A distinctive system in France

France’s system of intermediate higher vocational education possesses a number of distinctive features in both initial and in-service training.

  • Variety of course types
    Courses vary widely in duration, location and training methods, as do the forms of access to higher vocational education.
  • Selective admission
    The major business and engineering schools supported by CCIs, the IUTs and BTS courses (advanced vocational diploma) admit candidates selected through application forms or competitive examinations.
  • Involvement of social partners
    Employers and unions are involved in a distinctive form of course and qualification design using a methodology that now serves as a European reference (definitions of trades, activities, associated skills and knowledge, qualifications); high-level representatives of professional organizations are well represented on the committees in charge of defining vocational and qualification references.
Illust: Lift repair apprenti, 136.7 kb, 400x268
Lift repair apprentices from the industry course of the Tours apprentice training centre. © Pascal Foulon/Studio Pionner.
  • Effective vocational integration
    The social dialogue between employees’ unions and employers’ organizations ensures the “employability” of the future diploma-holders and an appropriate place in collective bargaining agreements.

Long company internships (14 to 18 weeks over a year for the BTS) are compulsory and take place under the tutorship of professionals.

  • Increasing opportunities to opt for apprenticeship
    In recent years these courses have been accessible via sandwich courses and apprenticeships, which are increasingly numerous in higher education, enabling students to receive an initial vocational integration and compensation.
Origins of higher vocational education in France

The very first vocational colleges date from the beginning of the industrial period, but higher vocational education only really began
to structure itself in the 1950s in response to the technological upheavals affecting industrialized societies. This meant higher qualification standards, requiring a general restructuring of the education system with a new intermediate level of vocational education between the vocational aptitude certificate (CAP) and the engineering diploma.

This need for an “intermediate” form of higher education was met by the creation of the BTS (advanced vocational diploma) and a few years later the IUTs (university technology institutes).

Updated on: July 2011