Further and Higher Education in France

Originally posted on & updated on 10th February, 2024

If you’re thinking of moving to France with kids of any age, the likelihood is that you’ll have further education in your sights in some shape or form. While some kids that move to France with their parents even when they’re small often opt to go back to the UK to go to university or to avail of further education, it’s nice to know what options are open to those kids who decide to stay. In other words, whatever age your kids are right now, it’s nice to know what the long term options are, should they choose to continue their study beyond high school, in France.

In France, in many ways, it’s what happens in high school or Lycée that will determine which further or higher education option a child takes. As we mentioned in our previous article, at Lycée, a student will typically either follow a general Baccalauréat or will move into a more specialist, job-orientated area of study.

In addition to this sort of streaming, some of the best and biggest Lycées in France also offer what are called classes préparatoires (or prépas) that are effectively a two year ‘training programme’ for students hoping to secure themselves places at the top universities. This two-year programme effectively represents the first two years of higher education and offers students the opportunity to work intensively, normally in small groups, increasing their chances of successful acceptance to one of France’s highly esteemed grandes écoles.

Some Lycées also offer the opportunity for students to follow the equivalent of a Higher National Diploma-type qualification after having finished the Baccalauréat. In France these courses are called Brevet de Technicien Supérieur or BTS. Once again, these courses are typically pretty intense, with small classes and tend to cover subjects including things like mechanics, secretarial studies or commerce.

When it comes to university, there are over 80 universities in France, together with some private institutes that have the right to award degrees. Universities in France provide degree level education as well as two-year diplomas (which are provided by Institut Universitaires de Technologie) and business qualfications, which fall under the category of Instituts d’Administration des Entreprises, or business schools, many of which are private.

There are three types of degree in France: the Licence, a 3 year long qualification; the Masters, which is a 5 year long course and courses which are 8 or more years long and are called Doctorates. It’s quite common in France for people in France to refer to their level of qualification as BAC +3 or BAC +5, indicating how many years of education they have undertaken after the Baccalauréat.

The whole French education system relies on a marking system that is out of 20, with 10 being a pass. Marks of 12 and above are graded into one of three categories of mention: Assez bien, Bien and Très Bien (TB), with only a tiny percentage of students receiving TB.

As an alternative to university, for the crème de la crème of students, there is what it is known as Les Grandes Ecoles, sometimes termed ‘super-universities’ in France, which have strictly limited spaces and come with highly respected reputations. Such schools include the Ecole Polytechnique, which has been nicknamed ‘X’ and is a school of public engineering; others are the ENA, the Ecole Normale d’Administration which is geared up to produce high ranking civil servants and Ecole Normale Supérieure which, in France, is the highest rated establishment for the arts.

When it comes to funding, in relation to the UK, university fees in France are extremely low and France still runs a means tested grant system to help students with their accommodation and living expenses.

Although the higher and further education system in France may seem to be more complex than the system in the UK, there are plenty of sources of help when it comes to making sure your kids make the right decisions. This is particularly true for Lycée students who will be guided both by their principal teachers as well as by careers advisors on the best individual choices based on their results and what their hopes and dreams are for the future.

If you’re plannng of moving to France with children and thinking about higher education, you may decide to move in or near a large city with all schools and amenities for the whole family. Looking for a city property in a Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, Bordeaux or Montpellier, check out our a la carte bespoke service.

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