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Schools and Universities in France that Accept HND Certificates, Second Class and 3rd Class for Masters Degree Programs

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France is renowned for its high educational standards and prestigious institutions that have historically been a beacon for international students seeking quality higher education. However, one common misconception is that only students with first-class honors or equivalent are eligible for postgraduate studies in French institutions. 

In reality, several schools and universities in France have made provisions to accommodate students with Higher National Diploma (HND) certificates, second-class honors, and even third-class honors for their master’s degree programs. 

This inclusivity reflects the French educational system’s recognition of diverse academic backgrounds and its commitment to providing educational opportunities to a broader range of students. This blog post delves into the criteria for eligibility, and lists specific universities and schools in France that offer these unique opportunities.

Eligibility Criteria For Masters Degree Programs In France

The process of applying for a Master’s degree program in France can seem daunting, especially for international students who might not be familiar with the specific requirements. For those holding HND certificates, second-class honors, or third-class honors degrees, understanding the eligibility criteria is crucial. Below are the essential requirements and considerations for applicants in these categories:

Educational Qualifications 

  • HND Certificate: Applicants must provide a comprehensive transcript showing all courses and grades. Some institutions may require a conversion or equivalency certificate to match the French education system.
  • Second Class Honors: Both upper and lower division degrees are generally accepted. Applicants should highlight any relevant coursework or projects related to the desired field of study.
  • Third Class Honors: Admission with a third-class honors degree is possible but may require additional documentation of professional experience, additional certifications, or completion of a pre-master’s program to strengthen the application.

Language Proficiency 

  • French Programs: Most French universities require a B2 level in French, as defined by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Certification through exams like DELF or DALF is often necessary.
  • English Programs: For programs taught in English, a minimum of B2 level of English proficiency is required, typically demonstrated by TOEFL or IELTS scores.
  • Motivation Letter: A well-crafted motivation letter is essential, outlining the applicant’s academic and professional background, reasons for choosing the program, and future career goals.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Typically, two letters of recommendation are required, ideally from academic advisors or professors familiar with the applicant’s work and academic performance.
  • Professional Experience: While not always mandatory, relevant work experience can significantly bolster an application, especially for those with third-class honors.
  • Additional Tests or Interviews: Depending on the program and institution, applicants might be subjected to additional tests or interviews as part of the selection process.

Applicants are strongly advised to visit the official websites of their chosen institutions for the most current and detailed information regarding eligibility criteria and application procedures.

Read Also: Caleb University Scholarships Application 2024/2025

Universities in France that Accept HND Certificates, Second Class and 3rd Class for Masters Degree Programs  

Finding a master’s degree program in France that aligns with your academic background, particularly if you have an HND certificate, second class, or third-class honors, is entirely feasible. Below is a curated list of French universities known for their inclusive admissions policies for international students with diverse academic qualifications:

1) University of Paris (Université de Paris)

Known for its comprehensive range of programs, the University of Paris offers several master’s degree courses that are open to students with HND certificates, as well as those with second and third-class honors. The university values a holistic approach to admissions, taking into account professional experience and personal motivation.

2) Grenoble Alpes University (Université Grenoble Alpes)

With a strong focus on innovation and research, Grenoble Alpes University provides opportunities for students from various academic backgrounds. They offer specialized pre-master’s courses designed to bridge the gap for those holding HND certificates or lower class honors degrees, preparing them for success in their master’s programs.

3) Toulouse 1 Capitole University (Université Toulouse 1 Capitole)

This institution is particularly welcoming to students aiming for careers in Law, Economics, and Management. Their inclusive policy means students with HND certificates and those who have earned second or third-class honors are encouraged to apply, provided they meet the language and professional experience prerequisites.

4) Aix-Marseille University (Université Aix-Marseille)

As one of the largest universities in the French-speaking world, Aix-Marseille University prides itself on its diverse student body. It offers a range of master’s programs that accept HND holders and students with second or third-class honors, emphasizing interdisciplinary studies and real-world application.

5) Lyon 2 University (Université Lumière Lyon 2)

With a strong emphasis on the social sciences and humanities, Lyon 2 University provides flexible admission criteria for their master’s programs. They recognize the value of varied academic and professional experiences, offering pathways for students with HND certificates and those with second or third-class honors degrees.

These universities represent just a snapshot of the inclusive educational opportunities available in France. Prospective students are encouraged to explore these and other institutions further, keeping in mind that meeting additional criteria such as language proficiency and relevant work experience can significantly enhance their applications.

Schools in France that Accept HND Certificates, Second Class and 3rd Class for Masters Degree Programs

Beyond the renowned universities, France is also home to a range of specialized schools that welcome students with diverse academic backgrounds, including those with HND certificates, second-class, and third-class honors, into their master’s degree programs. These institutions often focus on specific fields of study, offering a unique blend of academic rigor and practical experience.

1) École Normale Supérieure (ENS)

The École Normale Supérieure, also known as the École Normale Sup or ENS, is a prestigious French university located in Paris. The ENS is known for its highly competitive entrance exams, and it only accepts a small number of students each year. That being said, the ENS does not have a specific policy on the recognition of HND qualifications, and it is generally up to the discretion of the individual departments and programs within the university. 

2) Sciences Po

Sciences Po, or the Institut d’études politiques de Paris, is a prestigious university in France that offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs. While the university does not have a specific policy on the recognition of HND qualifications, many of its graduate programs do accept HNDs as equivalent to a bachelor’s degree. For example, the Master of Public Affairs (MPA) program at Sciences Po does accept HNDs from recognized institutions. In addition, Sciences Po has international partnerships with a number of universities that recognize HNDs, such as the University of London.

3) ESSEC Business School

The ESSEC Business School, or École Supérieure des Sciences Économiques et Commerciales, is a leading French business school that offers both undergraduate and graduate programs. For its master’s degree programs, ESSEC does not have a specific policy on the recognition of HND qualifications. 

4) École Polytechnique

Focused on science and technology, École Polytechnique has several graduate programs that accept students with second-class and third-class honors, particularly those who exhibit a strong aptitude in mathematics and physics.

5) HEC Paris

HEC Paris, or the École des Hautes Études Commerciales de Paris, is a world-renowned business school in France that offers a variety of graduate programs. HEC Paris does not have a specific policy on the recognition of HND qualifications, but the school does state that it considers each application individually and that the final decision is made by the program director.

Sorbonne University

With a broad spectrum of programs in the arts, humanities, and sciences, Sorbonne University provides pathways for students holding HND certificates and lower-class degrees, especially those who can demonstrate scholarly potential or professional expertise in their field of interest.

Each of these schools has its own set of admission criteria and application processes, tailored to select candidates who, despite not having the highest academic honors, show promise through their personal and professional experiences. As such, prospective students are encouraged to thoroughly research and engage with the admissions teams of these institutions to better understand how to present their unique profiles effectively.


Does France accept HND for Masters?

The answer to this question is both yes and no. While France does not have a unified policy on the recognition of HND qualifications, some universities in France do accept HNDs for admission into master’s degree programs. For example, the University of Paris-Saclay, the University of Strasbourg, and the Paris-Dauphine University all accept HND qualifications for certain programs. However, other universities, such as the University of Paris-Sorbonne and the Ecole Polytechnique, do not recognize HNDs for admission. 

Can I apply for Masters with HND in Europe?

While the answer to this question depends on the specific country and university in Europe, there are a number of options available for students with HND qualifications. In general, European universities have a more flexible approach to admission than those in the UK or US, and many schools accept a range of qualifications, including HNDs. That said, it is important to research the specific requirements of the university and country you are interested in, as some may have stricter guidelines than others. 

Does Germany accept HND for masters degree?

The answer to this question is both yes and no. While Germany does not have a single national policy on the recognition of HND qualifications, some universities in Germany do accept HNDs for admission into master’s degree programs. However, other universities may not recognize HNDs, and they may require that students hold a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent qualification in order to be admitted. Additionally, some master’s programs in Germany may have specific requirements that must be met in order to be considered for admission, such as a certain grade point average or language proficiency.

Does Poland accept HND for Masters?

Generally speaking, universities in Poland do not have a single policy on the recognition of HND qualifications for admission into master’s degree programs. However, some universities, such as the University of Warsaw and Jagiellonian University, do accept HNDs as equivalent to a bachelor’s degree for certain programs. In addition, many universities in Poland have agreements with other countries that recognize the HND as an equivalent qualification, such as Germany, France, and the UK. Therefore, it is important to check with the specific university and program you are interested in to confirm their policy on HNDs.

Can I apply for Masters with my HND certificate?

Yes, you can typically apply for master’s programs with an HND certificate, but acceptance will depend on the admission requirements of the university and program you’re interested in. Some universities may require additional qualifications or relevant work experience. It’s important to thoroughly research the admission criteria of each institution you’re considering applying to.


In summarizing the wealth of opportunities available in France for those with HND certificates, second-class, and third-class honors degrees, it’s clear that the French educational landscape is one of diversity and inclusion. 

The French educational system’s openness to diverse academic qualifications underscores the belief that potential is not solely defined by past achievements but by future possibilities. For anyone looking to pursue a master’s degree in France, this is an invitation to dream big, prepare thoroughly, and embrace the journey ahead with confidence and determination.

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