French Fashion Degrees and Qualifications

Since 2004, French universities qualifications are organised within an LMD or Licence, Master, Doctorat structure. Designed to facilitate students mobility within the EU this system allows for easy transfer of credits and establish degree equivalence. Licence is the Anglo-Saxon Bachelor; Master is for Master and Doctorat for PHD. The French education system however is strictly separated between subjects regarded as highbrow taught at university and creative or vocational studies taught elsewhere. The LMD system covers cultural studies such as fashion history and fashion business courses but does not extend to training in fashion design.

Mickeal Pacult Fashion Student at Duperre Paris

Mickeal Pacult – Duperre

Students who consider a French fashion education or who want to follow fashion courses in France need to pay attention to the degree they will be awarded. Finding equivalence between fashion qualifications can be difficult.

French fashion education is delivered by a variety of structures often small in size: Lycées; Schools, private and public and one Grande Ecole. Degrees more generally awarded in applied art or vocational studies may be delivered by these institutions, especially if they are public and part of the French National Education System.  An increasing number of organisations (often private schools) chose to get their qualifications individually validated by the CNCP (or Commission Nationale de la Certification Professionnelle a government body which validates and lists all education degrees awarded in France) giving them greater independence in the design of their courses curriculums. As elsewhere in the word a Année Préparatoire or an Art Foundation course is often recommended to French students who have little art training.

Public education or legacy applied art degrees are as follow. The Brevet de Technicien Supérieur or BTS is delivered for a 2 year postsecondary course focused on products: garments, communication… The theoretical equivalent of a BTS is the Associate’s Degree delivered by US community colleges and in the UK the City and Guilds certification. Students and employers used to a different education system however, must account for the fact that French students do not have the opportunity to study fashion at university. As this issue of Modeconnect will demonstrate the BTS level achieved in some schools is often excellent and comparable to that of some Bachelors.


The Diplôme Supérieur en Arts appliqués or DSAA is delivered for an additional 2 years course after a BTS. This course usually takes a broader and more theoretical look at fashion and design processes.  Finally a Diplôme d’État or DE may be delivered by individual, often prestigious public schools. The only school to deliver such a degree in fashion design is the ENSAD (Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Appliques).

As mentioned previously however many degrees are individually validated by the CNCP. When validating thoses degrees, the CNCP labels them with one of 5 levels, allowing for some appreciation of the quality of the degree.  Level N-I & N-II are equivalent or above that of a License in the LMD system. Level N-III is equivalent to that of a Brevet de Technicien Supérieur (BTS). Level N-IV is equivalent to a French technical Baccalauréat. Going lower in qualification are levels V, V bis and VI. The CNCP lists all certified qualifications in its repertory at It is highly advisable to check the level of the degree delivered at the end of the course you are considering.

Finally the EQF or European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning also list levels similar to that of the CNCP but labels them differently, an attempt to establish equivalence is given in an article by Esska Consultant: CNCP level N-II is EQF 6, N-III is EQF 5 and N-IV is EQF 4.

Some institutions teaching fashion (ESAA Duperre, for example) partner with a University to offer a Licence Professionnelle correctly translated as a Bachelor, the degree being awarded by a University is covered by the LMD System.


Denis Andreu ACS

Denis Andreu ACS

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Written by Pierre Delarue