The different types of institutes of higher education in France

More than 3,500 public and private higher education institutions exist in France. For international students who desire to study in France, there is a large selection of universities, Grandes Ecoles, and schools of art or architecture.

The universities: higher learning for everyone

75% of international students who choose France for their post-secondary education attend universities. These public universities are funded by the French government. The universities, which are dispersed throughout France, award national degrees (Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate), all of which have equivalent academic standing.

A high school diploma or its equivalent is required to enroll in first year. University programs span all fields of study and research, including science, literature, languages, the arts, humanities, medicine, and sports.

The grandes ecoles: the excellent french culture

Twenty percent of international students are enrolled in a Grandes Ecoles program. These Grandes Ecoles are public and private institutions of higher learning that have received state recognition, including 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. After five years of undergraduate study, they award degrees, and some grant the title of Master. The majority of the instruction is given in English.

The Grandes Ecoles have exceptionally strict admission requirements. Based on a competitive entrance exam, it can be taken after two years of preparation classes, with the right degree, or immediately after high school for institutions with integrated preparation programs. Higher than for university, tuition and fees.

Specialized educational institutions: particular programs

Nearly 3,000 public and private institutions of higher learning provide programs in specialized fields like politics, journalism, fashion and design, agronomy, audio-visual, communication, and medical.

These institutions award degrees and diplomas that the State may or may not recognize. A competitive entrance exam or the applicant’s file determines admission to these specialized schools and institutes. There, studies often last between two and five years.

Art and applied arts schools

Nearly 50 public art and design schools are directly supervised by the Ministry of Culture in France. National degrees are conferred upon successful completion of two steps of three or five years of training in art, design, and communication. Others provide a third level of education.

The Ministry of Higher Education is directly in charge of four recognized public art schools: Boulle, Olivier de Serres, Duperré, and Estienne. They award national degrees in fashion, arts and crafts, graphic design, and spatial design.

Some private schools or institutions with ties to business and industry chambers grant degrees on their own. In the Répertoire National des Certifications Professionnelles, some are listed (RNCP – National Repertoire of Professional Certifications). The admission process for these highly elite institutions of higher learning in the fine and applied arts includes a review of the applicant’s documentation, a tough entry exam, and/or an interview. Applications can be submitted online at the Campus Art website.

The national schools of art and design (ensa)

The network of 20 public institutions known as the Ecoles Nationales Supérieures d’Architecture (ENSA, or “national schools of architecture”) is supervised by the Ministries of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation as well as the Ministry of Culture. The Special School of Architecture and the National Institute of Applied Sciences, both located in Strasbourg, are two additional institutions that are a part of the same network and award comparable degrees.