France is to drop its "fossilised" university degree system and adopt a more flexible structure composed of modules and credit transfers under plans announced last week by education minister Jack Lang.
The reform will follow the European credit transfer system (ECTS), so students will more easily be able to build up multidisciplinary degrees and have points awarded through studies abroad counted towards their diplomas.
Unveiling his plans before the consultative Conseil National de l'Enseignement Superieur et de la Recherche, Mr Lang described the credits as "a euro for the universities". The system would contribute to the construction of the proposed European higher education area, which would promote student mobility throughout Europe. Only 15,000 of France's 2 million students study in another European country each year.
Under the ECTS, 60 credits are equivalent to a year's study, so the French three-year licence (BA equivalent) would be worth 180 credits, a maîtrise 240 and post-graduate diplomas 300 credits. In France, only engineering schools and a few other establishments have adopted credit systems.
The reform is in line with the European Union education ministers' Sorbonne and Bologna declarations of 1998 and 1999, and with the EU action plan for mobility in higher education adopted in Nice last year.
Other initiatives are the introduction of 1,000 student mobility grants from October 2001, the creation of European summer schools and a plan to open up French higher education internationally.
The reform also aims to make university studies more flexible and multidisciplinary. Mr Lang described the present system as "too fossilised". "For example, it's not currently possible to award a licence in biology and computer studies. There is no provision for that, yet it is a real need," he said.
While maintaining single-discipline degrees, Mr Lang intends to let universities create programmes "according to the needs of their students".