Validation des Acquis de l'Experience
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The VAE or Validation des Acquis de l'Expérience is a procedure that allows any French educational institution to grant degrees partly or completely based on work experience. A portfolio of the applicant's achievements and work experience is presented to a committee at the educational institution. The committee will then decide if the documents presented in the portfolio show work that merits partial credit towards a particular degree.
A French law of August 23, 1985, authorized people with work experience to ask for a Diploma equivalence. This was mostly for vocational degrees. This significant change came with the Loi de Modernisation Sociale (Law of Social Modernization) dated January 17, 2002, that specifically authorizes Universities and other "établissements d'Enseignemernt supérieurs" (Institutions of Higher Education) to grant the standard degrees (BTS, DEUG, Licence, Maîtrise, DES, DESS, Master, Mastaire, Doctorat, etc.) based only on the work experience of the candidate. The required minimum of work experience was lowered from five to three years.
The VAE is now included in the French Code of Education (code l' Education de la République Française) at Partie législative, Troisième partie, Livre VI, Titre Ier, Chapitre III, Section 2, Art. L613-3 à L613-6.
It is important to note that (Art L- 613-4) states: "The validation produces the same effects as the knowledge or aptitude testing process that it replaces." The degrees and diplomas obtained through the VAE process are exactly the same and any mention of the VAE is prohibited in order to fight possible unlawful discrimination.
The VAE decision is done on file after interview (electronic or physical) by a VAE Jury made of Professors belonging to the University.
At the beginning the French professors and universities were reluctant to apply the VAE or were extremely difficult for the equivalences. However the VAE is the Law of the land and all universities must apply it if asked. In 2005 21,379 applied for the VAE, 61% of them were women. 59% received a full degree, among them 10% get a degree equivalent or superior to the Bachelor degree.
More than 1250 Bachelor's or higher degree were granted through the VAE in 2005 in France (+50%).
In France the VAE is, according to the government website, in full expansion and totally accepted. Internationally, the countries, which ratified Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region, recognize it.
In the US, credentials evaluators, universities, federal and state governments also recognize the VAE degrees with the notable exception of the state of Oregon.
Non-French speaking students
The VAE works like the European Erasmus Programme and the Bologna declaration on harmonization of European degrees that allows international students to attend French universities. In 2004 The Sorbonne started VAE in foreign languages ( English, Spanish & Italian) and was followed by several other universities. The validation documents provided to the committee at the university deciding the validation must be in a language that the committee members can read and understand if not in French.
- A European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning - France, by Simon Roy (ECOTEC Research and Consulting), 2005.
- French Ministry of Education VAE site in French
- French Ministry of Labour VAE site in French
- VAE information from Eurofound.