The French System of Higher Education

French higher education employs the "LMD" system—licence, master, doctorate—now used throughout the European Union. The system is designed to facilitate student mobility within Europe and around the world.

Using this common architecture, degrees are awarded on the basis of the number of semesters the student has completed since entering higher education and the corresponding number of ECTS credits earned. 

Licence: 6 semesters (3 years) completed and 180 ECTS credits earned

Master: 4 more semesters completed and 120 additional ECTS credits, for a total of 5 years of study and 300 ECTS credits earned

Doctorate: Usually obtained after 16 semesters (8 years)

The "national diplomas" (diplômes nationaux) awarded in most French institutions of higher education are regulated by the government.

  • The national diplomas conferred by France's universities and other public educational institutions (such as national schools of art or architecture) demand adherence to national standards of quality that must be met by any institution that wishes to award the degree. National diplomas therefore have the same value regardless of the institution that awards them.
  • The diplôme d’ingénieur is a national diploma. The schools that award it are accredited by the CTI, the French national commission on engineering degrees. 
  • An analogous system of accreditation exists for government-recognized schools of business and management. The degrees awarded by such schools are recognized by the French Ministry of National Education. Some schools of management have also obtained one or another form of international recognition (such as Equis, AMBA, or AACSB).
  • Schools of art and specialized schools are also subject to national certification.
ECTS: European Credit Transfer System
Within the European Union, the international validation of degrees rests on on a common system of academic credits called ECTS credits (European Credit Transfer System). ECTS credits are cumulative and transferable. So when you transfer from one European institution to another, you'll always get credit for the work you've done.