The Classic Degrees in France

By | July 17, 2021

The three-part study system introduced in France as a result of the Bologna reform consists of the degrees License, Master and Doctorate. Due to the first letters of the three academic degrees, we are also talking about the LMD system. The abbreviation ” 3-5-8 ” is also used regularly. This alludes to the fact that students obtain the respective degrees after three, five or eight years of study. In addition, the spelling “bac + 3”, “bac + 5”, “bac + 8” is common. This indicates the number of years of study following the Abitur (Baccalauréat, or Bac for short). According to a2zdirectory, France is a country in Europe.


What the Bachelor’s degree is in Germany can best be compared with the License in France. During the three-year course, students acquire 180 ECTS points.

In France, the Bachelor’s degree is divided into three sections: L1, L2, L3. The first two years of study, L1 and L2, are mostly introductory. Theory-oriented lectures, the Cours Magistraux, or CM for short, often dominate. In the third academic year L3 it is often possible to set priorities and specialize in one subject.

The academic degree License existed before Bologna. Originally, the study in France was divided into three sections (Cycles). These corresponded to the basic, main and postgraduate courses. The two-year basic course was followed by the main course (2ème cycle), which also comprised two years of study. After the first year of the main course, students originally obtained the license, after the second course the maîtrise. Ultimately, nothing has changed in terms of the duration of the course. The license is still awarded after three years of study.

Prerequisites for admission to the license are a high school diploma and sufficient knowledge of French. The latter can be proven in the form of a language test or language diploma. In many cases, the French universities also accept a sufficient Abitur grade in the advanced French course or they check the applicants’ knowledge of French on their own.

There are two different procedures for applying for a bachelor’s degree at a French university:

  • For high school graduates from EU countries, applications for the first semester are usually made via the online portal Admission Post Bac. Some universities also have their own application platform. It is therefore advisable to find out about the exact application procedure at the university of your choice in good time.
  • In order to apply for the second or third year of a bachelor’s degree, students must request the application documents from the relevant university.

License Professional

In the course of the Bologna innovations, another degree was brought into being: the License Professionelle. It is a joint project of universities, companies and training centers. The aim of the License Professionelle is to prepare students for professional life as part of a one-year, practice-oriented postgraduate course.

The postgraduate courses are usually specialized in one area and prepare for activities in agriculture, industry or the service sector. Many teachers come from business and let their own practical experience flow into the courses. An internship lasting several weeks towards the end of the study period also ensures a high degree of practical relevance.

Applicants who have four semesters of study experience in a related subject have access to the course. Those who obtain the License Professionelle have the opportunity to join a practice-oriented master’s degree.


The academic degree Master (“bac + 5”) has only existed in France since the Bologna reform. The master’s course usually comprises 120 ECTS points and lasts four semesters.

Before that, only the maîtrise existed in France. Students achieved this degree after a total of four years of study. Even today, the master’s degree in France is divided into two phases: M1 and M2. The first year of study, M1, largely corresponds to the former maîtrise.

In the second phase, the content and methodology of the courses varies. There are two types of qualifications:

  • Master Professionel: Professionally oriented master’s degree that prepares you for your career entry. The “Master Pro” replaces the previous DESS degree (Diplôme d’Études Supérieures Spécialisées).
  • Master Research: Research-oriented master that the former DEA (Diplôme d’Etudes Approfondies equivalent). The course offers access to a doctoral degree.

Master’s programs in France belong to a department (domain), which in turn has several disciplines assigned to it. As a rule, master’s programs have a technical focus (Mention) and also have a specialization (Spécialité). The latter also decides whether the master’s degree is science or job-oriented.

In contrast to Germany, the master’s degree at universities in France is generally not subject to admission restrictions, so that bachelor’s graduates generally have access to the first year of study. For this, after the first year, the former maîtrise, there is a stronger selection at many universities. Usually students have to submit another application for the second year of study.

Mastère Specialisé

The Mastère Specialisé (MS) is a special case. This professionally oriented degree is reserved for members of the Conférence des Grandes Écoles. This type of study allows a specific specialization in a certain area. For example, students can acquire technology-related skills or management skills. The course usually lasts a year.

Whether a doctorate is possible afterwards depends on the degree program. The Mastère Specialisé is not one of the state degrees; the degree is awarded by the Grandes Écoles. It is therefore important to clarify in each individual case whether the French Ministry of Education recognizes the qualification.

To apply for a Mastère Specialisé, students need a master’s degree or a comparable degree. In contrast to other study programs at the Grandes Écoles, there is no elaborate selection process for a Mastère Specialisé. It is usually sufficient to submit an application portfolio.

The master’s courses at the Grandes Écoles are often entirely English-language and internationally oriented. That is why they are particularly popular with international students.


The highest academic degree in the French study system is the doctorate. A science-oriented master’s degree is a prerequisite for studying for a doctorate at a French university. The three-year course leads to a doctorate after successfully defending the dissertation.

Since 2006 doctoral studies in France in so-called Écoles doctorales organized. An École Doctorale is similar to a doctoral college and belongs to a university or other institution that is entitled to award a doctorate. An École Doctorale usually brings together research groups from one subject area from one or more higher education institutions. They are responsible for training doctoral students and coordinate the doctoral programs.

In France, doctoral candidates receive academic support during their studies and often receive additional support when they start their careers. In some cases, seminars and internships are held as part of the course to prepare the doctoral students for the job market.

Some Écoles Doctorales are organized in international networks and offer binational doctoral programs – also together with institutes from German universities. The dissertation is then supervised by a German and French professor. After successfully defending the dissertation, doctoral candidates receive two doctorates.

The Classic Degrees in France