Universit de Lyon > Education

Understanding the French and European higher-education systems

Understanding the French higher-education system

Higher education in France is available from several types of institutions, which can be either public or private.

  • Universities (public or private)
  • Grandes Écoles (specialized liberal higher-education institutions)
  • Institutes (generally within universities)
  • Engineering schools

Although most courses are under the responsibility and supervision of the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research, some more specialized courses are under the responsibility of other Ministries: Agriculture, Health, Culture and Communications, Defence, and Federal Equipment.

Both public and private institutions attached by contract to the French government generally deliver state diplomas, that are recognized valid nationally, by all academic institutions as well as corporations.

For further information on the French education system please visit the Ministry of Higher Education and Research's website


The European structure

France, along with most European countries, has joined the European Higher Education System. This system is based on three levels in a higher-education curriculum, and corresponding diplomas.

  • Licence: Bachelor’s degree - awarded after 3 years of undergraduate studies
  • Master: 2 years program after the licence
  • Doctorate: PhD - awarded after 3 years of postgraduate research after the Master

The diplomas are obtained after the validation of academic units recognized under the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS)
. These credits can then be used by students who have met the validation criteria.

For further information on the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS): European commission website.