Grandes écoles

The Grandes Écoles of France are higher education establishments that are outside the main framework of the French public university system. The Grandes Écoles are highly selective, elite, and prestigious institutions; their graduates have dominated upper levels of the private and public sectors of French society for decades.

Most Grandes Écoles select students for admission as graduates of bachelor degree programs, while others select students at the third year of undergraduate-level study, based chiefly on the student's national ranking in competitive written and oral exams. Usually candidates for the national exams have completed two years of dedicated preparatory classes for admission.

Grandes écoles differ from public universities in France, which have a legal obligation to accept in the first year of undergraduate studies all candidates of the region who hold a corresponding baccalauréat. (But universities have the right to select their students at the postgraduate level just as the Grandes Écoles do). Grande écoles usually do not have large student bodies: most give admission to few hundred students each year. Arts et Métiers ParisTech has the largest student population, with 6,000 students .

Studying in some grandes écoles after passing the competitive exams is officially considered part of public service. Students generally pay low or no fees, and are paid monthly stipends by some institutions. They are committed to ten years of public service (including their study years). The business schools typically charge higher fees. Economically disadvantaged students in grandes écoles may have access to grants and subsidies, just as they would at a public university.