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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Legislation and official policy documents


15.Legislation and official policy documents

Last update: 27 November 2023
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In the French civil service, a circular is an instruction on the substance or the procedure of the service. Circulars are drawn up by heads of department for their subordinates.

Education Code

The code de l'éducation (education code) unites all legislative and regulatory provisions relating to the French educational system in a single reference document, dealing with general principles and administration, teaching, higher education and personnel.


An enforceable provision that is general or individual in scope, and that is issued by the President of the Republic or by the Prime Minister exercising regulatory powers (article 21 of the Constitution).

Law no. 2013-660 of 22 July 2013 on Higher Education and Research

Law no. 2013-660 of 22 July 2013 on Higher Education and Research sets the framework for the reform of the higher education and research system launched by the French Government in 2012. One of the purposes of this reform is success for all students, especially those undertaking Bachelor’s degrees at university. The Law contains several provisions with a view to meeting this objective, the main ones being:

  • "success for all students", "reducing social or cultural inequalities" and "improving students' living conditions", which are now part of the missions of the public higher education department (art. 6);
  • ties between secondary and higher education have been given fresh consideration. The Law provides, on the one hand, for creation of a teaching continuum between the end of secondary education (received at lycées in France) and the beginning of higher education (art. 32) and, on the other, for improvement of the specialisation system for secondary school leavers (who complete lycée in France) (art. 33);
  • the specialisation of Bachelor’s degree modules becomes "progressive". The different courses must now contain "multidisciplinary" modules so as to "help each student to identify and make concrete steps towards achieving personal and career aspirations", thereby reducing the number of drop-outs (art. 32).

The Law also contains provisions concerning the governance of universities (change in the members of the university's board of directors; creation and new attributions of the "conseil académique" (academic council), articles 45 – 55) as well as governance of the higher education system overall. In this regard, it provides for the replacement of Pôles de recherche et d’enseignement supérieur (Higher Education and Research Clusters/PRES) with "Communautés d’universités et établissements" (university and institution communities, art.  62). Following reports of certain shortcomings in the effectiveness of PRES (few pooled skills and weak governance), the aim of these new groups is to develop territorial coordination, strengthen democracy and collegiate working within each site, and ensure the international visibility of research. The Law provides that institutions and centres forming such a community "coordinate their range of courses and research strategy". This territorial coordination, "organised in a federal or confederal manner", is entrusted to a single institution in the group, which signs a five-year contract with the French State. "Communautés d’universités et établissements" are granted the same legal status as universities (EPCSCSP). The Law stipulates the arrangements for governing each community, similar to how universities are run: each of the communities has a vice-chancellor, a board of directors, an academic council (representative body of professors and students) and a council of members. The Law does not describe which aspects of their remit the institutions making up the community must or may transfer to the university community, but the articles of association of each community must mention them.

We will end by mentioning other provisions of this Law, concerning:

  • work placements (art. 24-28). The Law amends the rules concerning supervision of placements; it particularly stipulates wider application of trainee remuneration (which must be paid by the State body and by the companies) and extension of the rights and protection provided by the French Code du travail (Labour Code) for employees to trainees;
  • closer ties with the business community. For the first time the Law recognises "entrepreneurship training" as one of the objectives of higher education (art. 31). It also provides that every course may be organised in the form of work-linked training (art. 22).
  • promotion of doctorates among the business community (art. 78). Recruitment procedures for the senior civil service categories have been amended to help doctors to access them more easily.

Guidance and Programming Law no 2013-595 of 8 July for Restructuring Schools

Guidance and Programming Law no. 2013-595 of 8 July 2013 for Restructuring Schools sets the framework for the overall reform of the school system launched by the French Government in 2012. It aims at success for all pupils: raising their level of knowledge, skills and culture and reducing social and regional inequalities in academic success.

The Law rounds off the Education principles and missions attributed to the public Education department, which must now ensure (art. 2) "school inclusion for all children, with no distinction" as well as "the social mix of pupils enrolled in educational institutions"; it must guarantee the means by which all pupils can acquire a common base of knowledge, skills and culture, which "must enable the pursuit of studies, construction of a personal and professional future and preparation for exercising citizenship" (art.13). The Law also stresses the importance of "all stakeholders in the educational community" (pupils' parents, educational staff, etc.) playing a part in children’s academic success.

"Preparation for lifelong learning and education"; development of "initiative-taking" in pupils and combating "innumeracy" are listed as the purposes of education (art. 4 and art. 9 respectively).

Measures are being taken to meet all of these objectives, the main ones being:

  • creation of a Service public du numérique (public digital technology department) (articles 16 & 17), which promotes the use of such technology in schools;
  • creation of the Conseil supérieur des programmes (Higher Programmes Council) (art. 32) tasked with making suggestions concerning the reform of teaching content (ISCED 0 to 3), also provided for by the Law;
  • creation of an independent body, the Conseil national d'évaluation du système scolaire (National Council for Evaluation of the School System), tasked with evaluating the organisation and outcomes of school education (art. 33);
  • change in the number and length of school cycles to ensure learning progressiveness (art. 34). In this context, grade retention becomes an "exceptional" practice (art. 37);
  • introduction of a modern language class from the first year of elementary school (six year olds), starting from the 2015-2016 school year (art. 39);
  • creation of écoles supérieures du professorat et de l'éducation (higher schools of teacher training and education/ESPE) tasked with organising initial training for future teachers and education staff and with participating in their further training (articles 68-76). ESPEs are formed within universities. They dispense Master's degrees that strike a balance between theoretical learning and placements in schools. These courses "include both common modules enabling acquisition of a shared professional culture and specific modules depending on the professions, subjects and levels of education. They teach subject-based and didactic modules as well as modules on pedagogy and education sciences" (art.70). They also take part in subject-based and educational research, international cooperation initiatives and promoting innovative teaching methods.

The Law approves the appended report defining the programming of resources and guidelines for restructuring French schools. Priority is given to primary schools in the attribution of resources (ISCED 0 and 1).

Law no. 2011-893 of 28 July 2011 for the development of work-study programmes and professional career security

Law no. 2011-893 of 28 July 2011[1]contains a series of measures intending on the one hand to develop work-study training (training centre – business) and on the other to provide better supervision of work experience in companies. The measures for developing work-study training include the following in particular: the possibility of making apprenticeship or vocational training contracts with two employers as part of seasonal activities; opening temporary work apprenticeships to companies; and taking account of the length of the apprenticeship contract in the trial period if it is followed by a fixed-term contract or temporary work. The law also creates the contrat de sécurisation professionnelle (CSP – job-security contract). It includes as well measures intended for the better accounting of work experience in companies, including the establishment of six months of learning per year, except for special dispensations, of the maximum length of the apprenticeship(s) carried out by the same trainee in the same company; and the mandatory payment of financial compensation as soon as the internship in the same company lasts longer than two consecutive months.

Law no. 2009-1437 of 24 November 2009, relating to lifelong guidance and vocational training

Law no. 2009-1437 of 24 November 2009, relating to guidance and lifelong vocational training, marks a new stage in the reform of the French continuing vocational training system. It boosts the “droit individual de formation” (DIF - Personal right to training) by allowing its portability (i.e. the possibility of retaining the unused DIF credit hours accrued at the end of the job contract in order to use the credits with a new employer or to fund training as a job seeker with Pôle Emploi), and develops new tools such as the “professional development assessment" (bilan d'étape professionnel), the “mid-career interview” (entretien en milieu de carrière) or the “guidance and training passport” (passeport orientation et formation). It also stipulates the creation of a Conseil national de la formation professionnelle tout au long de la vie (National Council for lifelong vocational training), a consultation space for the State, economic partners, labour and management and the regional councils, the composition and operation of which were defined by decree no. 2011-1002 of 24 August 2011. It satisfies the need to secure careers by creating a joint fund dedicated to job-seeker training and the most under-qualified employees. These measures were completed by law no. 2011-893 of 28 July 2011 for the development of work-study training and career security.

Law no. 2007-1199 of 10 August 2007 relating to university freedoms and responsibilities

Law of 10 August 2007 bearing on the freedoms and responsibilities of universities, the so-called LRU law, sets out current overall guidelines for higher education in France. By 1 January 2013, the law aims to give all universities the means to be fully autonomous as to their budgets and human-resource management, providing for the possibility of outright ownership of their real estate. Legally speaking, such institutions have become EPSCPs (Etablissements publics à caractère scientifique, culturel et professionnel – public institutions of a scientific, cultural and professional nature), legal entities enjoying educational, scientific, administrative and financial autonomy. The powers vested in a university president have been widened, in particular with regard to the recruitment and management of personnel, and the law provides for private funds to contribute to university budgets.

Law no. 2007-297 of 5 March 2007 relating to the prevention of delinquency

Law no. 2007-297 of 5 March 2007 relating to the prevention of delinquency intends to improve the means for preventing delinquency by minors. Its aim is to make the mayor the central figure for prevention policies in the community and to strengthen the tribunals' role in enforcing this policy. In educational matters the law authorises mayors to set up a computerised file, listing the pupils in their communities so as to monitor their school attendance. This law also introduces the “daytime activity” (MAJ), a penal educational measure handed down by the judge or the jurisdiction for a minor against a minor, perpetrator or alleged perpetrator of a breach of the law (offence), aged from 10 to 18. Such minors often have serious learning difficulties and considerable behavioural problems. It offers an alternative or a supplement to the legal educational measures and consists in "the minor's participation in vocational or learning measures […]" (memorandum no. 2008-131 of 2 October 2008, MEN). The MAJ is defined according to the young person's needs, their educational level and situation; it is different from other mentoring schemes offered outside of class-time by schools or educational institutions.

Decree no. 2006-830 of July 2006

Decree no. 2006-830 of July 2006 is an implementing decree of the guidance and curriculum-planning Law no. 2005-380 of 23 April 2005 for the future of schools. It defines all knowledge and skills that each pupil should master at the end of compulsory education, considered to be necessary to have successfully completed their education, to continue training, build personal and professional lives and contribute to a successful life in society. This “common grounding of knowledge and skills” acted as the reference for drafting the current school curricula.

Law no. 2006-450 of 18 April 2006 for research guidance

Law no. 2006-450 of 18 April 2006 for research guidance sets out the general terms of research organisation in France. The law's main provisions affect the following:

  • Research organisation: the law intends to promote co-operation in research by authorising research and higher-education bodies to establish poles de recherché et d'enseignement supérieur (PRES – research and higher-education centres). A PRES includes several independent bodies, i.e. public/private, French and European research institutes and higher-education bodies, including at least one public body of a scientific, cultural and vocational nature (EPCSCP). Associations, local communities and companies may participate in the PRES. Along similar lines the law also provides for the creation of "thematic, advanced-research networks" and "thematic research and care centres". These three co-operation systems may be legal entities, in particular in the form of the following: "public interest groups", "public scientific-co-operation institutes (the kind of public institution the by-laws of which – defined by participating members and associates – must be approved by decree) and "scientific co-operation foundations" (under the authority of private law and adhering to foundation-based rules).
  • Assessment of research and higher education: the law creates the Agence d’évaluation de la recherche et l’enseignement supérieur (AERES – the research and higher-education assessment agency), assigned to assess the following: higher-education and research institutes, scientific co-operation foundations and higher-education training courses and degrees. It must also assess procedures for assessing the staff of schools and bodies and gives advice on the conditions in which they are implemented.
  • The research-business link: the law acknowledges the role of expertise in research. Changes have been made to the research code to facilitate the transfer of public-sector researchers to companies either on a temporary or permanent basis with a view to retraining. Provisions have also been made to enable researchers to benefit from time-off so as to take part in creating or managing an innovative start-up company. Lastly, public-sector research institutes are authorised to provide private companies with the added value of research results.
  • Doctoral degree: the law updates the provisions concerning the preparation and issuance of the doctorate. It establishes that the collective labour agreements may recognise the doctorate as a specific level of qualification with an effect on pay levels and vocational positions.

Decree no. 2005-1145 of 9 September 2005 and decree no. 2005-1178 of 13 September 2005 which amend the decree of 30 August 1985 dealing with local public-sector schools (secondary schools)

Decrees no. 2005-1145 of 9 September 2005 and no. 2005-1178 of 13 September 2005, contain provisions intending to advance the operations of local public-sector schools (collèges and lycées), by applying guidance and curriculum planning law no. 2005-380 of 23 April 2005 for the future of schools. These decrees intend in particular to achieve the following:

  • develop the autonomy of institutions: the purpose of the projet d'établissement (institutional plan) is redefined and extended. It can, for example, provide for teaching experiments enabling the search for the best adapted innovative solutions to the difficulties experienced by pupils. The decrees also provide for each institution to develop a projet de contrat d'objectifs (goals contract project). Consistent with the institutional plan and based on the guidance defined at the national and academic levels, this contract defines the goals to be met in a multi-annual timeframe (3 to 5 years) in the shape of an action programme, the implementation of which may be facilitated with, or even conditioned by, support from local education departments. Indicators for enabling the assessment of whether these objectives have been attained or not must be included in the contract.
  • improve institutional effectiveness by facilitating faster decision-making. Head teachers now have the possibility of delegating their signature to collaborators. And the board of governors may likewise delegate certain of its responsibilities to the standing committee.
  • foster inter-school co-operation: schools are authorised to network at the training pool level to facilitate educational pathways, leading to consistent training, the implementation of joint projects and partnership policies in connection with regional communities and their economic, cultural and social environments.

Guidance and curriculum planning law no. 2005-380 of 23 April 2005 for the future of schools

Guidance and curriculum planning law no. 2005-380 of 23 April 2005 for the future of schools commits to the modernisation of French national education along three main lines, i.e. ensure scholastic success for all pupils, better guarantee an even chance to all pupils and promote vocational opportunities for young people. It particularly defines the need to guarantee each pupil with the "necessary means to acquiring a common grounding composed of a range of knowledge and skills that must be mastered in order to complete their [compulsory] schooling successfully, continue training, build a personal and vocational future  and succeed in society" (art. 9). The knowledge and skills of this "common grounding" are detailed in decree no. 2006-830 of 11 July 2006. Moreover, in the report annexed to the law, which is the reference for its implementation through regulations, quantified goals are assigned to the educational system to guarantee that by the end of their schooling 100% of the students will have acquired a degree or certified qualifications, ensure that 80% of an age group has access to the baccalaureate level and lead 50% of an age group to a degree in higher education.

Law of 11 February 2005 dealing with equal rights and opportunities, participation and citizenship of the disabled

Law no. 2005-102 of 11 February 2005 defines the rights of the disabled, in particular in the following:

  • reception. the law provides for the creation of a reception facility for disabled people in each département: the Maison départementale des personnes handicapées (MDPH – the Departmental Centre for the Disabled). This facility operates as a single agency for all initiatives related to the various disabled situations
  • compensation for the impact of the disability. The law defines the right to compensation for all disabled persons for the consequences of their disability, whatever the root cause or the nature of the disability, the person's age or life-style. A plan de compensation (compensation plan) is to be drafted by each MDPH so as to cover needs in human and technological assistance, housing and vehicle adjustments, specific or exceptional assistance and animal assistance
  • schooling. The law supports the right of each child and adolescent to schooling in a normal environment, as close as possible to their home and an on-going and adapted school pathway. At school and in close collaboration with parents, it provides for a tailor-made educational project, and it redefines the adjustments that can be implemented so that disabled pupils may pursue their studies into higher education and sit competitive exams
  • employment. The law amends the labour code concerning timetable adjustments, working conditions in companies and the conditions for retirement
  • active citizenship. The law redefines the conditions for access to polling stations. It supports disability awareness-raising programmes for civic education in primary and secondary schools.

Law no. 2004-809 of 13 August 2004 relating to local freedoms and responsibilities

Law no. 2004-809 of 13 August 2004 relating to local freedoms and responsibilities is part of a decentralising process begun in the early 1980s for managing public policies. It effects considerable new jurisdiction-shifting from the State to collectivités territoriales (regional communities). In educational matters the regions become fully responsible for defining and implementing regional education and vocational training policies for job-seeking young people and adults or vocational re-training. Moreover, pursuant to this law, local authorities are responsible for building, rebuilding, extending, carrying out major repairs and equipping institutions under their responsibility: municipalities for primary schools, départements for collèges and regions for lycées.

Law no. 2004-391 of May 2004 on lifelong vocational training and social dialogue

Law no. 2004-391 relating to lifelong vocational training and social dialogue intends to modernise the on-going vocational training system and enable all salaried employees to have access to it through an array of new provisions, e.g. a droit individuel à la formation (DIF – personal right to training), established for all salaried employees, a contrat de professionnalisation (professional-training contract) set up to promote the integration of young people into professional life and the integration of job-seekers back into the job market. The law also provides for the following:

  • the possibility that part of the on-going vocational training be done outside of working hours with 50% remuneration
  • the possibility of implementing an on-the-job training period as part of a permanent contract in order to enable the acquisition of qualifications through a work-study programme open to certain categories of employee, in particular employees whose qualifications are not adapted to changing technology and employees in the latter half of their careers
  • fostering specific training activities for unqualified people, in particular the illiterate
  • strengthening the appeal of apprenticeship contracts
  • increasing the amounts paid by companies for funding vocational training.

Moreover in contract matters, the law redefines the collective negotiating rules between States and management and workers.

Social Modernisation Law no. 2002–73 of 17 January 2002

The Social Modernisation Law no. 2002-73 of 17 January 2002 covers labour, health and housing. In particular it contains a certain number of provisions relating to vocational training (title II):

  • establishing validation des acquis de l’expérience (VAE – work-experience accreditation), a provision enabling anyone to have access to a full or partial degree, or more generally at least professional certification, based on paid or unpaid professional experience of a minimum of three years. Establishing the VAE meets the need to provide more security to the under-qualified active population in their professional careers as well as the need to develop lifelong training
  • establishing a comité de coordination régionale de l’emploi et de la formation professionnelle (a regional employment and vocational training co-ordination committee)  in each region, a regional co-ordination body for employment policies and initial and on-going vocational training programmes under the responsibility of regional councils
  • reforming internship tax collection (i.e. taxes paid by companies for work-study training) so as to raise the additional means for funding work-study training
  • co-ordinating the funding of centres de formation d’apprentis (CFA – apprentice-training centres) around the regional council.

Law no. 2001-692 of 1 August 2001 relating to finance (LOLF)

The LOLF is an incorporating act of higher importance than ordinary law. It replaces the previous framework dating from 1959 and provides for modernising State management. It focuses the budgetary procedure on two principles, i.e. on the one hand a rationale of public management performance, and on the other, transparent budgetary information permitting close scrutiny by Parliament.
Since it came into force on 1 January 2006, the State budget has been organised in "missions" and "programmes" as follows:

  • a mission includes an array of programmes contributing to a defined public policy. Each mission is the budgetary unit on which Parliament votes
  • the programme, as defined at ministerial level, includes the credits for implementing an activity or a consistent set of activities that are governed by one ministry and to which precise items are attached, defined according to goals in the public interest and the expected outcomes as shown by performance indicators. An annual performance project detailing the programme's objectives and the expected outcomes as shown by performance indicators and corresponding means are annexed to the draft finance bill. An annual performance report the following year highlights the outcomes reached for each programme and the means implemented to reach those outcomes.

Education is the subject of one "interministerial" mission with the involvement of two ministries, i.e. the Ministry of National Education and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. This mission contains seven programmes, each containing several activities and budgetary credits that are voted upon and renewed by Parliament on the basis of declared objectives and outcomes obtained in previous years.

Guidance law no. 89-486 of 10 July 1989 on Education

Guidance law no. 89-486 of 10 July 1989 on education set education as the nation's top-most priority. It amended and completed legislation on the educational system by re-organising school timetables as well as educational cycles.

Decentralization laws: law no. 83–663 of 22 July 1983 and law no. 85–97 of 25 January 1985

Laws no. 83-663 of 22 July 1983 and no. 85-97 of 25 January 1985 began a process of decentralising education-system management, which was developed by law no. 2004-809 of 13 August 2004 and meant that operating and equipment costs for school premises were shifted to the communes (municipalities), départements and regions. These laws also made collèges and lycées établissements publics locaux d'enseignement (EPLE – local public schools) a category of public institutions under the French Department of Education. Like all public institutions, the EPLEs are legal entities and enjoy the administrative and financial autonomy conferred on them by the decree of 30 August 1985 relating to local public schools, which organise their operations.

Law no. 68-978 on Higher Education

The 1968 Framework Law on Higher Education provided for academic, administrative and financial autonomy of the universities, which replaced the old “faculties”. It gave universities the status of “State institutions for scientific and cultural education”, with legal personality and financial autonomy.

Law no. 59-1557 of 31 December 1959 which defines current relations between the State and private-education institutions

Law no. 59-1557 of 31 December 1959 defines current relations between the State and private-education institutions. It does not recognise "private education" as such, but only a plurality of institutions. It makes it possible for schools to sign a "simple" contract or "association" contract with the State.

  • the simple contract can only be concluded with primary or specialist schools. Classes must be given for at least 5 years and the premises must satisfy health and safety regulations. The institution under contract must organise the teaching of core subjects with reference to public education curricula and timetables. Teachers are appointed by the private authority and are private-sector employees but paid by the State;
  • the association contract can be concluded with primary schools and secondary schools (collèges, lycées). Private teaching must be dispensed under the same conditions as in the public system. The institution undertakes to follow national educational curricula and objectives, and teachers are paid by the state as public-sector employees. However, they are directly recruited by the school head. Public authorities take charge of all or part of private-school operating costs. In exchange, schools under contract are subject to the same inspections as public-sector schools.