To enrol in a French art school

What are the French art schools ?

Higher Art Education in France is dispensed by 45 schools under the academic supervision of the Ministry of Culture (of which 35 are run by local authorities, 7 are national schools outside Paris, and 3 are national schools in Paris awarding their own diplomas).  They offer training at university level with a view to forming professionals, artists and creators in the field of visual arts and deliver undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate diplomas after 3, 5 or 7 years, in art, design and communication. They have a total of

11,000 students.  The student is placed at the very centre of the schools’ educational project. The course offers both theoretical and practical training and the student is encouraged to experiment all sorts of mediums and techniques, from the classical to the most modern.

How to choose between the different art schools ?

The French art schools offer training in three specific fields, called “options”. These are : art, design and communication. Some of the schools offer more specialised courses such as food design, comic strips, sonic space, graphic design… called “mentions” which are included to the name of the diploma. At the same time, 4 national schools prepare students for their own diploma : l’École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs (ENSAD), l’École nationale supérieure de création industrielle (ENSCI/Les Ateliers), l’École nationale supérieure des beaux arts (ENSBA) et l’École nationale de la photographie d’Arles (ENSP). Each of these delivers specific diplomas.

The Studio national des arts contemporains du Fresnoy delivers a specific postgraduate diploma (a further 2 years after the 5 year course).  The website of the National Association of Art School Directors (ANDEA) contains useful information and a good view of the whole network :

How to enrol in a French art school ?

Admission to a French art school is by competitive entry examination for the first year and through an admissions or transfer panel for the other years

What are the deadlines for admission ?

We advise prospective students to start gathering information as early as January for admission in autumn. For some of the schools, the deadline for registration is end of March.  All information about how to apply can be found on the websites of the schools.

What does the competitive entry examination consist in?

Each school organises it own examination process. The tests usually include :

- a practical test,

- a written theoretical - general knowledge


- and a presentation of a portfolio of original artistic work and an interview with a panel made up of teaching staff from the school.

How much is the entry examination fee?

The entry examination fee depends on each school : 50€ for The École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts and the École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs ; 35€ for the art schools of Bourges, Cergy, Limoges, Nancy, Dijon, the Villa Arson and the École nationale supérieure de la photographie (fees for 2011-2012). It can be free or up to 53€ for local schools, the average being 30€.

Is a high school diploma required to be eligible ?

Admission to the first year is by competitive entry examination and candidates should have the baccalaureate or equivalent high school diploma for foreign students.  Exceptionally, these conditions may be waived.

Is a specific preparation needed ?

Although a regular artistic practice such as high school courses or evening classes can be a good preparation, no specific preparation is required.  Several art schools also organise workshops and public courses to prepare the selective exam. These do not allow entry via the transfer panel, nor do they give access to student status. For further information, please  refer to the website of l’Association nationale des classes préparatoires publiques aux écoles supérieures d’art (APPEA).

How does the transfer panel work ?

Foreign students already studying in another country should apply through this channel.  Admission can also be justified by relevant professional or personal experiences.  Foreign students should have their academic records translated into French and certified.  The final decision on admission of candidates depends on a transfer panel that evaluates motivation and artistic aptitudes of the candidate.

Are there any age requirements to enter a French art school ?

There is no fixed age limit. Prospective students should refer to the students’ booklet or to the website of the school they are interested in.

Courses and degrees

What are the different courses offered by the French art schools ?

The students progressively acquire the necessary basic theoretical and practical skills through teaching programmes specially designed towards a personal artistic practice.  The students follow 3 or 5 year courses leading to national diplomas in Art, Communication and Design:

• the DNAP, diplôme national d’arts plastiques (National Diploma in Visual Arts) at the end of 3rd year

• followed by the DNSEP, diplôme national supérieur d’expression plastique (National

Higher Diploma in Visual Expression), at the end of the 5th year.


• the DNAT, diplôme national d’arts et techniques (National Diploma in Art and Technique) as a leaving certificate in Design or Communication at the end of the 3rd year.

If you stop before obtaining the degree, is it possible to keep the benefit of the years of study?

Students are given credits according to the ECTS system that allows them to ask for recognition of their qualification at university.

Is it possible to study abroad?

Over the past ten years the French Art Schools have been more and more involved in the cultural landscape of international cooperation. More than half of the Art Schools participate in the Erasmus network. Europe is prominent in the academic exchanges – short and long term projects – 62% of the total, within which Germany,

Spain, Italy and Great Britain make up 29%.  Each year the Art Schools are allocated additional funding from the « Entr’écoles » programme. We should also mention as partners of the  French Art Schools other international exchange networks: Maps, Cumulus, Crepuq (Québec), Écume–cultural exchanger with the Mediterranean countries, Ofaj–French- German Youth Office, Renater… (source ANDEA website)

The 4th year is a good time for internships or school trips in other countries. An art school student can be awarded credits for a semester spent in a foreign art school.

What are the different diplomas ?

There are 2 kinds of diplomas :

1/ The national diplomas


The DNAT, diplôme national d’arts et techniques (National Diploma in Art and Technique) – 3 years, is very clearly workoriented. There are 4 majors : product design, space design, graphic design and textile design.


The DNAP, diplôme national d’arts plastiques (National Diploma in Visual Arts) – 3 years, is more general. There are 3 majors : art, communication and design.


The DNSEP, diplôme national supérieur d’expression plastique (National Higher Diploma in Visual Expression), is a general diploma after 5 years of study. There are 3 majors : art, communication and design.  Graduates can pass a number of French selective exams (CAPES, CAPET, AGREG) to become art teachers.  Some of the schools have developed a speciality. Therefore, the name of the diploma is sometimes completed by a specific mention, for example :

• DNAP art, mention bande dessinée ou mention images animées (art, specialised in comic strips or animated pictures) (École européenne supérieure de l’image),

• DNAT design graphique, mention image et narration (graphic design, specialised in image and narration) (École de l’image d’Epinal).

The school diplomas

Diplôme national supérieur d’arts plastiques (National Higher Diploma in Visual Arts)

This diploma validates 5 years of study at the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris. There is now also a diploma after 3 years of study.

Diplôme de créateur industriel (Industrial creator diploma)

This diploma is delivered by the École nationale supérieure de création industrielle after a 5-year course.

Diplôme de designer textile (Textile designer diploma)

This diploma is delivered after a 3 year course at the École nationale supérieure de création industrielle.

Diplôme de l’École nationale supérieure d’arts décoratifs (Diploma of the Higher national school of decorative arts)

This diploma validates 5 years of study at the École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs of Paris.

Diplôme de l’École nationale de la photographie (Diploma of the National school of photography)

To enrol in this school, applicants must have validated 2 years of higher studies in the arts field and pass the selective entry examination. The course lasts 3 years.

Diplôme du Studio national des arts contemporains du Fresnoy (Tourcoing) (Diploma of the National studio of contemporary arts of Le Fresnoy)

Candidates should have the baccalaureate or equivalent diploma and should already have validated 5 years of higher education in the fields of the arts, cinema, photography, architecture, design or dancing or present a personal or professional artistic experience. The course lasts 2 years and entitles the student to a postgraduate degree.

Are courses and degrees widely recognised?

Studies in French art schools are considered as higher education. Courses are organised according to the rules of the European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students. They are nationally recognised at the highest level of qualification.  Furthermore, as of 2012, the DNSEP will be equivalent to a Master degree.

What is VAE (validation des acquis de l’expérience) / accreditation for work experience?

After a 2002 law, the accreditation for work experience, which can count towards a qualification, allows schools to deliver diplomas to candidates who can prove at least 3 years of professional or volunteer work related to the diploma they wish to obtain.  This measure was implemented in the art schools in 2006.

Student life

How to enrol in the French higher education system?

- Nationals of EU member countries If you are a national of a member state of the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA), you may apply directly to the institution(s) of interest to you. You are not required to follow any particular process to enter French higher education beyond the first year. You are not even required to obtain a visa. If you seek to enter the first year of higher education in France, you must follow the online post-baccalaureate admission process ("Admission post-bac," APB). The same process is required of all French students. - Other students living in Europe If you live in an EU country but are not a citizen, you will have to apply for a student visa at the French consulate in the country in which you reside. Even if the CEF procedure is used in your country of origin, you do not have to return there in order to apply for admission to a French institution of higher education.

Canada : you may apply directly to the institutions of your choice.

Do the schools have particular requirements towards foreign students?

Each school is responsible for its own admission procedure which is generally the same for international students as for French students.  Still, the level of proficiency in French will be assessed through the general knowledge test.  Furthermore, an equivalent of the baccalaureate is a condition of eligibility.

What is the cost of studies in the French art schools?

Annual tuition rates at national art schools are 369€ for the 2011–12 academic year. For the other schools, they strongly vary according so bets is to check on the schools’ website.  The schools put a lot of resources at the students’ disposal (studios, computers, etc.).  The students are still accountable for some fees , notably the material required for the realisation of their personal projects.

Occupational integration

What do students do after art schools?

Only a few former students become artists, but the art schools prepare for many different

careers: teaching, graphics, design, website conception or fashion.

Several studies agree that:

• Art school graduates have the same kind of employment prospects as other graduates.  On average, 80% find a job and 40% create their own agency.

• The majority of graduates have a professional occupation in the artistic field a few months after their diploma. A few continue their studies: post graduate, preparation to French selective exams for teaching, etc.

• The number of former students that can live from their artistic practice is quite small but, proportionally, the number of famous artists that come out from an art school is quite high.

• Pluriactivity is one of the main feature of the occupational integration paths followed by the former students. Graduates often have several occupations such as teacher and independent artist.

• Students who have followed the “art” course tend to go towards teaching and interpretation, while pursuing an artistic practice; students that have followed the “design” and “communication” courses go into visual arts and design, or sometimes the new technologies.

Careers after an art school

Art school graduates can work in all activity sectors with various statuses: independent worker, employee, civil servant…

1/ Artistic creation

These are jobs involving conception and production of visual expression. They can be

realised from all kinds of material in the field of visual arts, design and visual communication:

● visual artist – painter, engraver, sculptor,

● illustrator,

● comic strips artist / cartoonist,

● photographer,

● film maker,

● digital artist,

● graphic designer, product designer, space


● fashion designer,

● stage designer, museography specialist.

2/ Specialist jobs

● curator,

● art critic,

● artistic director, artistic manager,

● head of communications,

● head of development of products and services

3/ Interpretation – transmission of knowledge – research

● visual arts teacher,

● artist giving lectures in schools or hospitals,

● software creator,

● industrial designer, digital designer.

4/ Conservation – restoration of artworks

These are very rare jobs and only the schools of Tours and Avignon offer this course.