These prestigious − and uniquely French − institutions may be either public or private, and their relatively small size gives students ample opportunities to interact with faculty.

There are around 250 grandes écoles in France, offering degrees in business, engineering, political science and other specialized fields. The grandes écoles are members of the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles (CGE).

The basic degree offered in the grandes écoles is equivalent to a Master’s degree, and generally takes five years to complete. It may be a Master of Science (MSc), Master of Business Administration (MBA), or a Mastère Spécialisé (Ms which requires one additional year of study following the grande école degree).

The traditional path through grandes écoles requires completing a competitive entrance exam after two years of preparatory classes at a préparatoires aux grandes écoles(CPGE), directly after secondary school. Accepted students would then complete three more years of increasingly specialized study. However many schools today offer alternative admission procedures, which allow international students to apply at different stages of their academic careers.