Education System in France

higher-education-system-in-france-parisThe higher education system in France differs slightly from other popular study abroad destinations

The higher education system in France is marked by excellence and you get enough proof from the various world university rankings where French institutes of higher education are featured prominently, every year.

A few characteristics of the French higher education system that stand out:

  • Studying in France is affordable, even for international students as most higher education institutions are state funded. So pursuing a bachelors, masters or Ph.D program in France would cost you anywhere between 190 - 600 EUR per year (i.e. ₹ 14,000 - ₹ 45,000 annually)
  • The best institutes in France are not the universities, but the Grand Ecoles. Only the best students attend the Grand Ecoles whose admission system is highly competitive. The Grand Ecoles are smaller and get much more government money than the universities.
  • The 3 years (6 semesters) of bachelors degree is called License & License Professionnelle (professional degree) in France
  • The 2 year masters degree is known as Maitrise

établissement public à caractère scientifique, culturel et professionnel (EPSCP) = Public Scientific, Cultural or Professional establishments

As of July 2013, the Law on Higher Education and Research (France) has come into effect, thus creating these EPCSPs in France which are basically Associations of Universities & Higher Education Institutions (Communautés d’Universités et Établissements, COMUE.) According to this law, the various types of higher ed institutes in France are:

1. Universities 

There are more than 84 public universities, private universities (such as the Catholic universities and Protestant universities) in France.

2. Grande Ecoles

The Grande ecoles are unique to France, with their origins in the early 19th century in parallel to (and outside) the French university system.

As compared to universities, they are small (admitting not more than 500 - 5000 students), have a very competitive selection process, offer an excellent standard of education across a wide variety of subjects. There are 250+ Grande Ecoles in France with close links with the industry, a lot of good R&D activities, active alumni associations and many international exchange programs. The grandes ecoles that specialize in sciences and engineering are called "ecoles d’ingénieurs".

The fee structure can sometimes be higher but students benefit from smaller class sizes, better support systems and excellent networks (alumini companies and international partners). These can be either Public or Private Institutions or part of both.

Primary Education in France

In France, children start school very early, school starts at 2 years for more than half the kids while almost every child is in school by the tender age of 3. The number of dys in school are less (vacations are treasured in France), but they compensate by longer hours at school (around 850+ hours per year.) Schooling is compulsory until age 16.

Secondary Education in France

Secondary education age is provided from age 11 to 15 which is know as BEPC [equivalent to class 10th in India]. Students who complete secondary school in France receive a diploma known as the Baccalaureate [equivalent to 12th in India.] 

Clearing the final exam, the "Baccalauréat" or "Bac"


  • Pre-higher education:
    Age of entry:6
    Age of exit:16

  • Structure of school system:

    1. Primary
      Type of school providing this education: Ecole Primaire
      Length of program in years: 5
      Age level from: 6 to 11

    2. Lower Secondary
      Type of school providing this education: Collège
      Length of program in years:4
      Age level from: 11 to 15
      Certificate/diploma awarded: Brevet des Collèges

    3. Upper Secondary
      Type of school providing this education: Lycée d'Enseignement général, technologique et professionnel
      Length of program in years:3
      Age level from: 15 to 18
      Certificate/diploma awarded: Baccalauréat général, Baccalauréat technologique, or Baccalauréat professionnel.

    4. Vocational
      Type of school providing this education: Lycée professionnel
      Length of program in years:2
      Age level from: 15 to 17
      Certificate/diploma awarded: Certificat d'Aptitude professionnelle (CAP) or Brevet d'Etudes professionnelles (BEP)

    5. Professional
      Type of school providing this education: Lycée professionnel
      Length of program in years:2
      Age level from: 17 to 19
      Certificate/diploma awarded: Baccalauréat professionnel

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