The École nationale supérieure de la photographie has been able to offer the acquisition of the school diploma, a Master’s degree award, through a process of validation of prior experience (VAE) since 2007 when it established its own examination and validation centre.

The VAE validates the achievements of salaried, self-employed and/or voluntary professional experience with a view to acquiring a diploma, a professional certificate or a qualification from a list drawn up by the national joint employment commission of a professional branch, registered in the national directory of professional certifications (RNCP).

The VAE is thus a means of acquiring a certification in the same way as school and university paths, apprenticeships and further professional training. It has the same status as other methods of testing knowledge, skills and competences.

Legal framework of the VAE

The law governing social modernization n ° 2002-73 of January 17 2002 sets this procedure.

The general framework of the VAE procedure was organized by decree n ° 2002-615 of 26.4.02 (JO of 28.4.02). As this decree was repealed on May 23, 2006 (Decree n ° 2006-583 of May 23, 2006 (OJ of May 24, 2006)), these provisions are now contained in the regulatory part of the Education Code (article R335-6 to R335-11).

The implementation of the VAE in higher education is regulated by a specific and distinct decree n ° 2002-590 of April 24, 2002. A new decree n ° 2017-1135 of July 4, 2017 determines the rules for calculating the duration of the activities in a professional environment necessary for the examination.

As this decree only lays down the general framework, it is up to the validating bodies to specify the validation procedure in higher education. It is therefore advisable to contact the ENSP directly for the validation rules applied to the diploma it issues.

Who can apply for the VAE?

Anyone engaged in working life can engage in this process with regard to the experience they have acquired in the field of the diploma concerned.
The VAE is a right, open to all regardless of age, nationality, status, level of training or qualification.

Those who may be concerned by the VAE:
→ Employees (on open-ended or fixed-term contracts, temporary workers, etc.)
→ Non-salaried workers, self-employed workers, members of the liberal professions, traders, craftsmen, farmers
→ Job seekers, receiving payments or not
→ Volunteers with associative or union experience
→ Public servants, under permanent contract or not

Only one condition must be met: the candidate for the VAE must be able to justify at least one year of activities directly related to the certification in question. Activities that are to be taken into account can have been carried out continuously or discontinuously, full or part time.

This is in order to demonstrate the professional skills acquired in the exercise of a salaried, self-employed or voluntary activity, directly related to the content of the diploma, title or professional certificate.

Activities corresponding to the amateur practice of an art performed in a personal capacity or in a family setting will not be taken into account in the calculation of the duration of the activity considered to judge the admissibility of the request.

The decree relating to higher education does not a priori exclude taking into account internships and periods of training in a professional environment carried out for the preparation of a diploma or a title from the period of time of experience required.

4 stages for the acquisition of the VAE

The application for the ENSP diploma by Validation of Acquired Experience takes place in four stages according to an annual schedule.

The entire procedure can be downloaded.

This first step assesses the administrative admissibility of the application with regard to the evidence and supporting documents provided, attesting to the candidate’s experience in connection with the diploma concerned.

Once the first phase of admissibility has been passed, the candidate will prepare an application dossier. This consists of an artistic portfolio showing the commitment and artistic pathway of the candidate.

The VAE jury is made up of a majority of teacher-researchers and working professionals; specialists in the field to which the knowledge necessary for the acquisition of the diploma belongs.
The candidate’s experience taken into account is that which has been acquired in the context of a salaried, self-employed or voluntary activity and it is assessed on the basis of the skills, aptitudes and associated knowledge demonstrated by the candidate.

In the event of the candidate receiving only partial validation, the level of validation received for the knowledge and skills acquired remains valid for a period of five years. The jury indicates the capacities remaining to be acquired or developed by the candidate in order to receive full validation.


The registration fees for the VAE are confirmed each year by the publication of an inter ministerial decree applicable to national art schools.

For the year 2019/2020, the registration fee for the VAE, applicable to all higher education establishments under the Ministry of Culture and Communication, is 780 €.

Candidates must pay an administrative fee of 80€ when submitting their applications for the admissibility analysis . This fee is not reimbursed should the dossier be declared inadmissible.

If the application is declared admissible, the candidate must pay the additional 700€ to cover the costs of the procedure (dossiers, methodological assistance, administrative costs, jury fees and follow-up of notifications).

Candidates able to demonstrate that they are not in a position to benefit from funding by a third party (company, organization, local authority), can request the benefit of a reduced fee from the head of the establishment. The candidate pays the sum of 80€ when submitting his/her admission application. If the application is declared admissible, he/she will be required to pay a reduced additional sum of 350 €.


The VAE process can be funded by the individual but there are opportunities for total or partial financial support.

Depending on the candidate’s status, it is possible to mobilize the CPF (Compte personnel de formation). Pôle Emploi, the Transition pro association in your region, or your employer as part of its skills development plan may also be able to provide information on available funding.

It is also possible to request assistance from your Region. For example, the Région Sud offers a VAE Pass to help with registration fees.

You can find more information about the VAE on the following sites: