The French higher education system is made up of several different types of establishment, which may be in either the public or the private sector:
- universities : there are 83 public sector universities in France : they are funded by the State, which applies a very strict procedure for approval of the national diplomas they award. This makes it possible to offer an excellent standard of education at a remarkably modest annual cost. The universities teach all disciplines.
- Grandes Ecoles and specialist schools: the “grandes écoles” or post-graduate schools offer five-year courses, which include two years of initial preparation either within the post-graduate school itself or in preparatory classes offered by high schools. These preparatory classes (Classes Préparatoires aux Grandes Ecoles, CPGE), commonly referred to as "prépa" and famed for their exacting standards, prepare students over a two-year period to take the entrance examinations for one or more "grandes écoles".
- technical establishments : the shorter courses offered, generally of two or three years, focus on business, industry or services. The courses are generally provided by multi-disciplinary institutes dependent on universities or specialist schools. They invariably include internships with companies, and equip students with very real employment prospects. The selection procedure for admission is generally very strict :
Brevet de Technicien Supérieur (BTS): Diplôme Universitaire de Technologie (DUT); chniques (DEUST) ; Licence professionnelle, or professional Bachelor’s degree.
The LMD system
The French universities have harmonised the qualifications they award with those of other European countries by adopting the LMD (Licence Master Doctorat or Bachelor’s/Master’s/Doctorate) system.
Each level is now attained by acquiring ECTS credits rather than by validating a certain number of years of study, as was previously the case.
- Bachelor’s degree: 6 semesters = 180 ECTS (Baccalaureate + 3 years)
- Master’s degree: 10 semesters = 300 ECTS (Baccalaureate + 5 years)
- Doctorate: 16 semesters (Baccalaureate + 8 years)