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DD thinking of studying French at a French uni

(58 Posts)
NigellasGuest Sun 09-Dec-12 11:29:35

DD is in her final GCSE year and thinking ahead to A'levels - so this isn't an urgent query, just preliminary investigation!

She likes French and is good at it - and has said that if she ends up doing well enough in it, she might like to study it at Uni. And if she studies it at Uni, she would like that to be a French uni.

Is this a common thing to do? It sounds like a nice idea to me, but how would one go about finding out about suitable universities in France - and is their system totally different to ours here in the UK?

If anyone has any first hand experience or is considering something similar I would love to read your comments!

Pooka Sun 09-Dec-12 11:32:01

My brother did french at university and the course (4 year) included a year in France. He was in Paris, teaching at a French Lycee.

So that's an option - French degree at UK university with a sandwich year.

He was at Glasgow university btw.

creamteas Sun 09-Dec-12 11:35:30

If she can get into a one of Les Grandes Ecoles then she will probably have a great time.

But I wouldn't consider any of the other universities as they are usually considrably under resourced and she could end up in massive classes with little support.

BreconBeBuggered Sun 09-Dec-12 13:05:06

I spent a year at a French university as part of my degree and, unless things have changed dramatically since, I'd agree with creamteas. Plus the social life was pretty poor compared to university life in the UK, even when students were actually there. (There was a mass exodus at weekends when virtually the only students left on site were the foreign ones.)

onthemetro Sun 09-Dec-12 13:19:45

There's a uni in the UK that has a campus in Paris - I think it might be Kent. That might be an option if she's keen to be in France but also means that the system for applying is the same.

Greythorne Sun 09-Dec-12 13:38:36


Why would she want to do this?

If you study French in England, you are studying it as a second language. Therefore, marked accordingly.

If you study in France, you have to have native level, otherwise you Are going to do very badly indeed. Unless she is very gifted at French, already reading novels in French, I would think this a very poor idea!

When students do a year abroad (when studying at an English uni), they usually work as a 'lecteur' in an English department of a French uni, they don't study French alongside French students doing in DEUG or licence.

There are Erasmus programmes where students at English unis do go abroad and study French and have to pass the exams in France as a course requirement. The pass rate is patchy because it is a very tall order.

Your DD needs to think this through very carefully.

And that's without the social aspect (or lack thereof) at French universities.

There aren't loads of grandes écoles to study French. They tend to be engineering and maths.

AnnaBegins Sun 09-Dec-12 13:40:15

French unis (except the grandes ecoles) are lower standard than in the UK, but, there is a lot of choice in what you do module-wise, I found there to be a great social life, though French students go home at the weekends, and it is much much cheaper than UK unis - around €200 a year. If you can find one with a good international/erasmus scene that would be a plus. She could study French Literature, or English, as that would include English lit/culture and translation as well, or something completely different, other languages, history, psychology etc as they would all be in French! Most French unis specialise in either Humanities or Science, so that's something to look at.

Good on her for thinking of something so adventurous!

LadyMargolotta Sun 09-Dec-12 13:40:47

Maybe look at the belgian french speaking universities? It is relatively cheap to study in Belgium and the standard of university teaching is very high.

LoopsInHoops Sun 09-Dec-12 13:42:45

All language courses in UK require a year abroad (ERASMUS).

French unis not all great, and studying French would be a poor idea for a non-native speaker. However, I'd be considering Germany or Holland, and studying French as a MFL. Lots of German/Dutch unis now have courses in English to cater for the university tourism heading that way - much cheaper on fees.

AnnaBegins Sun 09-Dec-12 13:43:00

Oh and Greythorne I agree about the standard of French definitely! But I disagree about the year abroad, most people I know studied at French unis with French students at the same standard, in fact, I was top of my class (stealth boast lol!) as the standard was so much lower than in the UK - not hard to get the pass rate at all, for all the British students!

gallicgirl Sun 09-Dec-12 13:47:22

I did a French degree at a UK uni then spent a year in a French uni as a sandwich year. It is very hard work even with support from a compulsory grammar class.
The degree subjects are not comparable to UK degrees. I found a lot of lectures used literature as their source material which is understandable for history options but weird for politics.
Lectures were 3 hours long and there were no tutorials so no option to question the lecturer or debate the content. In fact, questioning anything was positively discouraged.
Having said that, it's an amazing experience and does wonders for your language skills.

butterfliesinmytummy Sun 09-Dec-12 13:48:42

As seceral have pointde out, French at French universities works on the premise that you are a native speaker to kick off with, like English at an English uni. I did French a level and French degree at a uk university and boy when I did my year abroad, did I realize how much I had to learn about actually speaking French like a native rather than a foreigner. Btw I spent my year abroad translating for the French government, they employed me when I graduated so it was a pretty high powered course focusing on translation rather than literature (although we did that too), but it was still tough.

I worked for 2 weeks in paris during my a levels too (living with a French family) and there was no way I would have been ready after a levels to study French from a native speaker perspective.

TooMuchRain Sun 09-Dec-12 13:48:59

It's a great idea but it she wouldn't be able to do French Studies as such if she goes to a French university because a lot of the stuff that she would learn on that degree in the UK (at first year anyway) would have been covered at school in France. She would have to be proficient enough to do another degree in French.

Bonsoir Sun 09-Dec-12 13:50:11

She wants to study French Literature at a French university? She would have a really tough time getting in unless she has the French bac, and she would find it very strenuous. Plus there are no employment prospects.

If she really loves French, there is an excellent course at the Sorbonne for foreign adults, eminently suitable for a gap year: Sorbonne

Greythorne Sun 09-Dec-12 14:06:20


Sorry, yes, all MFL students do a year abroad...but most don't study with native level students. But there are some Erasmus programmes which allow you to do just that and emerge with a double degree from the UK uni and the French uni. But it is not an option open to all students as the standard is so high for non native speakers.

OP - you need to ask your DD why she wants to do this. At a UK uni studying French, she would still get a year in France as standard.

And a degree worth much more than a licence from a fac.

Pooka Sun 09-Dec-12 18:05:41

my brother also had a month in Paris at the Sorbonne during his A' Levels.

Went to state comp, but was very good at French and they encouraged him to apply. I think it was an excellent opportunity for him.

AuldAlliance Sun 09-Dec-12 18:25:23

Maybe she should look at the syllabus for a degree in Lettres Modernes in a French university; she'd probably be expected to do some linguistics, using technical vocab in French. The literature would be quite theory-based.
Hard if it's not your mother tongue.

Since there is no selection at entrance, French universities select as they go along (c.30% pass rate - yep, 70% failure rate - in 1st year). Marking is tough. Unless she is really fluent, it would be hard and no concessions whatever would be made to her status as a non-native speaker.

French universities are underfunded and overstretched. I work in a leading (provincial) university in my (Arts) field, and at the start of the year we ran out of paper. No photocopies or printing were available for 5 weeks. We don't know if overtime will be paid this year, even though we all have to do lots because there are not enough staff. We are not even sure our salaries will be paid for very much longer because the previous government "gave" universities their autonomy, making them responsible for paying salaries, but increased the financial burden on them without providing any actual increased funding.
The buildings are often decrepit, the social life isn't that great and working conditions are far, far below what you'd find in a UK university. A "tutorial" in Lettres Modernes will have around 35-45 people in it.

FWIW most people I work with hope fervently that their kids won't study an Arts/Humanities subject at a French university because things are so grim and unfair on the students. My colleagues are in the vast majority highly competent, having undergone a drastically selective recruitment process, and highly dedicated. But morale is very low.

IME, a good degree from a good UK university would be worth just as much as a degree from a French one. The atmosphere at Ecole Normale Supérieure (the only selective institute for Arts/Humanities) is notoriously unpleasant. And she'd have an Erasmus year (you can't be a lecteur/lectrice until you have a degree) to experience the joys of French university.

Sorry to be so negative, but the reality of French universities is a well-kept secret beyond the country's borders...

hattymattie Sun 09-Dec-12 18:37:41

I agree with the comments about the French Universities- also the Grandes Ecoles are usually engineering or business schools - not where you could study french. I'd do a literature degree with a UK uni plus a year abroad.

NigellasGuest Sun 09-Dec-12 18:43:53

thank you all for your very useful comments - ESPECIALLY AuldAlliance - there's nothing so useful as a little insider info! Your comments are an eye opener.

As I mentioned, this is just a vague notion of DD's ATM. She clearly has not thought it through - and I now have more of a grasp of some of the issues, at least. For example, I didn't even know that when studying MFL in this country you get to spend time abroad as part of the course. (wasn't like that in my day - and seems like an eminently sensible idea)! And thank you all for pointing out that studying French in France is obviously like studying English in England.... it's not taught as a foreign language and you need to be pretty fluent to start with.

Plenty of food for thought here. Sorbonne for a gap year sounds good!

CelticPromise Sun 09-Dec-12 18:47:11

University of London has a college in Paris. My cousin is studying there, she loves it.

mathanxiety Sun 09-Dec-12 23:58:26

DD1 did a 3 month stint in Paris with her American university but it had its own campus there. It was her final year and she is pretty fluent (though her degree is in economics) so she really enjoyed herself. That sort of experience is priceless imo. I think the erasmus programme is the best way to go.

Most of the people I knew who did French (in university in Dublin in the early 80s) sent their summers in France, picking grapes, washing dishes, au pairing. No mandatory year in France studying at that time. Maybe summer work there would be an option?

NigellasGuest Mon 10-Dec-12 11:49:58

I've googled University of London's college in Paris - looks interesting, thank you.

I know need to find out what is meant by "erasmus"
<oldest child only doing GCSEs so don't know anything about H.E. yet emotcion>

NigellasGuest Mon 10-Dec-12 11:50:37

not know

BrianButterfield Mon 10-Dec-12 11:56:26

I did an Englist lit degree and did an Erasmus year in Liege in Belgium. I studied English there and the teaching and assessment was in English, but obviously the admin side was all in French and I was immersed in the language (not many people in Wallonia speak good English so I needed French in my daily life). It was great fun, hard work but not too hard and made me fluent in French.

AuldAlliance Mon 10-Dec-12 12:21:44

Erasmus is a European exchange system, whereby partner universities accept students from each other on a reciprocal basis, either for a semester or one year. The students remain enrolled at their university (i.e. students from an British, university will pay that year's fees at their home university, not the 200 euros registration in the French partner university), but should have access to most courses in the partner university. The marks they get are converted into marks at their home university. They don't get a qualification per se from the partner university.
Some British universities stipulate that their students at partner universities on Erasmus exchanges must follow and pass the courses therein. These students work hard, enjoy themselves nonetheless and their French improves dramatically. IME students from the British universities which merely say their students have to "spend a year/semester at a French university," without demanding any more that than, doss off classes, hang around together and don't learn anything much useful, especially not French.

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