The French higher education system is based on the “LMD” degree structure – for Licence, Master’s, and Doctorate. The LMD system is now used throughout the EU and allows students to transfer credit and establish degree equivalency between one university or national higher education system and another. It has been designed to facilitate international student mobility within the EU and around the world.

At French public universities, studies are organized into three basic levels, each of which corresponds to a certain number of ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) credits.

  • Licence: a total of three years of study (180 ECTS credits); a Licence degree is similar to a Bachelor's degree
  • Master’s: a total of five years of study (an additional 2 years or 120 ECTS after completing Licence)
  • Doctorate: a total of eight years of study and research (an additional 3 years after completing Licence and Master's) 

Within the European Union, the recognition of international degrees rests on a common system of academic credits called ECTS credits. 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.

The wide variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees is one of the great strengths of the French system. Each degree corresponds to a course of study that is strictly defined, so a French degree provides a very clear indication of what you have studied and what you are capable of doing.


Overview of higher education degrees in France

In addition to the traditional Licence, Master’s and doctoral degrees, there are also vocational and technical degree programs, degree programs taught in English, multinational joint and double-degree Master’s programs, as well as study abroad and exchange programs offered in cooperation with U.S. partner universities and organizations.

The chart below provides a quick and easy overview of the various higher education degrees conferred by higher education institutions in France. The number of years listed for each degree in the chart is based on the number of years to be completed after graduating from high school.
French degrees, CampusFrance