Welcome to Destination Partners

france Education System - Understand How it Works​

France is widely recognized for its quality education. Let us find out why.


Qualifications framework

French degree courses at universities follow the Bologna ECTS (European Credit Transfer and accumulation System). Under the system, one credit corresponds to the student workload required to complete the course modules; these credits can be accumulated and transferred. There are three levels of national diplomas awarded in France:


  • Licence (equivalent to the bachelor’s degree) – three years, 180 ECTS.
  • Master’s degrees, which are divided into research, for those who want to progress onto a doctorate (PhD), or professional, for those who want to enter the workplace after graduation – two years, 120 ECTS.
  • National doctoral degrees (PhD) – three years, 180 ECTS.

In the grandes écoles students have two years of preparatory study (CPGE or prépa) in a grande école or other schools before sitting entrance exams for three-year programs at one or more of the grandes écoles. At the end of the five years, students are awarded their school’s diploma, which is the equivalent of a master’s degree.


International students pay the same tuition fees as French students. The French government subsidizes state higher education, so fees are extremely low in French universities. The annual tuition fees at state educational institutions as set down by law are:
  • €189.10 for license courses
  • €261.10 for master’s courses
  • €396.10 for doctoral courses
  • €615.10 for courses leading to the engineering diploma.
Tuition fees are much higher at private institutions, especially business and management schools, and are generally between €3,000 and €10,000 per year. Top management schools can charge up to €30,000 a year.


There are many grants as well as scholarships available to international students, from license up to post-doctorate levels. The French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs offers grants to international students, either through the Ministry or through the cultural departments of French embassies and consulates worldwide.

France is signed up to the Erasmus program, an EU initiative which allows students from one European country to study or gain work experience in another. The Erasmus Mundus program is open to non-Europeans, with grants for master’s, doctoral and special partnership projects. For more information, see Erasmus+France.

The French Ministry of Higher Education and Research offers grants to international students who have lived in France for at least two years and whose residence for tax purposes is France, plus for doctoral and post-doctoral research.

Regional councils award grants to students enrolled in local institutions sometimes in collaboration with a public research body, such as the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) or a private company. There may be other grants available under exchange agreements with universities outside France; in general, students must already be enrolled at the university in the home country and nominated for an award.


There are around 36,000 different programs and courses available at undergraduate and post-graduate levels in French universities. Some undergraduate programs and many post-graduate programs are taught at least partially in English. You can find a list of more than 1,000 programs taught in English.

Many universities, research and specialized schools are grouped in higher education and research clusters or PRES (pôles de recherche et d’enseignement supérieur) collaborating on courses, research, and resources. Sometimes degrees are awarded by the PRES rather than individual institutions. There are some 20 PRES in France.

Bachelor or undergraduate degrees

France has around 250 elite institutions called grandes écoles, 83 public universities, as well as many other research institutes and specialized schools.

Grandes écoles are the most prestigious higher education institutions in France, producing many politicians, top civil servants, and scientists. The two highest French universities in THE world rankings – the École Polytechnique and École Normale Superieure – are grandes écoles.

They usually specialize in a single area, often business or engineering, although some offer a wider range of subjects. Admission is by highly competitive entrance exams. They can be either public or private. They teach many programs in English and enrol about 30,000 international students.

Universities are funded by the French government and often include internships. There are also research institutes, art and architecture schools, colleges of fashion, film, performing arts, journalism, social work, and other specialists.


Postgraduate degrees in France are typically divided into four semesters across two academic years. Their increased length means French Masters courses can be less intensive than in the UK.

Courses are delivered through workshops, discussions, and independent project work, leading to the submission of a final extended research project or dissertation.

Other types of master’s degrees offered in France are Specialized Masters and Master of Business Administration (MBA). These prestigious courses have varying structures, stricter entry requirements and are heavily focused on advanced professional training. Completing a PhD in France takes around three to four years, although some courses can take up to six. You will submit a thesis under the supervision of a director, who you’ll need to approach and gain the approval of before the course begins.

Once written, you will have to give a public oral presentation of your thesis. By studying a French PhD, you will join a strong network of more than 250 Doctoral schools that provide planning and development support systems to help you in moving to the next stage of your career. As part of your studies, you will receive an additional 150 hours of training in areas such as business creation, research, and communication.

You need a master’s or equivalent, or to be studying one at the time of application, to progress onto a PhD. To apply, submit a research proposal to the Doctoral school of your choice, or check university websites for advertised project assistant posts. You will not need to prove your proficiency in French to study a PhD in France, as many courses are offered in English.


The French academic year runs from September or October until the end of June and is comprised of two semesters, a two-week break over Christmas and a summer holiday of at least two months. They are available in a range of topics, from global communications and international economics to art history and sociology. Unless you hold a French Baccalaureate qualification (A-level standard), you will need to get in touch with your chosen institution for details on entry requirements and how to apply.

Interested in studying abroad with DPIMMI ?​