The different types of institutes of higher education in France

université batiment Paris 6
Université Paris 6

In France, there are more than 3,500 public and private institutes of higher education. Universities, Grandes Ecoles and schools of art or architecture: there is a wide choice for foreign students who want to study in France.

The universities: higher education for all

Universities receive 75% of the foreign students who pick France for their post-secondary education. These public institutes of higher education are financed by the French State. Located all around France, the universities confer national degrees (Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate) that all have the same academic value.

Everyone who has a high school diploma or equivalent can enrol in first year. Science, literature, languages, arts, humanities, medicine and sport: university programmes cover all of the areas of learning and research.

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The Grandes Ecoles: the French culture of excellence

20% of foreign students are enrolled in a programme in the Grandes Ecoles. Écoles Normales Supérieures (ENS -Institutes of Advanced Education), Instituts d’Etudes Politiques (IEP - Political Science Institutes), engineering schools, business and management schools, veterinary schools and a few others, these Grandes Ecoles are public and private institutes of higher education recognised by the State. They confer degrees for 5 years of undergraduate studies, and some award the title of Master. Much of the training is provided in English.

Admission to the Grandes Ecoles is very selective. It is based on a competitive entry exam after two years of preparatory classes, with an appropriate degree or directly after high school for schools that have an integrated preparatory programme. Tuition and fees are higher than for university.

Specialised schools and institutes: specific programmes

Nearly 3,000 public and private institutes of higher education offer courses in specific sectors such as medicine, audio-visual, communication, journalism, fashion and design, agronomy, political science, etc.

These institutes confer degrees and certificates that may or may not be recognised by the State. Admission to these specialised schools and institutes is based on a competitive entry exam or the applicant's file. Studies there generally last two to five years.

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Schools of art and applied arts

In France, there are nearly 50 public schools of art and design directly overseen by the Ministry of Culture. Training in art, design and communication is provided in two steps of three or five years, with national degrees awarded on successful completion. Some also offer a third level of studies.

Four highly-reputable public schools of art are directly overseen by the Ministry of Higher Education: Boulle, Olivier de Serres, Duperré and Estienne. They confer national degrees in graphic design, spatial design, fashion and arts and crafts.

Some private schools or schools that depend from chambers of commerce and industry award their own degrees. Some are registered in the Répertoire National des Certifications Professionnelles (RNCP - National Repertoire of Professional Certifications). These institutes of higher education in art and applied arts are very selective, and enrolment is through analysis of the applicant's file, by competitive entry exam and / or interview. Applications may be filed online on the site Campus Art.

The national schools of architecture (ENSA)

The Ecoles Nationales Supérieures d’Architecture (ENSA - the national schools of architecture) form a network of 20 public schools overseen by both the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Higher education, Research and Innovation. Two other institutes, the École Spéciale d’Architecture (Special School of Architecture) and the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées (National Institute of Applied Science) in Strasbourg, are part of the same network and confer equivalent degrees.

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