Academic rank in France
The following summarizes basic academic ranks in the French higher education system. Most academic institutions being state-run, people with permanent positions are civil-servants. Several parallel, more or less equivalent, career paths exist, depending on the type of institutions. On the other hand, in most cases, a complete career requires at least two open recruitment procedures, as there is no individual promotion from the level equivalent to Associate Professor to the level of Full-Professor.
|Tenured positions||Professeur des universités or Directeur d'études||Directeur de recherche||Professeur des universités associé|
|Maître de conférences||Chargé de recherche||professeur agrégé or professeur certifié||Maître de conférences associé|
|Non-tenured positions||Attaché temporaire d'enseignement et de recherches (ATER)||Post-doctorant||Chargé d'enseignement|
|Doctorant contractuel chargé d'enseignement||Doctorant contractuel|
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. These positions have various subcategories, but the title is always the same. No one can become Professeur or Maître de Conférence without a doctorate.
- Professeur des universités (PU), a position similar to Full Professor. In some institutions (école des chartes, école des hautes études en sciences sociales), Professors use the title directeur d'études (Director of Studies). There are three pay ranks in the position of PU : 1st class, 2nd class and exceptional class.
- Maître de conférences (MCF), roughly translated as Master of Lectures, or accurately as Lecturer. The title is roughly equivalent to the rank of Assistant or Associate Professor (depending on the curriculum) in North America, and Senior Lecturer in the United Kingdom. There are two pay ranks in the position of MCF : normal class and outstanding class.
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).
- Attaché temporaire d'enseignement et de recherche (ATER), roughly translated as Teaching and Research Temporary Attaché. ATERs usually are completing a PhD or have just done so. They have a one year contract renewable once, except for civil servants, who may hold an ATER position up to 4 years in total. ATERs have the same responsibilities and compensation as many non tenure-track faculty in North America. They do research work and 192 hours/year of teaching at both graduate and undergraduate levels for about 20,000 euros/year.
- Doctorant contractuel : PhD candidates who have obtained, based on their academic accomplishments, a 3-years position (non renewable). They are awarded a research contract which is actually a salary (1400 euros/month) and are expected to work on a dissertation and to participate in research activities. In addition, the best first quarter of contractuels also are chargé d'enseignement (Teaching Assistant, 1700 euros/month), 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 chargé d'enseignement. “Eleves” from the most prestigious French grandes Écoles (École Polytechnique, Arts et Métiers ParisTech, Mines ParisTech or École Normale Supérieure) usually get teaching positions during their PhD.
There also exist permanent, research positions, without teaching duties. They are offered by certain public research institutions, the Public Scientific and Technical Research Establishments, for instance the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the Institute of Research for Development (IRD), the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), or the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation (Inria). Again, people in these positions are civil servants (thus, in this sense, tenured).
There are two levels, matching those of the teaching-research staff :
- directeur de recherches (Research Director), equivalent to professeur
- chargé de recherches (Researcher), equivalent to maître de conférences
There are no internal promotion from one level to the other, but a procedure of recruitment in each case (a certain number of positions at each level are opened at a national level and people apply). Inside one level, there are several degrees :
- directeur de recherche 2nd, 1st, exceptional classes (DR2, DR1, DRCE)
- chargé de recherche 2nd and 1st classes (CR2, CR1)
Passing from one degree to the other is also decided by a national commission, by examination of the work of the candidates. Inside each degree, they are also sub-degrees, between which the progression is more or less automatic and concerns only the salary level.
The complete name of the position usually makes the institution explicit, e.g. : directeur de recherche au CNRS, or chargé de recherche à l'INRIA. It has to be noticed that some of these positions can be located not in a laboratory proper to the Public Scientific and Technical Research Establishment, but in a mixed research structure, common with a university (UMR).
These establishments also offer engineer positions that may include a large research part, besides more technical duties (e.g. preparation of a database, experimental apparatus, etc.) : ingénieur d'études, ingénieur de recherche.
There also exists some contractual positions (from a few months to a few years).
- Professeur agrégé (PRAG) : Secondary school teachers teaching at university level (for example a foreign language).
- Professeur certifié (PRCE) : secondary school teacher teaching at university level. These teachers have a lesser degree than PRAG teachers.
- Chargé d’enseignement : title used broadly for every instructor who teach at a regular basis in any university, though not at a full-time position.
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 private school 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).
- 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 spécialistes : Responsible for recruitment in a particular discipline (e.g. Public Law, Economics). This situation does not exist since 2009, as specific commissions are now chosen for each recruitment, with their own president.
- Directeur d'Ecole Doctorale
- Directeur d'un centre de recherche