In France, Bachelor's degree programmes are more commonly known as "Licence" programmes.
Branches of Study
The licence is a national higher education diploma (level 6 of the National Framework of Professional Qualifications, ISCED level 6) which is prepared in six semesters at university (i.e. three academic years). The licence is valid for 180 ECTS credits.
In the bachelor's degree, the courses are organised in such a way as to enable students to choose their orientation gradually. This organisation gives them time to develop their personal and professional plans. The beginning of the course consists of a multidisciplinary foundation common to several bachelor's degree and professional bachelor's degree courses. The courses then gradually specialise. The student has the possibility of making a definitive choice of direction at several points in the course, including towards a professional licence.
There are several types of course that validate a level attained at ISCED 6 in France. These include the licence, the licence professionnelle, the university bachelor of technology (BUT - introduced from September 2021) and certain state diplomas (nurse, music, dance or drama teacher, etc.). There are also Classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles, which are programmes recognised at ISCED 6 and which are completed in two years but which do not have a final examination or diploma. This training does not therefore validate an achieved ISCED 6 level.
For the licence itself, there are 45 titles defined by the Order of 22 January 2014, which are divided into four fields:
- arts, letters, languages;
- law, economics, management ;
- humanities and social sciences ;
- science, technology and health.
The professional Bachelor is also a national diploma corresponding to a level of 180 ETCS, awarded by a university and conferring the grade of Bachelor. Previously accessible after a baccalaureate, it is now of variable duration, and the courses are designed to accommodate a variety of people at the start and during the course of the programme in order to enable the acquisition of 60, 120 or 180 E.C.T.S. in 1, 2 or 3 years. A professional Bachelor completed in a university institute of technology (IUT) is called a university bachelor of technology (BUT) and will be introduced from the start of the academic year 2021.
There are 173 vocational bachelor's degrees defined by the order of 27 May 2014, which cover a wide range of occupations in all professional sectors: for example, there are degrees in agricultural or industrial production, commerce, transport, personal or community services.
Since 2018, there has been a single procedure for all pupils in upper secondary education or students seeking a change of direction who wish to enrol in the first year of higher education. This national pre-registration procedure for initial training in the first cycle of higher education, known as Parcoursup, is dematerialised and is placed under the responsibility of the Minister for Higher Education.
According to Article L612-3 of the Education Code, the first cycle is open to all holders of the baccalaureate and to those who have obtained the equivalence or exemption from this degree by proving a qualification or experience deemed sufficient.
According to the same article, a selection of candidates may be made for access to :
- University Institutes of Technology;
- Classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles (integrated or not);
- Institutions where admission is subject to a national competitive examination or a civil service recruitment examination;
- Courses leading to a professional Bachelor;
- courses leading to a double degree.
Article 612-3 also specifies that the intake capacity for first cycle higher education courses in institutions under the responsibility of the ministers of national education and higher education is determined each year by the academic authority after dialogue with each institution. To determine these intake capacities, the academic authority shall take into account the professional integration prospects of the courses, the evolution of the training projects expressed by the applicants as well as the training and research project of the institution. For non-selective courses, when the number of applications exceeds the capacity of a course, enrolment is decided by the president or director of the institution within the limits of the capacity, taking into account the consistency between the characteristics of the applicant and those of the course applied for.
According to Article L711-1 of the Education Code, national higher education and research institutions have legal personality and pedagogical and scientific autonomy. Each institution is responsible for its own educational organisation. There is therefore no national curriculum shared between institutions. The Order of 27 January 2020 does, however, lay down specifications for bachelor's degrees. Paragraphs 1 and 2 of the annex to this order set out the requirements for the content and expectations of the courses offered.
As with the study programmes, each institution is responsible for its own teaching organisation. For university higher education, however, there is a national regulation setting out the general provisions for the organisation of teaching. According to Article D611-10 of the Education Code, teaching may be provided either in the presence of users or at a distance, if necessary in digital form, or in a combination of both.
Progression of Students
In order to ensure pedagogical coherence, universities define the rules of progression within the framework of the courses they organise and, in particular, the conditions under which a student can follow the various teaching units (UE) proposed. This organisation allows for reorientation through the implementation of gateways.
In universities, courses are organised in the form of credit-bearing teaching units (UE). Each EU has a value defined in European credits. The number of credits per course unit is defined on the basis of the total workload required by the student to obtain the unit. The total workload takes into account all the activity required of the student, including the volume and nature of the teaching provided, the personal work required, internships, dissertations, projects and other activities. Credits are obtained when the validation conditions defined by the knowledge and skills assessment procedures specific to each type of study are met.
However, students can move up to the next year (e.g. from the first year of the Bachelor to the second year) even if they have not validated all the UE and ECTS credits. They have to make up the unvalidated courses the following year. However, some universities set up rules to avoid overload in the following years: minimum number of credits to be obtained each year, consecutive years only (it is impossible to have UE not validated from L1 to L3), etc.
According to the order of 27 January 2020 on the specifications for bachelor's degrees, bachelor's degree courses must promote professional integration. They must therefore aim for a balance between knowledge, cross-disciplinary skills and professional skills in line with the training objectives and the targeted occupations. They must also include periods of work experience in the course.
The institution details the arrangements for supporting students in order to encourage work experience, particularly for scholarship students and students with disabilities, as well as those that contribute to their professional integration. In addition, whatever the primary objective of the programme, a system for monitoring the cohort and the integration of graduates has been put in place. This information is made publicly available, in particular to inform potential candidates for the course.
In order to meet the requirements of the labour market in terms of integration, but also, where appropriate, the emerging needs of new sectors and new professions, the presence of representatives of the socio-economic world within the teaching team and the existence of formal relations with the professional world concerned by the training are necessary.
In fact, according to Article L611-2 of the Education Code, higher education institutions may set up one or more training development councils comprising representatives of the professional world. Higher education is organised in conjunction with the professional world:
- The representatives of the professional world participate in the definition of programmes in the competent bodies, in particular within the training development councils;
- Practitioners contribute to teaching;
- Internships can be arranged in public or private companies, social economy organisations or the administration; these internships must be consistent with the training followed by the student and be subject to appropriate pedagogical monitoring;
- The courses may be organised on a sandwich basis.
According to the order of 22 January 2014, within the framework of the guidelines defined by the board of directors of each institution, the methods of testing knowledge and skills are adapted to the diversity of diplomas and training courses. These procedures are based on the accumulation of teaching units and the corresponding European credits. The regulations for each degree also set out the framework within which the rules for offsetting results and, where appropriate, the other assessment methods applicable may be defined.
The diversity of the methods of assessment of knowledge and skills is in line with
- The necessary progressiveness of learning;
- The pedagogical methods used;
- The objective of the qualification sought.
According to article L613-1 of the Education Code, skills and the acquisition of knowledge are assessed either by regular continuous assessment, or by a final examination, or by a combination of these two methods of assessment. They must be decided in each institution by the end of the first month of the teaching year at the latest and may not be modified during the year.
However, according to the order of 30 July 2018, the methods of testing knowledge and skills must give priority to continuous assessment, which allows for progressive acquisition throughout the course. When it is implemented, continuous assessment takes various forms, either face-to-face or online, such as written and oral exams, work and project reports, and periods of work experience or observation in a professional environment. It accompanies the student's progress in his or her learning and must therefore give rise to a sufficient number of assessments to enable the progress of learning to be assessed and to propose possible remedial measures to the student, as well as to respect the so-called "second chance" principle.
The institutions specify, in the definition of the modalities of control of knowledge and competences, the teaching units or the blocks of knowledge and competences which come under this evaluation modality. In order to support the student's progress and to allow for remedial work between assessments, the institution shall set the minimum number of assessments for each teaching unit, taking into account the time spent on them and their duration. These assessments are distributed in a balanced manner over the semester. In the calculation of averages, none of these assessments may count for more than 50%.
According to Article L613-1 of the Education Code, in France, the State has a monopoly on the award of university degrees and titles, and therefore of the Bachelor (and equivalent titles). Degrees awarded by institutions can only be awarded on the basis of the results of the assessment of knowledge and skills by the institutions accredited for this purpose by the minister responsible for higher education, after consulting the National Council for Higher Education and Research (CNESR). A national diploma confers the same rights on all its holders, irrespective of the institution that awarded it.
The content and procedures for the accreditation of institutions are laid down by decree of the minister responsible for higher education, after consulting the CNESR. The content and procedures for accreditation take into account the link between teaching and research within the institution, the quality of teaching, the territorial map of courses, the objectives of professional integration and the links between the teaching teams and the representatives of the professions concerned by the training. An institution is accredited for the duration of the multi-annual contract concluded with the State. Accreditation may, after a national evaluation, be renewed by order of the minister responsible for higher education, following the opinion of the CNESR. The accreditation order of the institution authorises it to award, in compliance with the national training framework, the national diplomas listed by order.
Skills and knowledge acquisition are assessed either by regular continuous assessment, or by a final examination, or by a combination of these two methods. Only teacher-researchers, teachers, researchers or, in accordance with the conditions and procedures laid down by regulation, qualified persons who have contributed to the teaching or who have been chosen for their skills on the basis of a proposal from the teaching staff, may take part in the jury and be present at the deliberations.