French higher education system

Understanding the French higher education system

Several types of institutions

The French higher education system includes several types of institutions, both public and private:

  1. Universities
  2. Technical higher education institutions, for short vocational courses.
  3. ‘Grandes Écoles’, or elite colleges, which are accredited to provide teaching and to award the title of MSc in engineering, as well as various vocational master’s, research master’s and PhDs.

AGROCAMPUS OUEST is a public institution for higher education and research and a member of the Conference of ‘Grandes Écoles’, and falls into the 3rd category.

The BMD system

France, in common with over 50 European countries, adheres to the Bologna Declaration (1999) which launched the construction of the European Higher Education Area.
The system is based on 3 qualification levels: Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral (BMD).
Each qualification level has a number of ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) credits: Bachelor (6 semesters) corresponds to 180 credits and Master (4 semesters) to 120 credits.
The BMD reform is intended to promote mobility among students in Europe.
Semesters completed in France are valid in any other European Union country for study purposes.
Courses provided by AGROCAMPUS OUEST have conformed to the BMD standard since 1999.

Academic system

Description of the institutional grading system

The grading system in France is usually quite severe, the idea being that lower grades act as an incentive for students to continually improve upon their academic performance. From elementary school to university, grades are based on a scale of 20. The best students usually earn between 14 and 16 in a given class. Grades of 17 and above are not often attributed.
(From Fulbright, Franco-American Commission for Educational Exchange)

ECTS credits:

  • 1 full academic year  =  60 credits
  • 1 semester = 30 credits

ECTS grading scale:

French grade ECTS grade Verbal
15-20 A Excellent
14-14,9 A- Very good
12-13,9 B+ Good
11-11,9 B Rather good
10-10,9 B- Sufficient
10 C Pass
Under 10 (insufficient) F/FX Fail