Make sense of... French higher education

Perry Taylor cartoon on higher education
"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance"

This month as students take up their university courses some will have experienced something new – a selective entrance system…

Unlike the UK, French universities have not had a selective entrance system before this year. In the past if you had a Baccalauréat pass (at least 10 out of 20) you could sign up for any course and then places on oversubscribed ones were allocated by lottery.

As of this year, the system has changed, with President Macron declaring that France has “turned the page from an absurd system”. Teaching teams now analyse applications and an applicant may be told ‘yes’, ‘no’, asked to wait to see if further places are freed up or told ‘yes if…’ (oui, si). The latter means a place conditional on, for example, agreeing to extra foundational study, which may or may not increase the length of study (such as an undergraduate degree in four years not three).

School results in relevant subjects are considered, choice of Bac, teacher evaluations and a student’s given ...

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