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France – Country Report 2011. Author: ReferNet France
Abstract: This is an overview of the VET system in France. Information is presented according to the following
themes:
1. General context – framework for the knowledge society
2. Policy development – objectives, frameworks, mechanisms, priorities
3. VET in times of crisis
4. Legislative and Institutional framework – provision of learning opportunities
5. Initial vocational education and training
6. Continuing vocational education and training for adults
7. Training VET teachers and trainers
8. Matching VET provision with labour market needs
9. Guidance and counselling for learning, career and employment
10. Financing - investment in human resources
11. National VET statistics – allocation of programmes
This overview has been prepared in 2010 and its reference year is 2009. Similar overviews of previous years can be viewed at: http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/. More detailed thematic information on the VET systems of the EU can also be found at: http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/.
5.7 Vocational Education And Training At Tertiary Level

Higher education is possible in universities, public or private higher colleges, some of which are called grandes écoles.
- Universities accept students without any selection process - except for medical, dental and pharmaceutical disciplines and technological university institutes. The entry requirements are the baccalauréat, or the diplôme d'accès aux études universitaires - DAEU (Diplôme d'Accès aux Etudes Universitaires - diploma to access to university's education) - see § 1.5 or an equivalent qualification. It’s not possible tio acces to high education with a CAP (Certificat d'Aptitudes professionnelles - Professional Skills Certificate), BP (Brevet de technicien - Technician's Certificate) or a “mention complémentaire”.
Studies are split into semesters and course units for which the student is awarded credits. A degree is awarded to students who obtain 180 credits, normally over a period of three years. 300 credits are needed to obtain a masters degree - or 120, more than needed for a first degree, over two additional years study.
There is a professional master degree leading to employment, and research masters which permit following a doctorate over a three-year period.
According to the Bologna process, France began to adapt the diplomas on 3 levels (licence, master and doctorate). There is also a vocational licence leading to employment, and research masters which permit following a doctorate over a three-year period.
- Technology university institutes attached to universities have a student selection process and prepare them in two years for a DUT (Diplôme Universitaire de technologie - Technological University Diploma) designed to provide entry into working life. DUT (Diplôme Universitaire de technologie - Technological University Diploma) designed to provide entry into working life.
Students who graduated DUT can study for a further one-year period to obtain a new qualification created in 1999 under the Bologna process to build a European higher education area.
University enrolment rights are limited and some students can obtain a financial assistance in the form of grants based on social criteria, university criteria or of interest-free loans on trust.
- There are also establishments supervised by the various ministries which have selective process and provide higher education.
These establishments offer short forms of education: in technology, business and paramedical disciplines or a high level long-term education: political institutes, engineering schools, business and management schools, veterinary schools etc.
- Private establishments must be issued with a legal declaration of opening. These establishments are highly diversified and have in common a rigorous selective process.
Entry to the most prestigious higher education colleges, known as "grandes écoles" is by competition prepared in two years in Classes préparatoires aux grandes écoles.
5.4 Apprenticeship Training

"The apprenticeship contract is a particular type of employment contract made between an apprentice and an employer. The employer undertakes, apart from the payment of a salary, to provide the apprentice with complete vocational training, given in part within the company and in part in an apprentice training centre or apprenticeship department of an education establishment. In return, the apprentice undertakes for his training, to work for this employer for the duration of the contract and to do this training course" (article L. 6221-1of the labour Code)
Apprenticeship contracts are mainly aimed at young people under 26 in initial training. They enable diplomas or certificates listed in the national directory of vocational certificates to be obtained which range from the CAP (Certificat d'Aptitudes professionnelles - Professional Skills Certificate) (level 5 in the 1969 French nomenclature, equivalent to level 3 of the European certification framework) to diplomas awarded by universities or 'grandes écoles' (selective universities) (level 7 or 8 of the EQF).
This contract, that may be entered into with an employer from the private or public sector (local authorities, hospitals, the armed services etc), is for a period of between one (apart from exemptions) to three years depending on the duration of the training stage being studied for and the apprentice's initial qualification. In 2006, 72.7% of apprenticeship contracts signed, are for a period of between one and two years, 15.2 are shorter than a year (Source: DARES).
It may be modulated according to the initial skill level of the youngsters.
Apprentices are aged between 16 (end of compulsory education) and 25. These age limits may however be brought forward (in particular where the first stage of secondary education has been completed) or put back in certain cases (disabled workers and creators of companies for example).
The theoretical training period in an apprentices' training centre (CFA) (managed by a local chamber of commerce, a professional sector etc), apprenticeship department (in vocational high-school) or in an apprentices' training unit (in higher education) cover around 25% of the duration of the contract (a minimum of 400 hours per year). 51.5 % of CFA are private, 32.8 of CFA are controlled by chamber of commerce and industry or of Agriculture, 12.5 by public school or university. CFAs CFAs (Centre de formation d'apprentis - apprentice's training center) are subject to the educational supervision of the State (Ministère de l'éducation nationale) and the technical and financial supervision of the State or the regional authorities. Training is mainly funded through an apprentice tax paid by all businesses. An employer may, moreover, benefit from exemptions from payroll contributions, consideration paid by the département council and other financial incentives according to the case and the economic situation in the apprenticeship market.
The period of practical training in the company is carried out under the responsibility of an apprentice supervisor who fulfils the role of tutor and has the teaching and vocational competencies required by the law. In the event of the employer or apprentice supervisor not complying with their obligations, the apprenticeship contract may be suspended or even terminated by the labour inspectorate.
Apprentices are paid from between 25% to 78% of the minimum salary according to their age and progress in the training stage.
On February 2010, 8 months after leaving a CFA (Centre de formation d'apprentis - apprentice's training center), 70% of the apprentices (with all types of qualifications) were in employment.
In 1st February 2010, 60,5 % of the leavers who achieved their apprentiship at the start of new school year 2008 are employed, against 64,2% the previous year. 54.8% were in unassisted employment, 5.7% were in assisted employment, 2.9% were involved in training periods, 36.7 % were jobseekers.
6.2 Non-Formal Education

In France there is no specific program related to non-formal education. Prescribers training are the same: state, regions, employment centre, and business. They have the ability to schedule non-formal training, but they will not be identified as such and there is no specific stastistics to separate the skill training from non-qualifying. The status of a probationer does not depend on formal or non formal.
Nevertheless, France created 2 systems for accrediting and validating non-formal/informal learning (Validation des acquis de l’expérience –VAE).
The first one is to obtain an access to high education (validation of prior learning) and the second one to obtain totally or partially a diploma.
The law of 22 July 1992 on validation of professional experience introduced a system of dispensations for credits leading to qualifications where such are awarded by the Education and Agriculture Ministries. These conditions have been extended to cover all certifications recognised at national level and included in the RNCP (répertoire national des certifications professionnelles - National Directory of professional certifications).
The social modernisation law of 17 January 2002, states that any person with a least three years’ paid or voluntary experience may be granted part or all of a professional certification from the national certifications directory (diplomas, degrees or certificates) on the basis of his/her experience.
Under this system, each individual can ask to have his previous experience recognised. Any person taking part in the active world – whether a jobseeker, an employee or a volunteer worker – can have experience acquired over a period of at least three years validated, in order to gain partial or full exemption from coursework required for a diploma, certification or qualification certificate awarded by a professional branch. This qualification method carries the same dignity and weight as do traditional schooling or university studies, apprenticeships or CVET.
This competency-evaluation procedure is organised by the authorities, ministries or other bodies with responsibility for awarding certifications. The evaluation may be conducted based on the contents of the application or on a real or simulated work situation. The validation is decided by a board composed of teachers and professionals.
For secondary-level qualifications, dispensations or examination postponements are authorised by Ministries, which, in the regions, are responsible for organising examinations. Concerning higher education, individual universities examine candidates’ entry applications. In 2009, the number of candidates increased by 7 points (57,000 in 2009 compared to 53,000 in 2008). Since 2002, 168,000 candidates have been certified thanks to the VAE After an increase phase until 2005 (+ 65% of certified candidates between 2003 and 2004 + 28% between 2004 and 2005) it increases slowly with a slight rebound in 2009 (32 000 VAE certification in 2009, 10% more than in 2008). They were 15% more between 2005 and 2006, over 16% between 2006 and 2007 and 3% from 2007 to 2008. Source: Budget Plan for 2011-Ministry of Employment
We notice that participation rate in non-formal education and training is more important in France than in Europe, on average and according ISCED.
The skills audit (BDC – Bilan de compétences) can help employees and job-seekers looking to define their career or training development plan. The skills audit allows the persons to define a professional project and, if necessary, a project of training. To reach this purpose, the implemented actions of skills audit aim to analyze the professional and personal skills of the person as well as his capacities and motivations.
In 2007, 194 000 skills audit were realized among which 32,5 % (63 000) by the network of the CIBC (Centre Interinstitutionnel de Bilan de Compétences - inter-institutional skills audit centres). Sources: Dares, Premières synthèses - October, 09, n°40-4.
Both of these measures (VAE and Bilan de compétences – BDC) can be implementing by the employee (leave) or by the employer (training plan).
The leave represents a discontinuous period of 24 hours during which the employee realizes the audit or prepare the file of his demand of VAE. During this period, the employee receive an allowance from the OPCA.
Beneficiaries of a skills audit are mainly employees (more than 50%). They are between 25 and 44 years old (78%). Women account for 67% of these people. Over 70% of the skills audit are followed outside working time. Financial assistance for a skills audit amounts to 1428 euros (-13%) for a person on a permanent contract and 1569 euros for a person on a fixed-term contract. Source: Budget Plan for 2011-Ministry of Employment