What Drives Private Higher Education in France ?

This two-year project is funded by Sciences Po's Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). It is managed by Christine Musselin.

The development of private higher education (for-profit or not-for-profit) has recently reached the agenda of the French media. Two main aspects of this phenomenon have been revealed. First, 25% of the students are now registered in the private sector: always more students and their families prefer opting for sometimes quite expensive private higher education institutions rather than attending the almost free and largely nonselective university sector. Second, some of these private institutions completely escape any form of regulation and deliver training programs without any accreditation or quality assessment: in its report published in 2022, the Direction générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des fraudes (DGCCRF) concludes: “more than 30% of the establishments checked were found to be in breach of misleading commercial practices” and “more than 56% of the 80 establishments inspected proved to be abnormal on at least one of the points of the regulations”.

This project deals with the supply side of private higher education. Because in the French case, the steady increase of students in the private sector seems to have followed a silent evolution rather than an explicit and assumed policy, the objective of this research is to understand how and why this happened. How is it that a new private sector developed in a country always described as centralized and state regulated, in which higher education has traditionally mostly been delivered by public higher institutions, and where private higher institutions never completely escape the control of the state?

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