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Understanding european/french higher education system/terminology

  1. Dec 20, 2004 #1
    hello guys,

    In north america (at least for science and engineering) we normally have bachelor then masters and then phd (for some they will continue and do postdoc). I would like to know more about the french equivalent, i know that there's the "ingenieur" progam which could be equivalent to a bachelor in america but what about "doctorate", DEA, etc. Is it the same for other european countries (other than the UK)?

    while we finish our undegrads in four years to get a bachelor degree, in some european systems (i know that this is the case in germany) they have five years where they obtain at the end a "master's" degree. Is it equivalent to the american masters in science or engineering?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 30, 2004 #2
    Well since noone else has answered i'll tell you what i know :)

    Now i'm no master when it comes to the European educational system. This is how the system in at least scandinavia, and i believe UK (not 100% on that) works, so it's a good bet that it works like this in France as well.

    Here you take your first 10 years in manditory schools, from 6-16 years old. After this comes a period of optional higher learning, i'm guessing this would be the equivilant of a junior college or something in USA. You do not go into specifics at this level, and do a lot of general (history/langueges/science/etc) studies regardless of your future plans. This usually takes from 3-4 years (depending on country) and at that time you enter University.

    I know you didn't ask aboiut that system, but because this system is in place, you will not take any general, or elective (non-related to your study) courses in university since you finished that in a previous stage. So normally a BA/BS will take 3 years to finish, a master 2 extra years, and a PhD generally 3 years after that (i think, i'm not 100% on the PhD). From what i gathered from my friend who is studying Mechanical Engineering in Sweden, you are NOT considdered an engineer with only a BS degree, so although you do get a BS underways while studying engineering, all engineering programs are considdered to be 5 year programs since that is what you need to be a legit engineer.

    Like i said i'm no expert on this system and i'm new to university myself, but that's what i gathered about engineering anyway. And in general BS=3 years and MS=2 years (that's how long my studies in physics will take anyway).
  4. Dec 30, 2004 #3


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    More commonly in the U.K, at least, for subjects such as Maths and Physics you can take a Masters in 4 years without having to do a Bachelor.
  5. Jan 2, 2005 #4
    I found a link which compares french and american degrees


    From there, there is a distinction between Maîtrise and Magistère, what is the difference b/w these two?

    And another thing that brought my attention when browsing the école polytechnique and the école normale supérieure websites (two of the famous technical schools in France), i was trying to find an ECE department, all i can find is physics, mechanics, applied math, etc; does anyone who wants to be engineering education (electrical or else) have enroll for example into one of these science departments and from there he or she takes credit/courses which will qualify him/her as an engineer. Is this the same for other schools in France?
  6. Jan 2, 2005 #5
    In North America (U.S and Canada), you're are qualified as an engineer with a BS. Most of the world I think goes that way. However, more and more industries are now demanding masters as well.
  7. Jan 4, 2005 #6
    In Belgium, it depends on which kind of engineer you want to be.
    Roughly, there are two kinds of higher education, university and non-university (hoge school/haute école ).

    The hoge school/haute école can be compared to US undergraduate colleges. They usually offer two or three year undergraduate programs. They have an engineering program called Industrial Engineer, which takes four years and recently has been asigned a masters-level status.

    Then there is the university level education, and here you can get three engineering degrees : trade (basically management with an engineering background), biotechnology or civil engineering. These are all five year programs, after which you get an engineering masters.

    Note that the title engineer (abbreviated Ir.) is an official title in Belgium, like doctor. So you have to get a masters to call yourself that :biggrin:
  8. Jan 4, 2005 #7
    System in Western Europe is this : Three years to become bachelor, then one or two more years to become master (for example one extra master year for a physicist). Then you can do a phd, though the duration can vary from 4 to 10 years. Mostely it is 4 to 5 years...

  9. Jan 4, 2005 #8
    I'm happy to report that the Flemish education minister will soon announce that all scientific programs will be changed to a two year master :wink:
  10. Jan 4, 2005 #9
    Indeed a very good decision...

    spijtig dat ik al afgestudeerd ben ...lol

  11. Jan 4, 2005 #10


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    Another time: NO!. Spain is Western Europe and here a ingeniero=ingenieur=bachelor takes a minimum of 5 years to be finished! The particularity here is that it doesn't exist a master title.
  12. Jan 5, 2005 #11
    There are differences between the European counties, but they are being ironed out by the Bologna accords. For example, in Belgium they are switching from four years (2 years kandidaat and 2 years licenciaat ) to five years (3 years bachelor and 2 years master).

    The intention is that all the different names (bachelor, licenciaat, magister, master, ...) get more standardised as well. Aren't they changing the names in Spain as well?
  13. Jan 5, 2005 #12


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    Well, here there is conflict between Technical Engineers and Engineers. A Technical Engineer is a diplomated in engineering (it lasts 3 years), while an Engineer is a licenciated in engineering (it lasts 5 or 6 years). After the Bolonia settlements, T.E. don't fit in that landscape, so T.E. and E. is going to fuse in one title. Engineers don't agree with that settlement, and maybe we are the only country in europe who is not going to yield this settlement as far as engineering is concerned.

    Moreover, after being studying 5 years or so (from 18 years old to 23 years old), when we travel abroad (USA) we have to study the Master level, which is very very close in difficulty to our actual status. Traditionally, Engineering in Spain has been very hard to finish (the effective duration is 7-8 years for the majority of students) and has a lot of student faliure (nearly 50% of the students leave this studies before the 2nd year). So we are very angry for being to be equalled to Technical Engineers and are the two bachelors in engineering. It isn't fair.
  14. Jan 5, 2005 #13
    Just in case anyone is wondering about Finland, I can tell you that traditionally we have had ONLY 5 year master programs in the university. No bachelor degree at all. (Exception being the medicine MD-degree, which is 6 years). After graduation you've been able to apply for further education, which has lead either to a phd or a licentiate (shorter than the phd, around 2 years).

    With the bologna process most programs are changing to 3 years bachelor + 2 years masters. However, regardless if you have an undergraduate degree or not you get accepted for studies up to the masters. The exceptions being law and medicine programs that only allow entry at the undergraduate and research level (studies leading to pht).

    Oh, and there are no tuition fees... Yet.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2005
  15. Jan 6, 2005 #14
    i am wondering if your system will be able to continue like that, i mean tuition fees are steadily rising here in canada (which is supposed to a socialist heaven comapared to the U.S) especially in ontario.
  16. Jan 6, 2005 #15
    So am I... Our vice principal (helsinki university) and minister of education has aired thoughts about introducing tuition fees to foreign degree students. However, according to EU-legislation EU-citizens must have equal conditions and there is no desire (yet) to abandon free education for finnish citizens. So, the latest proposal is separate english programs for foreign students - with tuition fees. Apparently there is a will, so there will be a way... But nothing is decided yet.

    How much are the tuition fees in Canada? Do they vary much?
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2005
  17. Jan 7, 2005 #16


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    I haven't to pay tuition fees neither. But it is because I hold a grant from the Science and Technology Ministry, due to the poor rent of my parents and a good academic records. If not, I had to pay 700 Euros or so each year.
  18. Jan 7, 2005 #17
    that depends on the province (with ontario one of the highest and Quebec one of the lowest) and as well as the discipline (engineering and medicine being costy more than computer science or arts),for example doing an engineering undergard in Ontario will cost around ~$6,000 per year (that's in canadian dollar, USD $1 ~ CND $1.3).

    Now back to the main subject, I would like to read from those who started in europe and went to do their grads in U.S or Canada, how equivalencies were made, how did you cope with the new system, any problems arised because of differences? for those who went the other way around (from america to europoe), their experience telling will be attentively read (at least by me)
  19. Jan 8, 2005 #18
    I can't speak from experience, as I know very little about foreign (outside of US) education systems and I myself am I lowly freshmen.

    But, I personally think the biggest shock is going to be the different culture (languages being the strongest), not the education system differences. My recommendation is that if you're interested in going to a foreign grad school, you should think about taking a study abroad semester and actually go their as an undergrad.

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