Aider à l’orientation

How to navigate the university system in France?

We made this document to help you to conceive how to follow studies in France


A useful tool to have a broad view of the organization is the scheme made by ONISEP ( More generally, the website is very useful; all is written in French, so ask a native speaker to be with you if you need to.

In France, the postgraduate education (higher learning) requires a graduation, obtained during the highscool. The main graduation is the BAC (Baccalauréat). It can be a professional BAC, or a general BAC (divided in 3 fields: sciences, socio-economy, or literature)

So here are the main options:

  • PROFESSIONAL STUDIES (2-3 years minimum)
  • BTS: level BAC, during 2 years, in a high school or a specific school. It is a “technician certificate” which targets a specific profession. For example: BTS Tourisme, BTS métiers de la mode (in the fashion area), BTS coiffure (hairstyle), BTS Bâtiment (construction), etc. You can find the list here:
  • DUT: level BAC, during 2 years at the university. It is a “technician university degree”. It covers a professional area (juridical careers, logistic and transport, etc.) and enables to be more adaptable in the labor market.
  • DEUST: level BAC, during 2 years, at the university. It is a “scientific and technician university degree”. The main purpose is the professional integration, mostly in the industrial area.
  • Professional License: It concerns who want to follows studies after BAC + 2 (after a L2, a BTS, a DUT or a DEUST for example).
  • Professional Master: level BAC+3
  • UNIVERSITY (3-5 years minimum): License (BAC+3), Master (BAC+5),
  • SPECIALISED SCHOOLS in a lot of topics (for example, nursing auxiliary school; translators schools, etc…).

An important point in short studies, or at the University, there are some school course called « alternance » whose principle is that you can work while you study (often including a little financial reward).

And if your high school graduation is not recognized by the French university system?

You can register to a DAEU (“Diplôme d’accès aux études universitaires”): during one year, at the university. It allows to pursue your studies in university (license, DUT, BTS…). There is two different DAEU: DAEU A (littéraire) focuses on economy, history, geography, mathematics, philosophy, foreign languages and law; DAEU B focuses on mathematics, biology, chemistry or physics.

We don’t know yet exactly how to access to each way, if it’s possible or not according to your legal status (refugee, asylum seeker, etc.) because every situation is specific. Thus, the best solution is to have a meeting with the person who knows the best: the orientation councilor.


The purpose of the orientation and information centers (CIO in French = Centre d’Information et d’Orientation) is to help everyone who wants to have more information about the educational counseling. So you have the right to go there, and you are more than welcome: usually, they are very nice people!

How and when to go there?
There are 14 centers in Paris, all useful information are there :

The orientation center of La Sorbonne is the closer one to ENS.

Adress: 1 rue Victor Cousin, 75005 Paris
Access : 14 rue Cujas or 54 rue Saint-Jacques, 75005, Paris.

Tél: 01 40 46 23 13
Fax: 01 40 46 34 26

Horaires: – Without reservation, from Monday to Friday, from 13h30 to 17h30
With reservation, from Monday to Friday, from 09h30 to 17h30, just call 01 40 46 23 13 before to book a schedule.

Phone Permanence: from Tuesday to Friday, from 09h30 to 12h30 au 01 40 46 23 24

But you have other centers, maybe closer to the place where you live, so maybe ask your binôme or other people to help you to find the best solution.


  • It’s better if you have some ideas about what kind of studies you want to follow: short/long, which domain, do you want to have the possibility to work while studying, the job you have in mind, etc.
  • Bring PHOTOCOPIES of your diplomas if you have so. (We can show you how to photocopy at the ENS, ask us!)
  • Maybe take some paper to write the information the counciler will tell you.

For the language, it’s better to go with someone who speaks French OR to ask before if it’s possible to meet a councilor who speaks English quite well if you don’t feel to speak French.


Some important questions to ask to the councilor about the university/ school you would like to go to:

  • What is the French level you need?
  • How much does the school cost? (There are a lot of free solutions)
  • When do you have to send your candidature?
  • Who is the person we can talk to? (Often, there is a specific way if you want to go to an university or a school being asylum seeker or a refugee, so we often need a mail, or a phone number, in order to negotiate)
  • Ask maybe some written documents, in order to read it after


CROUS” is an organization aiming to support students in France, by different services:

  • Student restaurants (14 in Paris, with meals at 3,20€)
  • Scholarships for poor students
  • Student accommodations
  • Help for foreign students (international welcoming)

You can take your chance and try to register for a scholarship or an accommodation (even if it may be very difficult for asylum seekers; it could be easier for people with a refugee status):

BE CAREFUL: If you have the RSA, ask a social assistant first !

Please ask your binôme or a French speaker to help you in this process. You have until the 31th of May to do your application, but please do it as soon as you can. Thank you!


ENS is a “grande école”: it does not work like a university, and cannot grant diplomas like license or master. By the way, every student in the ENS has to be registered in a university in order to obtain his diploma. That is why we advise you to try to register in a university or a school. Our purpose, in the PEI, is to help you to speak French fluently, and to obtain two types of certificates (≠ from an academic diploma). At the end of your participation to the program, you are supposed to get:

  • A certificate of assiduity “PEI – ENS” (which can prove your motivation and help you to continue your studies or to get a job for example; it is only a proof of your efforts, it is an informal certificate).
  • A DELF certificate: it is an official recognition of your French level. It will be necessary to register in university (level B1 or B2 required) and to pursue your academic or professional life in the best conditions. The PEI will pay for this official exam. Several sessions will be organized.



The recognition of diplomas can help you for your studies or your entry on the labour market. For asylum seekers and refugees: it is free, but you need to have your diplomas with you.


Documents required for a certificate of recognition:

  • Photocopy of the qualification certificate(s) in the original language (Do not send originals)
  • Photocopy of a document showing proof of the official duration of the studies leading to the qualification(s) (this may be a diploma supplement, marks sheets, certificates of attendance, etc.)
  • Letter giving your address, telephone number and email address, explaining the reason for your request for a certificate of recognition (looking for a job, enrolling at a training institution, etc.)
  • For asylum seekers and refugees: document showing proof of the application for asylum or of the decision of the OFPRA (Office Français de Protection des Réfugiés et Apatrides, or French office for the protection of refugees and stateless persons)

If those documents are in french, english or arabic, you do not need to translate them. If you have them in other languages, you need the photocopy of the translation of the qualification certificate, done by a sworn translator (in France, a list of sworn translators is available at the town hall, prefecture and tribunal d’instance [magistrates’ court]), or an official translation from the authorities in the country of issue.

Checks with the authorities in the country of issue are not made for qualifications obtained by asylum seekers or refugees.

Form online :


  1. Proceed to your registration
  2. An email will be send to you: complete your file and validate your form (with the green button).
  3. Indicate your diplomas and download your proves of entitlement (pdf)


It is free for asylum seekers and refugees. But, if your application is not accepted, you will have to pay 20 Euros.