French higher education system

How does the French higher education system work?

French universities use the European LMD system to organise degrees and higher education in general.

  • The Licence program (Bachelor's degree) leads to a Licence degree which is awarded after 3 years.
  • The Master program (Master's degree) can be accessed after a Licence degree. The student is awarded the Master degree after 2 years of study.
  • The Doctoral program (PhD) is the highest level of education in the French university system. It is accessible after a Master's degree and the selection is done on the basis of strict criteria (sufficient grades, willingness...). Doctoral students are integrated in research teams where they carry out their research and gather the material necessary for their thesis.

How are the degrees awarded?

Universities in France use the European Credits system (ECTS credits) which facilitates mobility between European universities but also the recognition of degrees. Each module corresponds to a certain amount of credits and a semester is worth 30 credits (a year, 60).

Grades in France work on a scale of 0 to 20. To pass a module, the grade must be equal to or over 10/20. The student passes the year if the overall average of his or her grades is equal or over 10/20.

There are five distinctions that correspond to the grade that was obtained:

>16 : Très bien (Very good)
14-16: Bien (Good)
12-14: Assez bien (Satisfactory)
10-12: Passable (Sufficient)
<10 : Ajourné (Failed)

How do the exams work?

The examination scheme is different for exchange students. They are evaluated by continuous assessment with periodic tests. The professor might decide to schedule a final exam in which case a date is set. The student will have access to all information about exams online (accessible only after the final registration).
In case the student has failed a module, any exam to make up for the grade is taken in the university of origin.

What is the academic calendar?

Fall semester: First week of September to Winter break.
Classes end the first week of December and are followed by a revision and exam period.

Spring semester: First week of January to end of April.
Classes end the second week of April and are followed by a revision and exam period. (Some changes might occur depending on the year).