Making sense of post-baccalauréat options in France
July 7 is the date when final-year lycée students will know whether they have passed their baccalauréat – and for many this will finalise a place for further study.
Bac results will be available at this link: tinyurl.com/y8zcjyzk. The only selection requirement for further education, at any French university, is a bac (any level), though popular subjects such as law can require an interview or test. Competitive selection, as exists in the UK, does not happen and around 60% of students starting courses do not complete the degree and switch courses or drop out.
Around half of students opt for the public university system, where tuition is free and the only cost is an enrollment fee of around €300. Even that is waived if you are eligible for a grant to help with living costs. It is not a campus system and students need to be motivated and self-disciplined, as a lot of personal work is required.
The effects of Covid-19 on exams
This year, the end-of-year bac exams were cancelled due to Covid-19 so most students will already have a good idea of their results as they are based on test marks and reports. By now, the majority should have been offered and accepted a place in one of the many post-bac options, which they will have applied for through the Parcoursup platform.
For those who have not received an offer, there is a clearing system. Until September 10, students can add 10 new choices for courses which are still not full.
After the bac results, they can also ask via Parcoursup for help from the Commission académique d’accès à l’enseignement supérieur, which will help find suitable places still available. However, for most, the application procedure begins in January of the final (terminale) year. Before that, students should research into available courses as there is a wide range, including different professional qualifications, universities and Grandes Ecoles.
The government says the new bac introduced in 2018 is designed to prepare students better for further education and promises more careers advice during the lycée years. Options for professional courses include the two-year Brevet de Technicien Supérieur (BTS) studied in lycées and the two-year Diplôme Universitaire de Technologie (DUT), studied at university but in lycée-style classes, which is to be replaced in 2021 by a new three-year Bachelor Universitaire de Technologie (BUT).
For craft skills, such as costume design, glass-blowing and carpentry, there are Brevets des Métiers d’Art (BMA), often studied within lycées. There are then the Ecoles Spécialisées, which can be public or private and cover subjects such as engineering, politics, architecture, journalism, art, commerce and speech therapy. All have different entrance requirements, durations and diplomas. Included in these are the Grandes Ecoles, regarded as prestigious establishments.
Tuitions and gap years
In public institutions, tuition is free. Private school fees range from a couple of thousand to several thousand euros a year. Though the gap year idea is not as big a part of the French culture as in many Anglophone countries, it is possible to take a year out. One increasingly popular way to have a break from the classroom and consider what career you would like in the future is to sign up for the Service Civique. It is open to 16-25-year-olds and is organised voluntary work, mostly in France but also overseas.
A mission lasts from six to 12 months, with a minimum of 24 hours a week. Volunteers are given a grant of €580 a month to help cover basic living costs. There are opportunities to help elderly people, work in schools, set up cultural events, give environmental advice, or work on heritage sites. Service Civique has existed for 10 years and is growing in popularity. In 2018, 140,200 young people took part.
A study showed that most human resources managers see it as a positive addition to a CV (service-civique.gouv.fr).
It is not fully clear what effect Brexit will have on post-bac studies. For anyone resident in France by December 31, their right to study in France will continue on the same terms as other domestic students.
After Brexit, it is likely these rights will continue for anyone with a residency card. Anyone who is not regarded as resident and who wants to sign up for university will have to pay a higher inscription fee but tuition will remain free.
The higher enrollment fee for 2019/20 was €2,770 a year, but this has been challenged by the Conseil Constitutionnel, which claims access to higher education should remain accessible to all. Anyone regarded as an EU student studying in the UK who is there before December 31 will remain eligible for home fee status – the same cost as for UK students. The fee and loan status of EU students starting from 2021 onwards in the UK is still to be confirmed.
Our main image was drawn for Connexion by artist Perry Taylor. For more of his work see www.perrytaylor.fr