French Observatory of Student Life
French Observatory of Student Life (Observatoire national de la Vie Étudiante/OVE) was created in 1989 by the French Minister of National Education. It is led by a Council that is very familiar with the realities of higher education and student life, and working in collaboration with the Regional University Students’ Affairs Centers (Les Crous). OVE’s mission is to provide the most complete, detailed and objective information possible on student living conditions and how these impact student studies, in order to enhance social and political thought, and assist decision-making on these matters.
OVE endeavors to collect and process all available information; it monitors and assesses surveys while conducting its own study and research projects; and it remains in contact with all of the organizations that generate or collect information and input on student affairs.
Since 1994, every three years OVE carries out a nationwide survey targeting a representative sample of students enrolled in French higher education institutions. Each survey examines all aspects of student life: financial resources and spending habits, balancing employment and studies, housing, independence from parents, health issues, studying conditions and approaches, hobbies and cultural activities, etc.
For its 8th edition, more than 220000 students have been contacted in the spring 2016 and about 60700 have participated. More than 46 300 questionnaires of students still studying at time of the survey were analyzed, that represent 84 % of the French student population, in Universities (incl. internal institutions that provide short term technical training – IUT (instituts universitaires de technologie) – schools of engineering, business schools, schools of art and culture, preparatory classes (which prepare students for the entrance exams to selective schools, which are often referred to as “grandes écoles”), two-year-vocational-program schools (located in high schools but part of the higher education system, as the preparatory classes) and other institutions of higher education.
The quality and longevity of the survey apparatus, implemented and launched by OVE’s Scientific Committee in accordance with statistical analysis methodology, ensure OVE’s institutional autonomy and its independence from the political debates that put the status of students at stake.
OVE’s yearly national competition (OVE Price) is designed to encourage students to conduct their own studies on student living conditions. Since 1990, prizes have been awarded to projects every year. The competition is open to any student who has successfully defended a dissertation (master’s level minimum) or a thesis focusing on student living conditions, regardless of the fields or angles examined.
French Observatory of Student Life is run by a Council made up of student union members, representatives of student insurance groups, key figures in French higher education and local government representatives. Its President is Monique Ronzeau. The Director of Higher Education and the Director of CNOUS are permanent observers.
The Scientific Committee, made up of researchers selected from within the university system and important research organizations, directs OVE studies and ensures the quality of the research carried out by OVE or on its behalf.
The Council and the Scientific Committee are assisted by a permanent staff who oversees the daily workings of the Observatory.
National survey on student living conditions
Student lifestyles vary greatly, and the manner in which higher education is developing seems to indicate that these differences are on the rise.
Every three years since 1994, the national survey aims to collect and analyse pertinent information on the various aspects of student living conditions. For this purpose, OVE asks students to fill out a survey (online since 2010). To ensure the scientific validity of the results, this survey is conducted among a randomly chosen sample of the student population in France.
In order to build a robust tool for understanding student life, the national survey takes into account both ongoing issues since the first edition and societal changes. For example, the 2016 questionnaire included for the first time questions on the migratory origins of students and their use of digital tools (MOOCs). The topics explored by OVE’s triennial survey include:
- study path;
- financial resources and expenses;
- relationship with studies;
- time budget;
- family relationships;
- housing situation;
- paid activity;
The national survey is also closely linked with the European comparison programme EUROSTUDENT, conducted in about 28 countries of the European Higher Education Area and providing a vision of the specificities of student living conditions in France.
Find out more about the 2016 national survey on student living conditions:
- Reperes Life conditions 2016
- OVE Infos n°26: Eurostudent IV – A European comparative analysis of student living conditions
- OVE Infos n°40: Being a student in France or in other European countries. A transition phase towards independence or a lifelong experience?
Find out more about the 2020 national survey on student living conditions:
- OVE Infos n°42: Student life during the COVID-19 pandemic
- OVE Infos n°43 | Student life in 2020: uncertainty and vulnerability