The universities offer academic, technical, and professional degree programs in all disciplines, preparing students for careers in research and professional practice in every imaginable field. The universities offer dozens of different national diplomas.
In the 2002-2003 academic year, French universities enrolled over 1.5 million students. International students made up about 10 percent of total enrollments, one of the highest percentages among OECD countries.
France's universities are public institutions. Enrollment is open to any student holding a French baccalauréat or its foreign equivalent-that is, a degree that entitles its holder to begin university study in his or her home country.
Some of France's specialized schools are public; others are private.
Specialized schools are selective in their admissions and enroll far fewer students than the universities. They train students for careers in engineering, management, art, and architecture, to name just a few.
Specialized schools prepare students for professional practice.
France's famous grandes écoles fall into this category. They are unique institutions, prestigious and very selective. Many are devoted to training high-level managers and engineers. Their programs are so well attuned to the needs of industry that their graduates are in very high demand.
Short degree programs, generally involving two or three years of study, are concentrated in the fields of manufacturing, trade, and services.
Most are offered by multidisciplinary institutes affiliated with a university-the so-called university institutes of technology, or IUTs-or in specialized schools. All short programs include internships. Job prospects for graduates of the short programs are very good.
Programs awarding the degree of brevet de technicien supérieur (BTS) are unique postsecondary programs, they are taught in secondary schools.
BTS degrees are offered in 86 different fields. Graduates move directly into jobs in their chosen field. Among the most popular BTS programs are those in hotel management, manufacturing, applied arts, business, and agriculture.
Students may transfer into a long degree program if they hold a baccalauréat or another degree deemed to be equivalent.
Most postsecondary degrees awarded in France are diplômes nationaux, or national diplomas. They are regulated and recognized by the French government, which ensures the soundness of the curriculum and the quality of the instruction offered. Public institutions-universities and grandes écoles-offer the full range of national diplomas. The universities and some schools also offer degrees of their own, not regulated by the government.
The degrees and certificates awarded by schools of business and engineering are further subjected to extremely strict accreditation procedures.
Each degree corresponds to a course of study that is strictly defined-something that you can't take for granted in some other countries. Your French degree provides a very clear indication of what you have studied and what you are capable of doing.
France has no universally applicable system for determining the equivalence of French and foreign diplomas. Each institution sets its own admission requirements. Students are admitted if their prior academic work is likely to have prepared them sufficiently for the demands of the program to which they seek admission. This system ensures a uniform level of instruction and graduating classes of roughly equal ability and experience.
In Europe, recognition of degrees and diplomas is assured through a common credit system known as the European Credit Transfer System, or ECTS.
French university courses are of two basic types:
Lecture courses are given in halls seating from 100 to 1,000 students. The professor presents the subject; students take notes. Many professors prepare and distribute course outlines or lecture notes that help students prepare for exams.
Study sections (known as travaux dirigés and travaux pratiques) consist of small groups of students. In the seminar-style sections, students apply and deepen what the professor has presented in the lecture hall. Attendance is mandatory, as opposed to lecture courses, where attendance is not checked.
Tests and grading
Student performance is assessed in two ways:
* Short quizzes given throughout the semester allow instructors to check what their students have learned in each unit.
* Examinations covering all of the material presented during the semester are given at the end of each semester, generally just before the February break and again in June, before the summer break.
In the university system, courses are usually organized into modules, some of which are mandatory and some elective (optional). To earn a degree, students must complete a certain number of modules. Once a module has been completed, it counts toward a degree. Failure in one module does not in any way reduce the value of a completed module.
The academic year
In France the academic year begins in September or October and ends in May or June. The exact starting and ending dates vary from institution to institution and from program to program.
There are several breaks during the year:
* 2 weeks in December-January for Christmas and the New Year
* 2 weeks in February for winter break
* 2 weeks in late March-early April for the Easter break
* Quite a few holidays fall in May: May 1 (Labor Day), May 8 (Victory Day, marking the end of the Second World War in Europe), Ascension Thursday, and Pentecost Monday.
* Summer vacation stretches over the entire months of July and August, and sometimes includes parts of June and September as well.
University tuition is rarely more than 300 Euros per academic year. In public schools of engineering, the annual tuition is approximately 600 Euros. The range of tuition at other institutions, particularly business schools, is much wider. Tuition rates vary by program and by type of institution.
The French government supports higher education to the tune of about 6,000 Euros per student per year. That high level of public support means that higher education in France is very affordable, for international as well as French students !
You'll need to have about 1,000 Euros a month to live in France. Below that level, you are likely to have trouble living normally and may not be able to devote sufficient attention to your program of study.
The cost of living in France is comparable to that of the other countries of western Europe, but it varies significantly within France! It costs more to live in Paris than elsewhere largely because of the cost of housing in the capital. Be advised that it is now almost impossible to find inexpensive lodgings in Paris. For that reason, we advise international students to choose an institution located outside Paris, as more than 80 percent of French students do.
Paris does not have a monopoly on high-quality education. Be advised that it is now almost impossible to find inexpensive lodgings in Paris. Throughout the country one finds institutions of high renown in all fields. And not just universities; in fact, most schools of business and many top engineering schools are located outside Paris. Outside Paris one finds a delightful variety of academic sites, many of which offer a truly exceptional quality of life. And remember that the City of Light is just a pleasant train ride away: 1 hour from Lille or Orleans; 2 hours from Lyon, Nantes, Poitiers, Rennes, or Dijon; and 3 hours from Marseille, Montpellier, or La Rochelle.
Most of the academic programs offered in France are taught in French. No surprise. So a prior knowledge of the French language is strongly recommended. Having a good command of French is one of the best ways you can ensure the success of your stay.
Applying for admission, enrolling, and registering for classes
Once you've identified programs of interest to you, you must apply for admission. The first step in this important process is to be sure that the institution at the top of your list is willing to accept you. The institution will need to review your academic background to determine whether you are likely to succeed in its program.
The process is important in another way as well. When the institution admits you, it will send you a letter that will enable you to apply for a student visa at the French consulate in your home country. (If you are a national of a European Union member country, you do not need a visa.)
Each French institution sets its own admission standards. Some practices are common to many institutions, however. Undergraduate and graduate admissions to the universities are decided by selection committees that generally meet in June, several months before the beginning of the academic year in September.
The individual faculty members who direct Master and doctoral programs admit students to their programs after reviewing students' application files and, often, interviewing the applicants.
Continental France is divided into four climatic zones:
* Oceanic and humid climate with often cool summers to the west of a line from Bayonne to Lille;
* Semi-continental climate with harsh winters and hot summers in Alsace, Lorraine, along the Rhône corridor and in the mountainous massifs (Alps, Pyrenees and Massif Central);
* Intermediate climate with cold winters and hot summers in the north, and in the Paris and central regions;
* Mediterranean climate with mild winters and very hot summers in the south of France.
There are 11 in France. These are the 1st January, the 1st and 8th May, Easter Monday, Ascension day, Whit Monday, the 14th July, the 15th August, the 1st and 11th November and the 25th December. On these days Government Departments, banks, shops are, in the main, closed. Most stores and businesses close on public holidays, but a majority of museums monuments, and restaurants remain open, or only close on certain holidays.
By Rail: Practical, fast and comfortable, the train is one of the best ways of getting about in France. The rail network is very developed (especially from Paris) and connects every town by either TGV or TER (regional express trains). Ticket prices vary according to the level of comfort (there are 2 classes) and departure time (rush hour or not). There are many attractive price options reserved for foreign travellers (Inter-Rail.), which can be obtained from your country of origin before you leave. RailEurope is your European Expert. All French Trains beyond destinations and passes can be purchase on line or via our shop.
By Public Transport: Several towns in France and also Paris have metro or tram systems and most offer a fairly comprehensive bus network. These means of transport serve the town centers and inner suburbs. Fast and economical, they are the most practical worry-free way to discover a town. In Paris the metro is by far the quickest and most practical way of getting about 15 lines and around 300 stations. The service usually starts around 5.30am and ends around 12.30am. Numerous connections with the RER (Regional express network) and the SNCF railway stations allow easy travel to the suburbs.
SNCF Line (Paris outskirts): a ticket purchased from the outskirts to a Paris railway station now also includes travel on the Paris métro and bus.
1 Métro or bus ticket: 1.60 . Paris and its outskirts are divided into zones. There are 8 different zones; you can ask for a map of these zones at any metro and RER station, they are available for free.
1 Book or 10 tickets carnet: 11.40 . Half price 5.70 for children from 4-10 years. Free under 4.
Buses: 1 ticket is now sufficient to cover any bus journey within Paris (as on the métro). In the outskirts the longest lines only require a maximum of 2 tickets. Generally, buses operate from 5.30 am to 8.30 pm. At night the Noctambus connects the centre of Paris (Place du Châtelet amongst others) and the suburbs.
You can ask for a map of the network (metro, bus, RER) at metro or RER stations (issued free).
Information on regional and Paris transport:
The five lines (A, B, C, D and E) of the RER (Regional express network) cross Paris and the Ile-de-France during the same times as the metro.
French health-care coverage, provided under the social security system, is of very high quality. Covered individuals are reimbursed for a portion of their medical expenses in return for a low basic payment. For students, that payment was 198 in 2010. You join the plan at your institution when you register for classes at the beginning of the academic year. Participation in the plan is mandatory for non-European students.
Students from countries in the European Economic Space are exempted from participation as long as they hold either a European health insurance card (or temporary certificate) valid for the entire academic year or a certificate of private insurance providing full coverage for medical risks without restrictions related to cost.
The social security system reimburses about 60% of expenses related to an illness, on average. Operating alongside this mandatory national system, supplemental group health plans (with annual premiums starting at 110) allow students to obtain coverage for all or part of the expenses not covered by the basic national plan.
The two largest student group health plans are:
* MDE (La Mutuelle des Étudiants)
* USEM, a federation of 10 regional student plans
To participate in the national student health-care system, students must be under 28 years of age and enrolled in a program of at least 4 months' duration at an approved institution of higher education.
Beginning on the date when the above conditions are no longer met (i.e., when a student reaches the age of 28 or completes his or her educational program and has not yet begun a first job), students may apply for an extension of health and maternity benefits for a period not to exceed 4 years. The extension request must be submitted to the office of the health insurance fund (CPAM, Caisse primaire d'assurance maladie) with jurisdiction over the applicant's place of residence.
Other students (those enrolled in programs shorter than 4 months and students enrolled in a non-participating institution) must obtain medical insurance from a private insurance company. Annual premiums for such coverage in France range from 150 to 550.
Students over age 28 may benefit under certain conditions from the system of universal medical coverage (CMU, Couverture Médicale Universelle), for which they must pay a special annual premium.
With 5,000 movie theaters, 33,000 stage performances each year (in national theaters and centers for dramatic arts, as well as private theaters), 1,200 museums, and countless music festivals, concerts, and events appealing to every conceivable interest, you should have no trouble enjoying yourself in France.
All of France's cultural sites and attractions offer student discounts and advantageous subscription rates.
Your student ID card makes it easy to stay in shape by giving you access to athletic facilities. Active athletic clubs are found at all French universities and nearly every school.
Many of France's higher education institutions are located in city centers, close to cultural and social attractions. Museums, bookstores, movie theaters, stages, and cafes are never very far away.
In France, the world capital of gourmet dining, most people eat three meals a day: breakfast in the morning, lunch at around 1 pm, and dinner at around 8 pm. Lunch and dinner are full meals.
For daily meals you can't do better than the 450 university restaurants. Prices at the "restau-u" are unbeatable: You get a complete meal for 3. Anyone holding a student card has free access to the entire network of restaurants. Some are open at night and on weekends.
It's also possible to get a meal in the many cafés et restaurants you'll find everywhere in France. Prices range from about 10 for a full meal up to hundreds of euros at the "temples of French gastronomy" run by internationally famous star chefs such as Paul Bocuse, Alain Ducasse, Joël Robuchon, and Pierre Gagnaire.
Between these two extremes you will find a range of friendly establishments that serve fine food.
If you plan to prepare your meals at home you will find no shortage of specialized food shops, large supermarkets, and open-air markets.
Wine is an institution in France. In addition to the justly famous great wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, and the Rhône Valley you will find many other interesting wine-producing regions, including the Loire Valley, Alsace, and the south of France. Like all alcoholic beverages, wine should be consumed in moderation.
The cost of housing varies widely, but international students, like French students, are eligible for housing assistance.
It is reassuring to make housing arrangements before leaving for France. This is possible if you are able to secure a room in a university residence managed by CROUS, the regional student-service agency (although spaces in CROUS buildings are largely reserved for recipients of French government scholarships and students participating in exchange programs) or if you plan to attend an institution that maintains its own student residences.
Otherwise searching for housing from outside the country can be difficult. You won't be able to visit properties and make fully informed decisions. It may also be difficult, from a distance, to persuade a property owner to let you sign a rental contract or convince him that you have someone who will guarantee payment of your rent.
For these reasons, many international students choose to find temporary housing for their first few weeks in France. They use that time to look for a more permanent arrangement.
Member of European Union since 25-3-1957
Students from outside Europe (that is, students from countries other than the 30 countries of the European Economic Zone, plus Andorra, Monaco, Switzerland, San Marino, and the Vatican) must obtain a long-term visa marked étudiant if they intend to study in France for more than 6 months.
After the first year of study, visas are automatically renewed, provided the student holding the visa is able to produce the required documentation.
3 very important pieces of advice :
1 - A tourist visa cannot be converted into a student visa in France or in any other country of the European Union.
2 - If you plan to complete two programs in succession (such as a program in French as a foreign language, followed by an academic program), obtain admission to both programs before applying for your visa so that your visa will be valid for the duration of your period of study. French visas can not be extended in France.
3 - International students of all nationalities (except European Union nationals) residing in France for more than 3 months must obtain a student residency permit (which is distinct from a visa), within two months of their arrival in France.
The flexibility of French higher education allows you to design an academic itinerary that is perfectly suited to your goals and background. Thousands of possibilities exist in every field of knowledge.
The quality of the French higher education system rests on the country's many and varied institutions, each of which has unique goals as well as unique structures and programs through which to pursue those goals. Naturally, each also has its own admission requirements.
The quality of the instruction offered is closely scrutinized by the French government. CampusFrance's members all enjoy recognition for the excellence of their programs. They are proud ambassadors of French higher education.
International students who already have begun their higher education, and who may even hold a university degree, may obtain further training in France. Many opportunities exist for students to transfer into degree programs and receive credit for the postsecondary work they have already done. In fact, that's one of the best ways to study in France.