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Country Report: ETDs in France

posted Aug 23, 2016, 11:04 AM by NDLTD Admin

At the July 2016 NDLTD Board of Directors meeting in Lille,  Joachim Schöpfel, Director, The National Centre for the Reproduction of PhD Theses (France) presented the following Report on ETDs in France.

General situation

Like in 2015, the French Higher Education is still in transition. The national ETD infrastructure has been created in 2006 and is fully operational but not obligatory – in fact, each university decide when to abandon the former print workflow. In 2016, most universities have a mandatory ETD policy while other universities continue to accept print dissertations that are processed via the former centralized print and microform workflow, with the ANRT Lille as operating agent.

This situation will change. Since 2015, the Ministry of Higher Education and Research prepares a new decree on the doctorate degree. This decree has been published recently. It contains a section on the dissemination and preservation of doctoral dissertations, based on the actual ETD infrastructure with the two main public institutions ABES (network coordination, global system management, academic union catalogue SUDOC, portal and CINES (long term preservation of ETDs). It prohibits the deposit of print copies after a final transitional period of two other years. This means that from 2018 on French universities will no longer accept print dissertations.

The responsibility for the ETD management is shared between academic libraries (deposit, metadata, conservation of a print copy) and the national agency ABES (union catalogue, dissertation portal, infrastructure maintenance and development) which manage also the link with the national IT center CINES for the digital archiving.

Legal situation

The same decree allows the secured dissemination of non-confidential ETDs through the Higher Education ILL network (but not outside), without formal authorization by the author. Yet, the decision is not taken yet how exactly this will work. Actually, a significant part of French ETDs are embargoed or restricted to on-campus access.

In spite of the opposition of the French Government (Ministry of Culture) the two chambers of the French parliament recently voted in favor of an exception for text and data mining of copyrighted materials for non-commercial research (as in the UK) but at the moment of writing this country report it is uncertain if and how this new exception will become part of the French Intellectual Property law.

At the same time, the parliament prepares a law on secondary exploitation of copyrighted publications, such as the Netherlands and Germany. But this will have no direct impact on dissertations.

Portal statistics (, 2 May 2016)

# of Records# of Institutions# of Records Viewed/mo.# Accessible for ViewingDigitization rate/month
(print and digital)
200 different universities and schools (estimated)N/A49,419
(online, partly with restricted access)
500-600 (uploads, 2013 and 2014)

HAL/TEL repository statistics

# of Records# of Institutions# of Records Viewed/mo.# Accessible for ViewingDigitization rate/month
 59,096200 different universities and schools (estimated)N/A All
(deposits, 2012-2014)

TEL on the national HAL repository is the most important ETD repository but not the only one, and it is not mandatory. One part of the deposits is due to self-archiving, another part comes from institutional workflows (via the STAR system).