A guiding principle: Excellence


France is a major actor in higher education, research and innovation.  

  • Higher education establishments include, in addition to 83 universities:   
  • More than 200 establishments certified to issue engineering degrees
  •  More than 200 business schools 
  •  3 national polytechnics institutes
  • 4 Écoles normales supérieures
  •  9 political science institutes
  • Major renowned education establishments (Collège de France, Muséum national d'histoire naturelle, École des hautes études en sciences sociales, École des chartes, Conservatoire national des arts et métiers, École pratique des hautes études)
  • Hundreds of specialized schools and institutes


France receives the 3rd highest number of international students in the world (265,000 international students enrolled in French higher education establishments in 2009), after the United States and the U.K.

Rooted in the centuries-old tradition (the Sorbonne was founded in 1253!), the French higher education system is firmly future oriented.   

Overhaul of higher education and research in France and Europe

A series of major reforms of higher education and research was launched in France several years ago: 

-          Participation in the European Higher Education Area: French universities adopted a degree-awarding system that is shared by 46 European countries, as well as a unique system of credits, valid in all of Europe (European Credit Transfer System).

-          University reform, initiated with the law of 2007 which grants autonomy to universities in policy setting and in their pursuit of greater international visibility.

-          Close ties between universities, grandes écoles and research organizations under an umbrella structure of PRES centres (Pôles de Recherche et d’Enseignement Supérieur = “Research and Higher education Centres”) which create a new landscape in higher education and research, now more accessible at the international level.

Massive investments

With the “The 21st Century Campus” initiative, France is building world-class university infrastructure  

Launched in 2007 and with a budget of 5 billion euros, “Operation Campus” has for the objective to build world-class university campuses on the French territory.

These campuses will group universities, grandes écoles, and public and private research organizations.  

The planned projects focus on architectural and environmental quality,  in order to improve significantly working and living conditions and bring them to the level of some of the biggest international universities.   

Following a call for projects and the subsequent evaluation by an international jury, 12 “Campuses of the 21st Century” were selected.  

46 universities, 40 grandes écoles and research centres, 760,000 students and 24,000 researchers will be impacted by this initiative.“Operation Campus” (5 billion euros) is part of a larger, unprecedented investment plan in the area of higher education and research.  In total, the large-scale “Investments for the Future” initiative allocates 22 billion euros to higher education and research.