Studying in France: universities in France, LMD system – university degrees and doctorate

Studying in France: universities in France, LMD system – university degrees and doctorate

Licence, Master, Doctorat: the French university system

Since 2004, higher education in Europe – and hence in France – is organised around three degrees (LMD): the bachelor’s degree (Licence), the master’s degree (Master) and the doctorate (Doctorat). The LMD system enables European students to undertake some of their studies abroad and to validate the degrees obtained. For non European students, it ensures quality education that is recognised throughout the world.

The degrees

Bachelor's degree (Licence)
This is the first higher education degree after the French baccalaureate. It has the equivalent level of the baccalaureate + 3 years of studies.

Master’s degree (Master)
The Master’s completes the bachelor’s education. There is a research master’s for students interested more particularly in continuing towards a doctorate and a professional master’s which is more oriented towards active working life. The Master is a 2 year course and corresponds to a baccalaureate level + 5 years of studies. It is open to holders of a bachelor’s degree (licence).

After a research or professional master’s degree, the doctorate terminates the university curriculum. It is prepared in 3 years and corresponds to a baccalaureate level + 8 years of studies. 

Organisation of the university year

Each university year is divided into 2 semesters of 4 months each:

  • first semester: from early October to the end of January;
  • second semester: from early February to the end of May.

The examinations are held at the end of each semester.


The E.C.T.S. (European Credit Transfer System) is a number of credits corresponding to one study semester. Each semester represents 30 E.C.T.S.
This system of credits is valid in all higher education establishments in Europe. It is extremely useful for European foreign students: for example, a student who has validated two semesters will receive 60 E.C.T.S. This means the student can enter the second year of a Bachelors’ degree (licence) in France since these E.C.T.S. prove that the student has validated the first year in his/her country.

For more information

The Ministry of National Education website provides details about each degree.

Information updated: 31st August 2010

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