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How to study architecture in France? The different schools and pathways

How to study architecture in France? The different schools and pathways

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So you want to learn architecture in France? But you don’t really know what’s what, and where to begin. It’s fine! No, really! This is the reason why we’re here in the first place, to explain architecture to people.

As to the what and how, this article is here for that. Architecture in France is a vast subject, between the history and the teaching of it. There are several schools where you can study, and different pathways, so it’s normal to be a bit confused.

Let’s start from the top, shall we?

Learning architecture in an ENSA

What is an ENSA?

An ENSA is a school of architecture. The acronym means “École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture” or National Superior School of Architecture once translated. Those schools follow the French model of public education, meaning they are schools open for all on a very accessible fee, as long as you can speak French.
There are 20 of those ENSA on the French territory, spread across the whole country. Here are their names, acronym and the city in which they operate:

Architecture schoolAcronymCity
École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Paris-BellevilleENSAPBParis
École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Paris-MalaquaisENSAPMParis
École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Paris-EstEav&TParis
École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Paris-Val de SeineENSAPVSParis
École nationale supérieure d’architecture de VersaillesENSAVVersailles (Paris)
École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Paris-La VilletteENSAPLVParis
École nationale supérieure d’architecture et de paysage de BordeauxENSAPBordeaux
École nationale supérieure d’architecture de BretagneENSABRennes
École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Clermont-FerrandENSACFClermont-Ferrand
École nationale supérieure d’architecture de GrenobleENSAGGrenoble
École nationale supérieure d’architecture et de paysage de LilleENSAPL Lille
École nationale supérieure d’architecture de LyonENSALLyon
École nationale supérieure d’architecture de MarseilleENSAMMarseille
École nationale supérieure d’architecture de MontpellierENSAMMontpellier
École nationale supérieure d’architecture de NancyENSANNancy
École nationale supérieure d’architecture de NantesENSA NantesNantes
École nationale supérieure d’architecture de NormandieENSA NormandieDarnétal
École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Saint-ÉtienneENSASESaint-Étienne
École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Strasbourg ENSASStrasbourg
École nationale supérieure d’architecture de ToulouseENSATToulouse

How to join an ENSA?

The ENSA admission process differs depending on whether you are a citizen from a European country or not.

I am from a European country

You can apply following the same procedure as a French student. You apply through a platform called ParcourSup, where you will register your information and input your “wishes”, meaning the various ENSA of your choosing.

Once you are registered, ENSA select candidates on a case by case basis, with two main selection phases.

  1. File examination

This first admission phase is based mainly on grades and motivation letters (written in French). You’ll have to submit your transcripts from high school and every institution you have attended.

  1. Interviews

If your file is good enough, you will be invited to attend a 20 minute-interview (remote or not, depending on which school you chose and your situation).

You are expected to show your motivation and your interest in architecture., In some cases, you might be able to bring a portfolio of your works to support your application.

Classes in ENSA are given in French, so you are expected to speak the language. You might be asked to provide proof that you are fluent in French.

I am from a country outside of Europe

If you are not from an EU country, you will have to go through another set of platforms: CampusFrance or CampusArt, both choices are valid.

The admission procedure is different and may require you to take a writing exam and a French language test.

How to become an architect with INSA Strasbourg?

What is the INSA Strasbourg?

INSA Strasbourg (Institut national des sciences appliquées de Strasbourg – Strasbourg National Institute of Applied Sciences) is a public engineering school that delivers a Diploma in Architecture. It is “the only architecture school in France to train both architects and engineers in the same institution.”
The curriculum takes 5 years to complete and leads to the INSA Strasbourg Diploma of Architecture.

How to apply for INSA Strasbourg?

The application process for INSA Strasbourg is based on a competitive entrance examination. Admission is at Baccalaureate + 1 year level. You must have followed one year in a scientific subject before you can get into the school.

The choice of private education with ESA

What is the ESA?

The ESA (École Spéciale d’Architecture – Special Architecture School) is a private school situated in Paris, which gives the same DEA as the ENSA but offers a different teaching and two admission periods per year (one for each semester). Since it’s a private school, the tuition fees are more expensive (expect about 10 000 euros per year).

How to apply?

If you are from an EU country, you will process your application through ParcourSup as usual. If your application is selected, you will have to attend an interview with an admission committee from the school.

Non-EU applicants have to fill an online application, before following the same steps with a remote interview.

In both cases, you will receive an email notifying you of the interview beforehand (72 hours in the case of a remote interview), so don’t forget to check your inbox!

Confluence, the English language alternative

A school delivering a RIBA diploma

The Confluence institute is yet another alternative, but one outside of the French system, whether it’s public or private. The school is located in Paris, gives its classes in English and delivers a RIBA diploma (Royal Institute of British Architects). Still, you’re advised to know at least some French, for your day-to-day life.

The diploma isn’t recognised in France, so don’t expect to be able to practice architecture in France outright. You’ll have to take the extra step to have your professional skills recognised by the French government. But if you aim for an international career, that could be a way for you to work as an architect in the United-Kingdom or even in the Commonwealth.

How to apply for Confluence?

To apply for Confluence, your nationality doesn’t matter. You will be required to go to their website and start filling an online application.

The process is different, and require you to submit multiple documents: 

  • A motivation letter that describes research interests, background and ambitions
  • A resume
  • An A4 portfolio with examples of personal, academic and/or professional projects. Through the portfolio the intention is to be able to understand your sensibility and creative abilities.
  • A video of no more than 2 minutes in which you can present yourself. The video will be used to evaluate your creation, curiosity and personality.
  • Copy of passport or national ID card
  • One Passport-size photo
  • Application form completed and signed
  • Copies of all university and high school degrees (baccalaureate) with the transcript credits.
  • Knowledge of the English language is required when your native language is not English. Atranscript from TOEFL or IELTS showing your proficiency in English is required.

The proof of payment through wire transfer for application fees of 200 Euros (the school bank information has to be asked on demand)

There will not be an interview, unless for specific reasons.

Parlez-vous français ?

There you have it, your options for learning architecture and how to apply for them. France is a country full of landmarks and various buildings from different eras, so it is a good choice to study architecture there!

But don’t forget, you will have to speak French one way or another if you really want to learn there. Either for the classes, or the daily life.

Don’t skip out on French lessons!

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