years of preparatory classes (CPGE mostly).
Obtaining the baccalauréat is a pre-requisite to being admitted to an institution of higher education. The baccalauréat is a diploma that acknowledges the successful completion of secondary education and the first level of university studies. This is a very important feature of the French education system, one which has several consequences, particularly with regard to university studies and student orientation during the premier cycle (first cycle) at university.

"Tertiary education is organised in cycles. The number, nature and duration of the cycles vary depending on the studies pursued. Each cycle has its own objectives and contributes to students’ orientation, general education, acquisition of elements necessary for professional qualification, research, personality development, sense of responsibility, and ability to work both independently and as part of a team. At the end of each cycle, the student receives a national of institutional degree acknowledging the acquisition of specific knowledge, skills, and elements of professional qualification."


Superior Education and Research ministry
Ministère de l'Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche 1 rue Descartes 75231 Paris cedex 05 - FRANCE
Tel.:( +33)

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Date: 2009
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