After getting their high school diploma, young people will start their higher education. This is always an anxious time, at an age when it is difficult to think about the future. What to do after high school? How do I choose between studies like a bachelor, master or postgraduate program? Is a preparatory course really for me? Which academic degree should I choose?
The student will have to tackle selective exams and competitions if he or she wishes to enter a prestigious university or college. The school where they graduate will often offer some advice for their future study programme. They will have to finance their studies, find accommodation, apply for grants and register. These are new responsibilities that they will now have to assume. If before his parents decided for him, after the baccalaureate he will have to make essential choices for his future life.
The ongoing COVID crisis has seriously disrupted the exchange of students on a European and even global level but the future is starting to look a bit more bright for the ones wishing to study abroad. If they go study abroad, they will quickly have to find a place to live, a university and study in a language other than their own. International studies are often a breeding ground for students with great multifacet profiles and lead to great opportunities.
Graduate schools offer a wide range of master’s programmes (usually one or two years of full-time study following an undergraduate degree) and doctoral programmes (about four to six additional years of study that may follow a master’s degree). The learning environment for these graduates is markedly different from that of undergraduate studies. It has been characterized as advanced, international, focused and scientific in nature:
The courses are advanced because they are based on undergraduate training and are focused because in graduate studies the emphasis is laying on depth. The courses are also scientific, because they emphasize not only on the acquisition of knowledge and skills, but also on the critical analysis of existing knowledge and the creation of new knowledge. Graduate students are expected to develop and apply advanced analytical and interpretive skills, as well as to understand and/or produce research.
While the expectations of students enrolled in graduate programs may vary, it must be recognized that graduate study is a very different educational experience from undergraduate study but the benefits for their further professional careers are considerable. Discoveries in science are rarely a linear process, and it is generally not possible to lead research directly to the desired outcome. Research is a combination of insight, effort and curiosity.
HIGHER EDUCATION IN FRANCE
Besides universities, French law also defines the so-called Grandes Ecoles. These military, technical and civil service elite educations date back to the time of Napoleon. French captains of industry and the top civil servants and politicians have often been educated at a Grande Ecole like the INSEEC business schools. Higher education in France is provided by “universités” (universities) and “Grandes Ecoles”. The ‘Grandes Ecoles’ cannot be compared to regular colleges because there are selective admission requirements: in France, this is the best form of higher education. You often have to have followed advanced courses for several years. Sometimes, it is also possible to follow very well known masters at postgraduate level at the ‘Grandes Ecoles’. However, separate selection procedures and qualification requirements apply.
The duration of university studies may vary depending on the type of diploma you wish to obtain. University studies are divided into three cycles. The first cycle lasts two years and leads to the DEUG degree. The second cycle leads to the Licence diploma (after three years) or the Master diploma (after four years). The third cycle goes (after five years of the master’s degree) to the postdoctoral level up to the dissertation.
In the meantime, the BaMa structure has also been introduced in France and is called the LMD (Licence, Master, Doctorat) structure. The Licence is obtained after three years, the Master’s degree after another two years and the Doctorat after another two to four years of scientific research and the defence of a dissertation.
France also has a system of higher vocational education, but it is not quite comparable to systems in other countries. You can enjoy this type of education at the Instituts Universitaires de Technologie (IUT), the Sections de Techniciens Supérieurs (STS) or the Instituts Universitaire Professionnel (IUP). These studies last from two to four years. These programs produce alumni that have a high potential for future employers and mostly will have a great positioning for attractive jobs in the field they graduated in.
For all programmes at higher education level in France, a baccalauréat diploma is an admission requirement.
French educational institutions determine their own admission policies. In all cases, the educational institution decides whether admission is possible and if so, how. The institution will look at your subject package and your study results. This also applies to any exemptions. Information about the admission procedure and the evaluation of your study results can be obtained from the institution where you want to study.
Thesis-based Master’s programmes offer students the opportunity to explore the possibility of pursuing a career in research. The normal duration for this degree is two years, although the completion of a high-quality thesis may require more time.
Students are expected to show enthusiasm and dedication in achieving the goals that define their research project, which may means working on their project beyond the normal working week and beyond the main content. In research, the final outcome is almost always determined by the student’s effort and commitment to the project. As a reward, the student has the opportunity to investigate research questions and make discoveries in important and varied areas that aim to reduce human suffering and improve our understanding of the world.
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