These prestigious − and unique to France institutions may be either public or private, and their relatively small size gives students ample opportunities to interact with faculty.

All Grandes Écoles offer five-year degrees recognised by the government, which are equivalent to the European Master’s. They may also offer intermediate specialised degrees, among them the Bachelor’s (in three or four years), the Master of Science (MSc) (in four or five years), the Master of Business Administration (MBA), and the specialised Master (MS) (six years). 

The traditional path into the Grandes Écoles is by competitive examination following two years of preparatory classes. Students then earn their degree in three more years of increasingly specialised study. However many schools offer admission to a five-year curriculum directly from secondary school. 

To accommodate international students, many Grandes Écoles offer admission on the strength of the applicant’s academic record. The Master degree may be earned in two to five years, depending on the amount of credit the applicant receives for his or her prior academic work. 

Moreover, not less than 3,000 public and private educational institutions, known as écoles specialisées (specialised schools), extend the French system of higher education into specific areas such as health, paramedical training, architecture, arts, audiovisual arts, communication, journalism, social work, fashion, design, tourism, culinary arts and hotel management. These institutions offer government-accredited degrees as well as other credentials specific to the institution that confers them. Programmes demand two to five years of study. Admission is by examination or on the basis of the applicant’s academic record.

Engineering and management schools dominate the majority of the Grandes Écoles, but one can also find programmes in public administration, military sciences, veterinary sciences and agronomy.

School of Engineering
More than 200 schools of engineering, both public and private, offer the whole range of engineering sciences. They are emblematic of the solid quality of the Diplôme d’Ingénieur, a venerable French degree that is fully equivalent to the European Master’s. The diplôme d’ingénieur is a national graduate qualification that entitles its holder to apply to a doctoral programme. Public schools of engineering charge tuition fees of approximately €550 per year.

Business and management
France’s Grandes Écoles of business and management, about 220 in number, are recognised by the national government and may boast other distinctions as well, such as membership in the management section of the Conférence des Grandes Écoles. They offer programmes geared to current economic requirements and new management practices. Internships and international exchanges play a large role in many programmes, and many schools are affiliated with local chambers of commerce and industry. The annual tuition fees vary widely but generally range between €2,000 and €30,000.