How are university studies organized in an academic year (number of in-class hours, subjects and work outside of class)?


The organization of university studies varies greatly from institution to institution. However, there are generally two main models, one that is prevalent in the grandes écoles and other schools, and the other in universities.


The first model includes a greater number of in-class hours, and internships (in France and abroad) are often a mandatory component of the program.

The second model generally has fewer in-class hours. Lectures (not mandatory but fundamental) are combined with tutorials (the “TD” - “les travaux dirigés”) and sometimes with practical labs (the “TP” – “les travaux pratiques”). The tutorials and practical labs are mandatory in natural sciences and optional in social sciences and the humanities.

In both models, exams (mid-term exams or the “les partiels” in French university jargon) take place at the end of each semester. The second semester can be completed with the defence of an internship report for the grandes écoles and other schools, or with the defence of a thesis (“mémoire”) in universities.

The amount of time a student is required to study at home is in both cases considerable. Forty- to sixty-hour weeks (in class + work at home) are common.


The following are 2 examples which illustrate more specifically the organization of university studies in France.


Example 1: Master 1 program at the INSEEC (Institut des hautes études économiques et commercials – International Business School)

October: “business game” / management workshops

November to March: a 3-day course, consecutive days and full time (including practical seminars) + exams

April to August: internship in the student’s field of specialization

September: defence

In order to successfully complete Master 1, students must earn 20 credits for the lectures (exams), 20 credits in continuous assessment (evaluation throughout the year) and 20 credits for the internship.

Overall number of hours: 50 to 60 hours per week.


Example 2: Master 1 BIP (biologie intégrative et physiologie – integrative biology and psychology) at Paris 6 university

September to January: core curriculum. Lectures + tutorials + practical labs are distributed throughout the week.

January: exam

February to March: choice of courses among 6 specializations

April to June: internship (in a laboratory or a company, in France or abroad)

July: exam

Not including the internship, the time spent in class in approximately 15 hours per week. However, the time spent at home studying is considerable.

Overall number of hours: 40 to 50 hours per week.