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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Higher education funding


3.Funding in education

3.2Higher education funding

Last update: 27 November 2023


In 2019, 20.3% of the Domestic Education Expenditure was allocated to public higher education. The State is still the main funder (67.1% of funding), followed by local authorities (10.2%), households (9.9%) and businesses (9.6% - L'État de l'École 2020, sheet 11).

Since the application on 1 January 2006 of the organic law of 1 August 2001 on finance laws (known as the LOLF), the State budget has been organised into 'missions' and 'programmes':

  • a mission groups together a set of programmes contributing to a defined public policy. Each mission is the unit for voting on the budget by Parliament;
  • the programme, defined at ministerial level, groups together the appropriations intended to implement an action or a coherent set of actions falling within the same ministry and to which are associated precise objectives, defined in terms of general interest goals, as well as expected results illustrated by performance indicators. For each programme, an annual performance plan is annexed to the Finance Bill, setting out the objectives of the programme and the expected results illustrated by performance indicators and the corresponding resources. The following year, for each programme, an annual performance report will highlight the results achieved and the means implemented to achieve them.

The LOLF thus makes the budgetary procedure revolve around two principles: on the one hand, a logic of public management performance, and on the other hand, a transparency of budgetary information likely to institute a close control by the Parliament.

Higher education and research are the subject of an 'interministerial' mission, with several ministries involved. This mission comprises eight programmes, each grouping several actions and budgetary credits, which are voted by Parliament on the basis of stated objectives and renewed on the basis of the results obtained.

Public research laboratories are partly financed by the budgetary appropriations of universities, public research organisations and funding agencies, including the National Research Agency (ANR). They receive other funding from the French regions, charities, industry and Europe.

Financial Autonomy and Control

According to articles L711-1 and L711-2 of the Education Code, universities, institutes and schools outside universities, and many other institutions are public institutions of a scientific, cultural and professional nature are national higher education and research institutions with legal personality and pedagogical, scientific, administrative and financial autonomy.

Any public scientific, cultural and professional institution concludes a multi-annual contract with the State which defines, for all its activities, the objectives of the institution and the reciprocal commitments of the parties. The contract provides for the objectives shared with the institution's partner public research institutions. The institutions shall report on the execution of their commitments and the achievement of the objectives set out in the contract at least once every two years. The execution of the contract is subject to an evaluation. The State takes into account the results of the evaluation to determine the financial commitments it makes to the institution within the framework of the multi-annual contract.

Fees within Public Higher Education

Tuition fees vary according to the type of higher education institution, as well as the course followed. The order of 19 April 2019 (amended on 9 June 2020) sets out the tuition fee rates for public higher education institutions under the authority of the Minister for Higher Education.

Rules on the accumulation of tuition fees

According to the order, when a student registers in several of the institutions referred to in this decree, in order to prepare simultaneously for several distinct diplomas, he/she pays, for each diploma, the fees provided for by this decree. When a student registers in the same institution to prepare for several diplomas, he/she shall pay the first fees at the full rate and the other fees at the reduced rate defined on a case-by-case basis and in accordance with the table in the annex to this order. In the event that these fees have different rates, the fees paid first are those with the highest amount.

Fees for the different courses

Short-cycle courses

The annual rate of tuition fees for a short-cycle higher education degree course varies according to the type of course. For training leading to a BTS diploma, the courses, which are very largely held in secondary schools, are free of charge for students in public education. For training leading to a DUT, the tuition fees are the same as for a licence. The annual rate is set at €170 and the reduced rate is set at €113.

Bachelor’s programme

The annual tuition fee rate for the National Diploma in the Bachelor's programme (licence, licence professionnelle, etc.) is €170. The reduced rate is €113.


Master's programme

The annual tuition fee for the National Diploma in the Master cycle (Master, State Diploma in Midwifery, Technological Research Diploma, etc.) is set at €243. The reduced rate is set at €159.

Doctorate course

The annual rate of tuition fees paid in public higher education institutions under the authority of the Minister for Higher Education for the preparation of a doctorate is set at €380. The reduced rate is set at €253.

Habilitation to direct research

The annual rate of tuition fees paid in public higher education institutions under the authority of the Minister for Higher Education for the habilitation to direct research is set at 380 €. The reduced rate is set at €253.

Medicine, Pharmacy, Odontology, Maieutic and paramedical diplomas

The annual rate of tuition fees paid by students for the preparation of general training diplomas in medical, odontological and pharmaceutical sciences varies greatly depending on the level of training in which the student is enrolled.

The first cycle has the same rates as for a licence course (170 € / 113 €), the second cycle has the same rates as for a master's course (243 € / 159 €), and the postgraduate degrees vary between 243 € (reduced rate: 159 €) and 502 € (reduced rate: 335 €)

Fees for public Grandes Ecoles

The fees for the Grandes Ecoles vary according to the degree. For example, in public engineering schools, tuition fees average €601 per year (reduced rate: €401).

In addition, there are grandes écoles that not only provide free education but also pay their students: this is the case for the Ecole Polytechnique and the Écoles Normales Supérieures.

Student life and campus contribution (CVEC)

In addition to the registration fee, a student enrolled in initial training in a higher education institution or in a preparatory class for the grandes écoles (CPGE) must also pay a contribution of €92. This contribution is intended to finance actions aimed at promoting social, health, cultural and sporting support for students, as well as prevention and health education, in accordance with article L. 841-5 of the Education Code.

Scholarship students, refugee students, students registered as asylum seekers and having the right to remain on the territory and finally students benefiting from subsidiary protection are exempted from the CVEC.

Registration fees for non-EU students (outside the EU, EEA or Switzerland)

The order of 19 April 2019 sets the registration fees for non-EU students. These students must pay different registration fees if they are registering :

  • for the first time in a bachelor's, master's or engineering course at the start of the 2020/2021 academic year;
  • in a higher education institution under the authority of the ministry in charge of higher education;
  • and that they are not permanently settled in France.

The French State will pay 2/3 of the cost of the training. The amount of the registration fees is then :

  • 2,770 euros for a year in the bachelor's programme;
  • 3,770 euros for a year in the master's programme.

For doctoral students, the French State continues to pay the bulk of the cost of the course, and the tuition fees remain the same as for other students (380 euros per year).

Financial Support for Learners


Housing assistance

Students can receive the Aide personnalisée au logement (APL), the Allocation logement à caractère social (ALS) or the Allocation de logement familial (ALF). This aid is allocated by the Caisse nationale des allocations familiales (CNAF) on the basis of social criteria (resources, family situation, type of accommodation, etc.). The value of the assets belonging to the applicant for the allowance is taken into account in the calculation of the APL. A student who chooses to receive housing benefit is no longer considered dependent on his/her parents for the purposes of family benefits.

As regards accommodation, the CROUS offers student accommodation at reduced prices. Foreign students with French government (BGF) or foreign government (BGE) grants from developing countries are given priority for the allocation of accommodation managed by CROUS - 20% of foreign students benefit from this type of accommodation.

Support for catering

As far as catering is concerned, the CROUS runs university restaurants to which students are entitled. The price of a meal ticket is €3.30 since 2019.

From the start of the 2020/2021 academic year, in the context of the pandemic, in order to help the most economically fragile students, the price of a meal ticket is €1 per meal for students with grants.


The operation of the scholarships awarded to students in higher education is detailed in the ministerial circular of 8 June 2020.

Scholarships based on social criteria

The higher education grant based on social criteria is awarded to students facing material difficulties that prevent them from undertaking or continuing higher education. The income and expenses of the family are taken into account to determine the rate of the grant, which is set according to a national scale. Throughout their higher education studies, students may claim annual higher education grant entitlements based on social criteria, as set out in the Annex. In 2018-2019, approximately 34% of students received a social grant.

Normally awarded over 10 monthly instalments, the social criteria grant can be awarded to students who have not completed their course by 1 July. They then receive 12 monthly payments to cover July and August.

The continuation of the grant is subject to conditions of progress in studies, attendance at classes and presence at examinations. In order to benefit from a higher education grant based on social criteria, the student must be enrolled in a course of study under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Higher Education leading to a national higher education diploma or authorised to receive grant holders.

The student must also meet age, degree and nationality criteria.

An annual order sets the income ceilings of the student's tax household for eligibility for the social criteria grant. Eight levels (0 to 7) are established on the basis of income ceilings.

The annual amounts are set by the order of 22 July 2020 for the year 2020/2021 and vary from €1,032 per year (step 0 bis, grant in 10 monthly payments) to €6,815 per year (step 7, grant in 12 monthly payments).

Merit-based aid

Merit-based aid is awarded to students who receive a higher education grant based on social criteria or an annual allowance granted under the specific aid scheme for the 2020/2021 academic year. Merit-based aid is paid in nine monthly instalments. Its amount is set by interministerial decree. It is not paid during the major university holidays. It can be combined with international mobility aid and one-off aid granted as part of the specific aid scheme.

It concerns students who received a "very good" grade in the last session of the French baccalaureate and who are enrolled in a course of study that gives them the right to a grant.

The amount, set by the order of 22 July 2020, is 900 euros per month.

A student may not receive more than three merit-based grants. This limitation applies both to a linear course and to a reorientation. The continuation of merit-based aid is subject to the conditions of enrolment, course attendance and examination attendance laid down for higher education grants on social criteria. If a student repeats a year, he or she will no longer be eligible for merit-based aid unless the repetition is based on medical reasons.

International Mobility Grant

International mobility support is intended for students who :

  • Wish to follow a higher education course abroad as part of an exchange programme or carry out an international placement;
  • are preparing a national diploma under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Higher Education
  • And who are grant holders on social criteria.

It can also be combined with merit-based aid.

The duration of the student's assisted stay abroad may not be less than two months nor more than nine consecutive months. Over the course of their higher education studies, students may not receive more than nine months' cumulative mobility aid.

The payment of international mobility grants is the responsibility of the higher education institutions. Wherever possible, it is advisable to make at least one monthly payment before the student leaves. The institution must inform each selected candidate of the amount of mobility aid allocated to him or her before departure abroad, but the amount is fixed by the order of 22 July 2020 for the 2020/2021 academic year (400 euros per month).

The stay or work placement at the host institution and attendance at the courses provided for in the student's project must be effective. The control is compulsorily carried out by the head of the home institution. In the event of failure to comply, the institution will immediately stop payment of the aid.

Exceptional derogatory provision: Students who have received nine monthly payments of international mobility aid and whose stay abroad has been interrupted due to the Covid-19 epidemic may benefit from additional monthly payments within the framework of a subsequent mobility within the limit of the duration of the mobility not carried out.


Specific annual aid

In order to benefit from this aid, the student must meet the conditions of diploma, studies, nationality, provided for by the regulation relating to higher education grants on social criteria, and not fall under the cases of exclusion of this same regulation. The conditions of attribution are detailed in the circular of 8 October 2014.

The student must also meet the same attendance requirements as a grant holder. If the student interrupts his/her studies during the year for serious medical reasons (medical treatment, hospitalisation), he/she continues to receive the annual allowance for the remainder of the period during which it was to be paid.

Punctual financial aid

The punctual financial aid is provided in response to a serious social situation where an annual allowance cannot be paid during the academic year. These situations, because of their seriousness, require that one-off assistance be provided to enable the student to continue his/her studies. These situations are attested to by a social assessment. The circular of 1 January 2021 modifies the conditions of attribution by specifying that any student enrolled in an initial higher education programme in France, whatever their nationality, whether or not they hold a scholarship, may request punctual financial aid.

If the student's situation justifies it, several one-off grants may exceptionally be awarded during the same academic year. The maximum amount of a one-off grant corresponds to the annual amount of step 2 of the higher education grants on social criteria. If several one-off grants are awarded in the same academic year, the cumulative amount of the grants may not exceed twice the annual amount of step 2. Unlike annual aid, punctual financial aid can be combined with a grant based on social criteria, an annual allowance, international mobility aid or merit-based aid.

The State-guaranteed student loan

This loan is intended for students between the ages of 18 and 28 who are French or nationals of the European Union or the European Economic Area and who are enrolled in an institution in France to prepare for a French higher education diploma. The characteristics of the loan are as follows

  • maximum amount: 15,000 euros/student total ;
  • no means test required;
  • no parental or third party guarantee required;
  • possibility of deferred repayment (partial or total at the student's choice);
  • loan with part of the risk of default guaranteed by the state, similar to existing systems in other countries.

The application is made directly to the partner banks.

Private Education

The state may subsidise private higher education. Some schools are funded by other ministries, but a large number of them are subsidised by the ministry in charge of higher education and research.

The institution must have been 'recognised' by the State: recognition is the result of a check on the operation of the institution, its courses and its teaching and management staff. It then allows the institution to apply for grants, which are not automatically awarded.

Registration fees

Fees for private higher education institutions and schools vary from one institution to another.

Financial aid for families and students

In order to penalise students from modest families as little as possible, engineering and business schools often have a system for reducing or delaying the payment of tuition fees. Recognition by the state allows them to accept students with state grants. In addition, some schools provide their students with internal scholarships or loans (e.g. repayable ten years after graduation) and offer them paid activities within the institution. Some schools offer their students the opportunity to complete part of their course through an apprenticeship, sharing their time between the company and the training institution. They are thus exempted from school fees and receive a minimum remuneration of up to 78% of the minimum integration wage (SMIC, which amounts to €1,554.58/month based on the legal working week of 35 hours).