These prestigious − and uniquely French − institutions may be either public or private, and their relatively small size gives students ample opportunity to interact with faculty.

There are around 250 grandes écoles in France, offering degrees in business, engineering, political science and other specialized fields. The grandes écoles are members of the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles (CGE, website in French only). 

The basic degree offered in the grandes écoles is equivalent to a Master’s degree, and generally takes five years to complete. It may be a Master of Science (MSc), Master of Business Administration (MBA), or a Mastère Spécialisé (Ms, which requires one additional year of study following the grande école degree). 

The traditional path through grandes écoles requires completing a competitive entrance exam after two years of preparatory classes at a classe préparatoire aux grandes écoles (CPGE), or prépas, directly after high school. Accepted students then complete three more years of increasingly specialized study. At the end of these five years, graduates receive  However, today many schools offer alternative admission procedures, which allow students to apply at different stages of their academic careers, even if they have not taken prépas. This option makes the programs vastly more accessible to international students who want to complete their degree in France. 

Depending on whether they are public or private, the grandes écoles’ annual tuition fees range on average from €500 to €10,000. However, some schools will compensate their students (for example, those that study engineering) while they take classes - this is seen as a means of investing in students for the services they will provide to France after they graduate.