Higher Education In France



Famous for its art and culture, France welcomes more tourists than any other country in the world. France is also one of Europe’s top destinations for international students ( France ranked 12th most interested place in the world for higher studies based on UNESCO survey in 2014 ). Numbering 309,642 in 2016, international students made up 19.4 percent of France’s student population.

France is a first-class centre for scientific and technological innovation. It owes this standing to its research capacity and its many achievements in such fields as aerospace, transportation, electronics, telecommunications, chemistry, biotechnology, health and mathematics. France successes have been confirmed by the number of French winners of the Fields Medal.

More than 23 Billion Euros of France national budget goes to education. The French government supports public institutions of higher education, including the universities, thereby lowering the cost of education to each student by approximately 10,000 Euros per year. Public support keeps tuition levels in France among the lowest in the world, while assuring the quality and integrity of degree programs. Furthermore, no distinction is made in France between French and foreign students: the entrance requirements and admission fees are the same, and the degrees are identical.

French degrees are granted by a dense network of higher education institutions and world-famous research centres. By the numbers, the network comprises 87 universities, more than 220 engineering schools and programs, more than 100 schools of business and management, and 120 public schools of art, as well as many specialized schools for specific sectors such as social work, paramedical specialties, tourism, and sports.

Proficiency in French opens doors to 200 million people in 50 countries on all five continents. The French higher education system starts after Senior High School Diploma (STPM, A-level or equivalent). The academic year starts in September and ends in June.

Not surprisingly, most courses in France are taught in French, but to cater to the needs of non-French speakers, many bridging programs have been created over the past few years, combining courses in English and French as a foreign language, enabling students to switch progressively to courses taught in French, without losing time. Students may no longer need to be fluent in French to study in France. Many programs are now taught in English. Hence the number of foreign students in France gets bigger each year.

The French educational system is distinguished by the variety of its institutions, each with its own goals, structure, and admission requirements. Below is a diagram of French degrees:

Doctorate (PhD) + 8 years (16 semesters)
Master Degree from Grandes Ecoles + 5 years (10 semesters)
300 ECTS (Engineering, Business, Architecture)
Bachelor + 3 years (6 semesters)
180 ECTS
Vocational diploma (IUT)
Preparatory course (Grandes Ecoles)
+ 2 years (4 semesters)
130 ECTS
Completion of secondary education & Baccalaureat (equivalent to A-level, STPM, Matriculation, etc.)



The degrees awarded in the French higher education system are based on the European ladder of Licence, Master and Doctorat. Degrees are awarded based on the successful completion of a specified number of semesters or years of study, expressed in credits as defined by the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS):

Licence = 6 semesters (3 years) = 180 ECTS
Master = 10 semesters (5 years) = 300 ECTS
Doctorat (PhD) = 16 semesters (8 years)

At the core of the French degree system is a set of “national degrees” that have the same value regardless of the institution that grants them. This is due to the supervision and support provided by the French government. Any foreign student enrolled in a course of higher education at home is eligible to apply for admission to a French institution and may be admitted if he or she meets the established criteria.


To give consistency to its higher educational system organization, France has developed, in each region, world class Research and Educational Clusters that are strongly linked with the industry. Several institutions are involved:


France’s 87 public universities are spread throughout the country, from the Sorbonne in Paris (founded in 1179) to the new high-tech campus of Nice-Sophia-Antipolis, and cover the entire range of academic disciplines: from the Sciences, including Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, and Biology to Technology, covering Computer Science, Engineering, Materials Science, and Electrical Engineering through Literature, Languages, the Arts, the Social Sciences, Law, Economics, Management, Health, Sports, and many more.

Research is an integral function of France’s universities. More than 300 doctoral programs, in collaboration with some 1,200 research centers and laboratories, prepare students for scholarly and top level management careers. France’s doctoral programs have always been open to international participation. For a long while, almost one third of the doctorates have been defended by foreign students.

The university system progress with time, offering technological specializations and professional degrees, including university engineering master degrees, university degrees of technology, master degrees of the Institutes of political sciences (IEP), masters degrees in management and finance from the Institute of Enterprises Administration (IAE), etc.

Grandes Écoles

The Grandes Écoles are uniquely French institutions. Created in the early 19th century in parallel to the university system, they are extremely selective and offer education of a very high standard.

Engineering and business are the specialties of most of France’s unique and renowned Grandes Écoles, which are free standing institutions of higher education that may be public or private. But others, including some of the most famous, are devoted to public administration (the École Nationale d’Administration), military sciences, post secondary teaching and research (the Écoles Normales Supérieures), agronomy, and veterinary medicine.

The Grandes Écoles grant accredited five-year degrees at the master level. They also have intermediate programs with specializations: Bachelors (3 or 4 years post-secondary), Masters of Science (4 or 5 years post-secondary), MBA, Specialized Masters (6 years postsecondary).

The classic method of admission to one of the Grandes Écoles (competitive examination after two years of preparatory courses, followed by a 3-year course of study) has changed to meet modern professional needs. A parallel admission process exists that is specially designed for foreign students. It is based on degrees and exams, with courses of study between two and five years, depending on the entry level granted by the institution.

Engineering Programmes: France has some 240 schools of engineering, all of which share certain common characteristics related to the recognized quality of the closely regulated, master-level diplôme d’ingénieur that awards the chartered engineer title. The diplôme d’ingénieur is a national degree that enables its holder to apply for admission to a doctoral program.

Business and Management Programmes: France’s many schools of business and management are diverse enough that anyone can find programs that suit his or her academic background, experience, and interests. All these bring the latest management practices to bear on the changing economic environment. Many are structured around internships and international exchanges. France’s business schools offer institution-specific degrees; 71 of the schools are recognized by the government. According to the Financial Times, seven French business schools are among the top ten in Europe. As another proof of their quality, these business schools have obtained international accreditation from Equis, EMBA or AACSB, 8 of them even have the so-called “triple crown”,( out  of  only 25 worldwide ).

Institutes for Vocational Diplomas (IUT)

The aim of the vocational diplomas is to address demand by the private sector for highly qualified technicians to executives, in order to face the challenge of an economy based on high added value industries and services. Curricula are defined together by companies and academics. They provide the students with both the necessary academic knowledge to evolve in a world increasingly requiring adaptability, and the high level of professional skills for a rapid integration in the work place. A close link between training and employment is thus continuously reinforced, as evidenced by the very high employment rate of the graduates. Curriculum combines theoretical and practical lectures and tutoring. Regular personal or group assignments give students an opportunity to exercise their skills. Mandatory industry placements are part of the 2-year and 120 ECTS training.


Sound knowledge of the French language is one of the main ingredients for a successful stay in France. To study in a French- taught program in France, one must be able to take notes, give oral presentations, write essays, read brochures, do coursework and sit for exams in French. To learn French in Malaysia, students can contact the Alliances Française in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, which conduct French courses at all levels, leading to official French qualifications and certificates. The university may also offer French courses within its language department. To learn French in France, please consult the CampusFrance website (www.campusfrance.org) for a list of the accredited centers.


Tuition Fees

The public universities and Grandes Ecoles, do not charge tuition fee. The is a charge administration/ insurance that range from €150 (RM600) to €500 (RM2,500) per academic year. The range of tuition fees at other institutions, particularly business schools, is much wider, from €4,000 to €10,000 (RM20,000 to RM40,000). Tuition rates vary by programs and by type of institution.

Living Expenses

Students will need to have from €650 (RM3,250) to €1,000 (RM5,000) a month to live in France. The living expenses vary depending on cities and facilities provided in the city. Take Paris for example, the living cost will be much higher than other cities in France. The French government provides financial aid to students for accommodation depending on the types of accommodation.


Health insurance and liability insurance are mandatory requirements in France. Below 28 years old, students are covered by the provisions of the student social security system upon enrolment at an institution of higher education. Above 28 years old, one must obtain the required health insurance and liability insurance by contacting the Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (primary health insurance fund) in the place of residence.


Application for first degree courses are to be made by end of January centrally through the “dossier blanc”, available at the Malaysia-France University Centre (MFUC) and the Embassy of France. For first degrees, a test of French language (DELF) is also required. For other applications, one can check the institution’s website for online application forms. Application periods generally range from February to May for the next September intake.


To study in France, Malaysian students are required to apply for a long stay visa, issued by the French consulate. Students must be enrolled in a French institution of higher education before applying for a visa, i.e. they must obtain the admission letter. Apart from the admission letter, other required documents include 2 passport sized pictures, a valid passport (at least 1 year), 2 copies of the application form (Forms can be downloaded from the Embassy of France’s website – www.ambafrance-my.org), completed in French (come and meet MFUC for assistance), a copy of your last degree, a letter of motivation and a proof of financial means to the amount of €430 per year. For more information, one can contact the French Consulate.


Foreign students are entitled to work in France for 20 hours per week.


The French government offers grants to Malaysian students at Master and Doctorate levels only. These grants, under the Eiffel program, are offered on a competitive basis to outstanding students. The application is to be submitted to a French institution admitting the student in one of its program, by end of December for the next September intake.


Programmes for SPM Students

Two programs, inclusive of a pre-U course, are offered to SPM students who want to study Engineering up to the Master level in France. For the first programs which is sponsored by JPA, Telekom and Petronas, the pre-U is in France. For the second one, sponsored by Mara, JPA and open to private students, the Pre-U is hosted by UniKL MFI (Bangi). Since 2000, over 1,000 students have benefited from these programs. Since 2015, Mara has opened a gate for political science and business management course for Malaysian students to pursue their dream in France.

French Degrees in Malaysia

An increasing number of French degree programs are now offered in Malaysian colleges, in fields such as Hotel management and Tourism (Taylor’s College in collaboration with université  de Toulouse), Computer Science (OUM with Université  de la Rochelle), Competitive Intelligence (OUM with Université  Paul Cezanne), Image and signal processing (UniKL with universite de la Rochelle), etc. More programs have been open since then.

All these programs are fully recognized by the French and Malaysian governments. In addition to these, many institutions collaborate to offer joint PhD programs.


To assist foreign students in finding information, and to promote the French higher education system, France created a public agency named CampusFrance (www.campusfrance.org). In Malaysia, CampusFrance activities are hosted by the Malaysia-France University Centre (MFUC), whose role is to foster academic cooperation as well as to promote French higher education. Students can visit MFUC and obtain assistance for application as well as up- to-date information on the institutions and programs offered in France.

Malaysia-France University Centre (MFUC)
2nd Floor, Patent House,
144-02, Jalan Bukit Bintang,
55100 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: +603-2142 7475
Fax:+603-2142 7476
Email: info@mfuc.org
Web:    www.mfuc.org; www.campusfrance.org

Alliance Française Kuala Lumpur
15, Lorong Gurney, 54100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603-2692 5929, 2694 7880
Fax:     +603-2693 0502
Email: afkl.information@gmail.com

Alliance Française Bangsar Centre
2nd Floor, 14 Jalan Telawi 2
Bangsar Baru,
59100 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel:      +603- 2283 3523

Alliance Française Penang
46, Jalan Phuah Hin Leong,
10050 Penang.
Tel:      +604-227 6008,+604-228 9719
Fax:     +604-229 0876
Email: afpenang@gmail.com
Web:    http://afpenang.com


Written By:
Ms Wee Hui Bieh, AFMSA, March 2017

Information Source:
Malaysia-France University Centre (MFUC)

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