Academic rank in France

Academic rank in France

The following summarizes basic academic ranks in the French higher education system:


State university system

  • PU (Professeur des Universités) equivalent to Full Professor)
  • MCF (Maître de conférences) with or without a habilitation (HDR) to direct doctoral theses.[1] The title is roughly equivalent to the rank of Associate Professor in North America, and Senior Lecturer in the United Kingdom.

Maître de conférences and Professeurs des universités are both permanent positions, and since all French universities are state-run, professors are also civil servants. The permanent position is not the same as tenure, strictly speaking, but is instead due to the status of civil servant in public universities. Other academic positions exist but they are on contractual basis (ATER, allocataire moniteur). These positions have various subcategories, but the title is always the same. The subcategories (2nd class, 1st class, Exceptional Class) solely serve to determine the appropriate income they earn. No one can become Professeur or Maître de Conférence without a doctorate summa cum laude.

In Law, Political Science and Economics it is possible to be recruited directly as a full professor by passing the agrégation (distinct from the secondary school system's agrégation, more widespread). Consequently, some scholars become professors without prior experience as a Maître de conférences. This remains rare however, most of the time the aggregation is a way to accelerate career advancement for the Maîtres de conférences (this is known as the voie courte, or short way, as opposed to the voie longue).

Other academic staff include :

  • PRAG (Professeur agrégé) : Secondary school professors teaching at university level (for example a foreign language)
  • Professeur invité : similar to a professor of practice in the United States
  • ATER (Attaché temporaire d'enseignement et de recherche) : ATERs usually are completing a PhD or have just done so. They have a one year contract renewable once. Laureates of the French agrégation may hold an ATER position up to 4 years in total. ATER have the same responsibilities and compensation as regular assistant professors. They do research work and 192 hours/year of teaching at both graduate and undergraduate levels for about 20,000 euros/year.
  • Allocataire de recherche-moniteur: PhD candidates who have obtained, based on their academic accomplishments, a 3-years position (non renewable). They are awarded a research grant ("allocation de recherche") which is actually a salary (1100 euros/month) and are expected to work on a dissertation and to participate in research activities. In addition, the best first quarter of allocataires also are "moniteurs" (Teaching Fellow), meaning that they teach about 64 hours per year, usually at the undergraduate level. Being a moniteur usually helps a lot to eventually get a faculty position: less than 1/4 of the regular PhD students have the chance to be a moniteur, however, among the hundreds of new faculty members hired in France in 2005, over one half were former Allocataires de recherche-moniteurs. “Eleves” from the most prestigious French grandes Ecole (Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole Normale Supérieure) usually get moniteur positions during their PhD. One speaks in this case of “Allocataires couplés” or “AC”.

Grandes Écoles system

The Grandes Écoles is a parallel educational system generally attributed to Napoleon. These institutions of higher education each specialize in a specific domain, such as business, political science, or engineering. Some of them (for example Sciences Po Paris) are part of the state university recruitment system. The others - mainly the private ones - follow various guidelines. Among the business schools it is common to follow the North American terminology. That is,

  • Instructor (vacataire or chargé d'enseignements)
  • Adjunct professor (professeur affilié)
  • Assistant professor (professeur assistant(e))
  • Associate professor (professeur associé)
  • Full professor (professeur)
  • Chaired professorships are a new phenomenon and can be given to either an associate professor or full professor.

Typically, anyone teaching in a Grande Ecole will identify themselves publicly as "Professeur" regardless of their internal rank. This is an acceptable practice for tenured or full-time staff ("professeurs permanents") and permanently employed part-time staff (professeurs affiliés). It is considered inappropriate for others who teach a single course (vacataires or chargés d'enseignements).

Administrative ranks

  • Recteur :Appointed by the Ministry of education they are formally chancellor of the universities in an academic district although they actually only take care of primary and secondary schools. They usually are chosen among senior university professors.
  • Président de l'université : Elected position usually held by a professor for four years.
  • Doyen : Elected position, similar to a Dean, they steer a faculté or UFR (similar to a US college)
  • Président de la commission de spécialiste : Responsible for recruitment in a particular discipline (e.g. Public Law, Economics).
  • Directeur d'Ecole Doctorale
  • Directeur d'un centre de recherche


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