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Country Guide France

CARe country guides, developed from May to October 2020, contain systematised relevant information on the national labour markets in the 10 project countries, with the aim of supporting researchers at risk/with refugee background in finding support, job and training opportunities in their host countries. 

In the development and revision of the country guides, the CARe consortium is receiving invaluable help by the selected group of national experts coming from relevant national institutions and CARe focus groups.




One of the key players in the European scientific landscape, France ranks sixth in the world in terms of scientific publications. French research is internationalised, as more than 60% of its publications are co-signed with at least one international partner. The country also performs well in the international competition for patents, ranking 4th in the world in the European patent system (6.4% of applications filed) and seventh in the U.S. patent system (2.1% of patents granted).

France presents a balanced disciplinary profile with a strong specialisation in Mathematics and a marked specialisation in Fundamental Biology, Medical Research and Sciences of the Universe.


Research in France

The gross domestic expenditure on research and development represents 2,21% of France’s gross domestic product (GDP), the biggest research effort being conducted by the private sector, which accounts for almost two-thirds of the R&D works. Private research is mainly funded by BPI France, which finances innovation programs and guarantees bank loans made to innovating firms as well as the implementation of the “research tax credit” (CIR), which enables firms to recover up to 60% of their investments if they hire young doctorates.

Institutional structure

The Ministry of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation leads French research policy, overseeing the work of public research bodies and institutions of higher education and research. Public research is conducted through 72 Universities plus about 100 other higher education institutions (including Grandes Ecoles), 3 000 research units, 271 doctoral schools and 25 public research organisations, among which the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) or the Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), two of the world’s leading research and innovation institutions.                

Universities and research organisations are deeply entwined. The great majority of publicly funded research units and laboratories are indeed jointly managed by two or more universities and research organisations (UMRs).
At the regional level, competitiveness clusters (pôles de compétitivité) bring together firms, educational institutions, and research laboratories in a given geographical and technological space for the purpose of promoting collaborative and innovative research projects. Most economic sectors are represented – including nanotechnologies, bio-technologies, ecotechnologies, aerospace, and so on.


Research careers in France

More than 100,000 researchers are engaged in publicly funded research, 10% of whom are internationals.

There are two different types of status for teaching and research in France:

  • “fonctionnaires” with civil servant status, which are permanent tenured employment, such as Professeur des Universités, maître de conférences, researcher;
  • “vacataires” and agents contractuels with non-tenured status; such as PhD candidates, temporary teaching position, post-doc, teaching associate…).

Access to these positions – both tenured and non-tenured - is open to non-national but it is still highly competitive, all the more so as around 12 000 PhD are delivered each year in France.               
Foreigners who have not studied or spent time as visiting professors or post-docs in France seldom obtain a tenured position at French universities or research organisations. In recent years, it has become easier to hire foreign professors, since they can be exempted from the requirement to be accredited by the CNU (National Council of Universities) on the basis of their demonstrated qualifications. Career access and advancement in the academic sector are complex: in 2017, 62% of the employed PhD holders in France work in the private sector.

For more information on French higher education and research, have a look at Campus France report or visit ScanR, a search engine allowing you to search for companies active in research and innovation, public research laboratories, public funding, research work (publications, PhD dissertations).

Reflections and recommendations of researchers from the CARe Focus Group France:

  • Language skills are very important especially in some fields (e.g. medical field, social sciences, humanities)
  • There is need for targeted language courses which are of a good quality and the appropriate level
  • There is a need for an introduction and orientation in the labour market
    • Please note: Campus France, ABG, APEC, Euraxess and the PAUSE programme do provide such information
  • Encouragement and scholarly support are needed
  • A platform to present academic work could help in raising visibility of researchers
  • Dignity - first of all a scholar and refugee status only as a secondary issue*
  • Racism and discrimination due to name and nationality occur*
  • Long processes, uncertainty of the own future*
  • A specific call for researchers with refugee background (win-win to both parties)

* Also observed in other countries

Full reports on the CARe Focus Groups and Employer Survey are available here.

To raise factual inaccuracies or to provide us with updated information and feedback on the guide, please do not hesitate to contact us at