The main specificity of the French system of higher education is the difference of organisation between Universities and Great Schools


Most of the Universities in France are publicly financed universities and are well distributed around the country. They award national degrees which provide assurance of a uniformly high level of educational quality, regardless of where they were earned — from the famous Sorbonne to the alpine campuses of the universities of Grenoble and Chambéry and the island campus of the University of Corsica.

The universities offer programmes in all disciplines - sciences, technology, humanities, arts, social sciences, law, economics, business, health and medicine, physical education, and at every level. Their graduates receive nationally regulated degrees: the Bachelor or Licence (three years), Master’s (five years), and Doctorate (eight years).

Moreover, universities have been able to accommodate new educational needs while remaining parallel with the traditional academic ladder:

  • More than 2,000 career-oriented licence degrees, known as licence professionnelles, are available.
  • Technical programmes are offered in 24 specialty areas in university-based institutes of technology (IUTs or instituts universitaires de technologie).
  • Management programmes are available in university-based institutes of business administration (IAE or instituts d’administration des entreprises).
  • Political science and economics programmes are conducted in university-based institutes of politics (IEP, instituts d’études politiques) and Sciences Po Paris (or Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris).
  • Journalism and communication are taught in specialised institutes in several universities. Examples include CELSA at the Paris-Sorbonne University and the Centre Universitaire d’Enseignement du Journalisme at the University of Strasbourg.

Energised by 97,000 research faculties, 285 doctoral departments throughout the nation’s universities passionately manage research programmes in close cooperation with more than 1,200 university-based laboratories. France’s doctoral departments have always been open to international exchanges: of the 65,000 doctoral candidates in French institutions in 2010, more than 26,000 came from outside France.

Deeply committed to their corporate, academic, and research partners in France and abroad, the nation’s universities daily demonstrate their dynamism and their ability to respond to change.


Higher education and research clusters

For the past decade, the French university landscape has changed with the creation of COMUE (Communauté d'Universités et d'Etablissements). These clusters were created to bring together universities, Grandes Écoles, and research organisations located near one another, enabling them to coordinate their activities, and pool resources and skills in the areas of research, training, and international cooperation.

Shared mechanisms include:

  • Thematic centres of excellence in research and innovation with close ties to local companie
  • A single point of contact for foreign researchers and doctoral candidates
  • Formation of and support for doctoral departments that confer doctoral degrees in the name of the PRES and provision of career-related services for junior researchers
  • Support of local, regional and international projects
  • Forging links with international academic communities
  • A one-stop shop for international student services
  • Streamlined publication of academic and scientific work
  • Gathering and pooling the collective goodwill of the respective member institutions.

By entering into a consortium with other schools and universities, in addition to pooling the resources and skills into a collective centre of research and education, the resulting PRES may increase its visibility and enhance its attractiveness at a national and international level. A PRES brings together disparate parts of the academic circles, and enhances important ties with local businesses and communities.