franceSince 2002, the VNIL is named “Validation of Acquired experience” (VAE) and is the fourth legal track of certification, joining initial education, continuing education and apprenticeship.

In France, the VAE is an individual right created by the Social Modernization Law of 2002, and enshrined in the Labour Code and the Code of Education. It is a procedure for obtaining all or part of a recognized qualification (university degree, professional diploma or professional qualification certificate) via the formal recognition and accreditation of skills acquired through prior experience and learning, notably work experience.

Two historical stages make up the validation of formal, non-formal and informal experience in the French higher education system.

The first stage was introduced with a decree in 1985, which defines the terms of the Validation des Acquis Personnels et Professionnels (VAPP, validation of personal and professional experience).

Validation in France

The History of Validation in France

This decree is specific to the French higher education system and determines the conditions under which prior studies, professional and personal experience can be validated for the access to different levels of tertiary education. It states that validation may be awarded for any studies followed by the candidate in a public or private educational institution or structure, whatever the conditions, duration and method of approval, as well as for professional experience gained during employment, when self-employed, on work placement or internship, or for all knowledge and skills acquired outside of any educational system. This Decree is still used and complements the existing text on the validation of prior experience (VAE).

The second stage stems from the Social Modernization Law of 17 January 2002, which opened up the possibility of granting any type of degree or certification based only on the prior experience of the candidate. This is the law that led to the creation of the Validation des Acquis de l’Expérience (Validation of acquired experience) procedure. A specific decree was issued for higher education degrees, repealing the provisions of the Law of 1992. (That introduced the possibility of obtaining part of a national degree through the validation of the skills acquired in the exercise of professional activities).

VPL in Higher Education

The main provisions of the Law of 2002 and the Decree concerning higher education can be summarized as follows:

  • The procedure is opened to anyone who has at least three years of professional and/or extra-professional experience related to the degree, diploma or certificate he/she wishes to obtain. NB : Changes occurred with the “Labor Law” LAW n ° 2016-1088 of 8 August 2016 on work about « the modernization of social dialogue and the securing of career paths “The duration of activity ranges from 3 years to 1 year “whether the activity has been carried out continuously or not”. It also takes into account – for all candidates – periods of initial or continuing training in the workplace.
  • All professional diplomas and certificates registered in the RNCP (The French national register of vocational qualifications) (www.cncp.gouv.fr/repertoire) are available under this procedure.
  • The procedure can result in the validation of all experiences relevant to the exercise of salaried, self-employed or volunteer activities. This experience must justify all or part of the knowledge and skills required for obtaining the degree, diploma or certificate concerned.
  • The candidate must submit a portfolio presenting the knowledge, skills and abilities he/she has acquired through this experience. The portfolio includes documents attesting this experience and the duration of the various activities during which the candidate acquired it, as well as, when appropriate, any diplomas or certificates corresponding to training received and degrees obtained previously.
  • The validation committee is appointed by the Rector of the University. It comprises a majority of faculty members as well as professionals working in a field other than teaching and who are competent to assess the nature of the experience (notably work experience) for which the validation is requested. A balanced representation of women and men is sought in the composition of the committee.
  • The committee reviews the candidate’s portfolio and meets with him/her to discuss it. It then determines the knowledge and skills that it deems can be validated, and can decide to grant the full degree.

The Law of 2002 also provides the possibility of validating a candidate’s academic experience, with validation being awarded for all third-level studies followed by the candidate in a public- or private-sector institution or training organization, in France or abroad, whatever the conditions and duration of said studies. This is known as the “Validation des Études Supérieures” (VES, validation of graduate studies).

For French universities, all qualifications are concerned by the VAE procedure, from the Diplôme d’Accès aux Études Universitaires (DAEU), a diploma granting secondary education “Baccalauréat” equivalence and access to university studies, right up to Ph.D.

The 6 step procedure

    1. Informing, counselling people asking for accreditation
    2. Guidance
    3. Admissibility procedure
    4. Filling the portfolio (+coaching)
    5. Setting an accreditation board (Jury) and organising an interview
    6. Deliberation and decision of the jury.

Validation in the Labour Market

Skills audits are a well-developed tool in France.

This tool is used mostly for workers, but also for jobseekers. Its objective is to allow individuals to identify and analyse their professional and personal competencies, their aptitudes and motivation, with a view to define a professional project or training project. A skills audit is personalised and is not related to a specific qualification or standard.

In practice, professionals in charge of performing skills audit are often also trained to provide guidance on VAE procedures and support to candidates.

The skill audit can be a tool to undertake a VAE, but it does not have the same objective than a VAE procedure. It does not therefore lead to the award of a qualification. The approach is “formative”: it aims at identifying the strong and weak points of an individual’s professional profile.

Validation in the third sector

There are no separate validation systems in the third sector

Funding of VPL

The French legal framework also provides the possibility of funding for the university to support and coach the VAE candidates. In France, validation of non-formal and informal learning is funded by public and private sources.

Stakeholders which intervene in the financing of VPL are :

  • Regional councils, for the organisation and funding of information centres which provide information on VAE to the general public and provide support to candidates
  • Employment centre, provides funding for the costs which are not covered by regional councils, for candidates who are job seekers (unemployed)
  • OPCA, which collect contributions from companies in relation to training, can also provide information on VAE and finance the set of costs related to support an assessment of candidates who are employees.
  • Companies can finance some VAE actions
  • The State, through the DGEFP, with the framework of collective actions supporting employment
  • The candidates themselves

An example for validation fees at Université de Bretagne occidentale (UBO):

Example for Tuition Fees for Validation at UBO

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References (All accessed on 19th of June 2017)

  • European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning – France – 2016
  • Country report France
  • 2016 update to the European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning
  • http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/country-reports/european-inventory-validation-non-formal-and-informal-21
  • Country report France Annex to WP1.2 (in the framework of Valeru (Validation of non-formal and informal learning in Russian Higher Education) project funded by Tempus Programme, authors Abdeslam Mamoune, Virginie Ribaud Brest, 19th September 2014
  • http://valeru.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/WP1_2_F.pdf
  • The procedures for validating formal, non-formal and informal experience are laid down in the following legislation :
    • Decree no. 85-906 of 23 August 1985.
    • Article 133 of the Social Modernization Law of 17 January 2002.
    • Decree no. 2002-590 of 26 April 2002: VAE in higher education.
    • Decree no. 2002-615 of 26 April 2002: VAE and professional certification.
    • Decree no. 2002-529 of 16 April 2002: Validation des Études Supérieures (VES, validation of graduate studies
    • “French Labor Law” LAW n ° 2016-1088 of 8 August 2016 on work about « the modernization of social dialogue and the securing of career paths “