Master Fundamental Physics

Ecole normale supérieure (ENS)

Application deadline: May 1st
Tuition fee:
  • € 300 / Year (EEA)
  • € 300 / Year (Non-EEA)
Start date: September  2015
Credits (ECTS): 120 ECTS
Duration full-time: 24 months
Partnership: Joint
  • English
Delivery mode: On Campus
Educational variant: Full-time
More information: Go to university website

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The International Centre for Fundamental Physics and its interfaces at Ecole normale supérieure (ENS-ICFP) offers a two-year master’s program in Physics. The curriculum provides a thorough understanding of the theoretical and experimental basis of Fundamental Physics, covering a broad spectrum including statistical physics, high energy physics, atomic physics, condensed matter physics, astrophysics and physics for biology.

The program is spread over two years (120 ECTS/full-time). It is also possible to join the program directly for the second year. The academic year is divided into two semesters. Each year starts with the course activities (first semester- 30 ECTS). The second semester of the first year is dedicated to an internship in France or abroad. The second semester of the second year begins with a short research internship and finishes with optional courses.

The first year presents an in-depth introduction to modern physics, particularly in statistical physics, quantum mechanics and relativity. Starting in September 2012, most courses will be taught in English.

The second year offers the student the possibility to specialize in the field of their choice including a mandatory research internship. It often takes place in a foreign laboratory and it represents genuine research work: very often students realize their first scientific publication.

The second year is organized in four programs of study:

  • Theoretical Physics (in English)
  • Quantum Physics: from atom to solid state (in English)
  • Macroscopic Physics and Complexity (in English)
  • Condensed Matter Physics (courses partially taught in French)

Written examinations usually take place at the end of each semester.

The master’s degree in Fundamental Physics is led by the department of Physics- International Centre for Fundamental Physics- at the Ecole normale supérieure. Courses are jointly organized with the following partner universities and institutions:

  • Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC)
  • Université Paris Diderot
  • Université Paris-Sud
  • Ecole Polytechnique (second year)

The degree awarded after two years is a "diplôme national de master" (120 ECTS- equivalent to a Master of Science). It can be delivered by the Ecole normale supérieure and partner institutions, and gives access to doctoral studies.

As part of their studies, students also have access to several courses of foreign languages (French as a foreign language but also English, German, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Russian, etc.).

Why choose this program?

The Master of Fundamental Physics is a prestigious degree that is specifically intended for outstanding French and international students wishing to obtain a first-class education in fundamental physics. Since its founding in 1794, the ENS has played a pivotal role in educating the French academic elite (among them many Nobel laureates, most recently in Physics Claude Cohen-Tannoudji (1997), Albert Fert (2007) and Serge Haroche (2012)).

By choosing this master’s degree, you can be assured of four things:

  • You will be taught by a unique blend of internationally leading researchers from ENS and its four partner institutions.
  • You will benefit from individual tutorials, advice and support from the faculty regarding your choices of courses, research internships and your overall academic future.
  • You will enjoy the exceptional scientific and intellectual spirit embraced by the academic staff members on a day-to-day basis.
  • You will receive the individual attention needed to develop into an independent researcher, whatever career path you ultimately choose to pursue.

Physics research at ENS received an overall A+ ranking (highest ranking) at the 2008 AERES evaluation (French evaluation agency for research and higher education).

Most courses offered in the first and second year of the Masters program are taught in English.


Program Description

The first year

The first year offers a wealth of lectures covering a wide range of topics in modern physics, from fundamental interactions to biophysics, and also several aspects of quantum mechanics and condensed matter physics, to name just a few. Students follow those lectures, chosen according to their interests and for a total of 30 ECTS (the condensed matter course is compulsory), during the first semester. The second semester is devoted to a 6-month research internship in French or foreign laboratories, in any field of physics or its interfaces.

The second year

The second year is organized around four different programs: Theoretical physics; Quantum Physics: from atom to solid state; Macroscopic Physics and Complexity and Condensed Matter Physics. The first semester is dedicated to courses (30 ECTS). Each student enrolls in a program in which he/she follows compulsory and optional courses. In exceptional cases, the student can include in his/her program one optional course from another area of study, in agreement with his/her head of studies. In the second semester, students are expected to complete an internship relevant to their course of study (18 ECTS) plus four optional courses chosen from any program (4x 3 ECTS). These optional courses must be approved by the head of the studies.


The two-year program prepares students for doctoral studies in fundamental physics, focusing mainly on a general education during the first year and in-depth studies during the second year. Thesis subjects offered by the host laboratories cover most of the fields in fundamental physics as well as more applied fields.

After completing their thesis, most students go on to academic careers, based in universities, research institutes or laboratories, but many also embark in the increasing range of science-related career paths.

An introduction to research careers is organized for physics students during the second year of the program.


The International Centre for Fundamental Physics welcomes applications from highly qualified French and international students with a solid background in physics and mathematics who hold a Bachelor’s degree or an equivalent academic qualification.

Direct admission into the second year is possible for suitably qualified French and international students. As a general rule, students from French engineering schools (for instance Ecole Polytechnique) and students who already hold a minimum of 60 ECTS in the field of interest at post-graduate level are welcomed.

Please note that the Master in Fundamental Physics is part of the study program of the International Centre for Fundamental Physics at Ecole normale supérieure. Admission to each level is highly selective, and an overall assessment will be made of the applicant’s suitability to complete the full curriculum.


Good working ability in English is required for admission. There is no formal French language requirement. International students can attend courses in French as a foreign language during their studies at ENS.

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