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France: reforme licence and excellence

Valérie Pécresse, the outgoing French Minister for Higher Education and Research, announced just before the end of her ministerial mandate the launch of a new higher education reform in France. The reform particularly addresses the licence – the French equivalent of the bachelor degree – and aims at making this qualification more relevant for both students and employers. The reform is to be gradually introduced, from September 2012 onwards, and builds on a plan launched by the French minister in 2007, to reduce the university drop-out rate in the first year of licence by 50%. The latter initiative was equipped with a total budget of EUR 730 million for five years.

Within the limits set by the recently granted autonomy of French higher education institutions, the reform package aims for the following:

  • Every licence programme is to include at least 1 500 teaching hours over the three years of study. Currently, there is great variety in the workload at this level of study, from as few as 1 200 hours in some arts, literature and language programmes, up to 1 750 hours for some programmes in the hard sciences, health studies and technology.
  • The licence is to offer parcours diversifiés to guarantee the successful completion of studies by students. Courses should be more tailor-made, and students should be granted more flexibility and guidance to change courses and take paths that reflect the development of their study and professional plans.
  • Furthermore, all students are to be given the possibility to complete a practical internship (training) as part of their degree course, as a means to gain functional experience, with the goal of later benefiting from a smoother transition into the labour market.
  • The knowledge and skills acquired at the end of the licence study will be articulated in a clearer way, to increase transparency for both students and employers.

July also brought the announcement of the winners of the first round of Initiatives d’excellence (IDEX) – the biggest strand of the French excellence initiative. Surprisingly, of the seven shortlisted dossiers (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, April 2011), only three were selected for funding under this round, namely Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Paris Sciences et Lettres (PSL).

French Ministry of Higher Education and Research - licence (in French)

French Ministry of Higher Education and Research - IDEX (in French)