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France:Higher Education

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Overview France

Contents

France:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

France:Historical Development

France:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

France:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

France:Political and Economic Situation

France:Organisation and Governance

France:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

France:Lifelong Learning Strategy

France:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

France:Organisation of Private Education

France:National Qualifications Framework

France:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

France:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

France:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

France:Funding in Education

France:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

France:Higher Education Funding

France:Adult Education and Training Funding

France:Early Childhood Education and Care

France:Organisation of Programmes for Children under 2-3 years

France:Teaching and Learning in Programmes for Children under 2-3 years

France:Assessment in Programmes for Children under 2-3 years

France:Organisation of Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

France:Teaching and Learning in Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

France:Assessment in Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

France:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

France:Primary Education

France:Organisation of Primary Education

France:Teaching and Learning in Primary Education

France:Assessment in Primary Education

France:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Primary Education

France:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

France:Organisation of General Lower Secondary Education

France:Teaching and Learning in General Lower Secondary Education

France:Assessment in General Lower Secondary Education

France:Organisation of General Upper Secondary Education

France:Teaching and Learning in General Upper Secondary Education

France:Assessment in General Upper Secondary Education

France:Organisation of Vocational Upper Secondary Education

France:Teaching and Learning in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

France:Assessment in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

France:Organisation of Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

France:Teaching and Learning in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

France:Assessment in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

France:Higher Education

France:Types of Higher Education Institutions

France:First Cycle Programmes

France:Bachelor

France:Short-Cycle Higher Education

France:Second Cycle Programmes

France:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

France:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

France:Adult Education and Training

France:Distribution of Responsibilities

France:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

France:Main Providers

France:Main Types of Provision

France:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

France:Teachers and Education Staff

France:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

France:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

France:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

France:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

France:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

France:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

France:Management and Other Education Staff

France:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

France:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

France:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

France:Management Staff for Higher Education

France:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

France:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

France:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

France:Quality Assurance

France:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

France:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

France:Educational Support and Guidance

France:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

France:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

France:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

France:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

France:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

France:Mobility and Internationalisation

France:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Mobility in Higher Education

France:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

France:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

France:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

France:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

France:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

France:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

France:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

France:National Reforms in School Education

France:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

France:National Reforms in Higher Education

France:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

France:European Perspective

France:Legislation

France:Glossary

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 (Articles L 123-1 to 123-9 of the French Code of Education).

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 baccalaureat (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.

    Outline of the French higher education system in 2014 (Source: ONISEP, 2014)