The ILCF: the cultural treasure of the Lyon Catholic University

Amidst an environment of training and language learning centres, the French Language and Culture Institute (ILCF) has successfully asserted its identity. Its originality derives from a combination of factors resulting in the use of the French language as a powerful medium to convey cultural codes, symbols and values.


Founded in 1948 by the Humanities Department of the Lyon Catholic University, the French Language and Culture Institute has been welcoming foreign students for several years now. Among its various qualities, the Institute knows, above all, how to take advantage of its institutional affiliation. A token of scientific and academic reliability, this integration to the university also offers obvious advantages to students who enrol in its courses: the student status and related services. Students can follow their course in multiple University faculties and institutes. In addition, they have access to the University library and its extensive list of works, to cultural as well as sporting activities at a reduced cost, and finally to a dynamic accommodation and health care service.

Combining language and culture

Another specific feature is revealed in the name of the Institute itself, which automatically connects French language to French culture. Far from being trivial, this combination unveils the nature of the Institute’s major project. Language, it is true, is taught as a communication tool, but also as a medium to convey cultural codes, symbols and values.

The initiation to French culture is, moreover, fully legitimate, since the Institute’s teaching staff all hold Master’s degrees or PhDs specialised in French as a foreign language. The academic programmes are well balanced, with 16–20-hour tuition weeks for all subjects. The ILCF offers intensive or semi-intensive sessions throughout the academic year but also during the summer.

Tailored courses for students

Academic courses are furthermore carefully adjusted to students’ needs. During the application process, students must indeed sit a French test which defines their level group (in accordance with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). The organisation is truly complex, but this system presents an incredible advantage: the opportunity of providing tailored courses to students who are divided in different groups of 22 on average. Each course is therefore designed to help them improve, by being adapted to their level, needs and learning pace.

Based on the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS), the courses are certified by University diplomas issued by the University which grant them the right to the equivalent number of credits or units valid in universities, colleges or institutes abroad. These diplomas certify the students’ level in French as well as their aptitude to use the language in specific professional contexts.

The ILCF is also an official examination centre where students can obtain:

– The DELF and DALF National Education diplomas (Diploma of French Language Studies, the Higher Diploma of French Language and the French Knowledge Test).

– The Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry diplomas, which certify students’ aptitude for being operational in a company’s relational, administrative and business functions. In order to be awarded the Diploma in Professional Business French and the Diploma in Professional French applied to Tourism and the Hotel business, some courses introduce students to the social and professional norms as well as the hierarchical constraints and different language registers to use in specific contexts.

These different certifications attract a varied public of diverse age groups and backgrounds.

A programme enriched by cultural discoveries

Another one of ILCF’s advantages is its location. Situated at the heart of Lyon, France’s second biggest city, the ILCF grants students the opportunity of immersing themselves in a dynamic economic centre. At the crossroads of large European cities, Lyon is easily accessible and enables students to travel and pursue their discoveries. This links back to ILCF’s main objective: stimulate students’ curiosity and encourage them to discover what defines French culture. On this subject, we must also naturally highlight the efforts sustained by the Institute’s teams to include cultural activities within the academic programmes. A Unesco world heritage city, Lyon is therefore discovered from a variety of angles. The visits of its museums and the “Old Lyon” constitute, for instance, a way for the professors to teach art and local history. A cruise on the Rhône river, a walk in Lacroix Laval, the visit of the Medieval City of Perouges or the discovery of the Beaujolais vineyards in the summer, constitute some of the activities which are organised to complement this cultural discovery.

A quality certification brilliantly renewed

The student committee (BDE) is also actively involved and organises activities throughout the academic year. Under the BDE’s initiative, visits and encounters with families from Lyon strengthen the cultural and intercultural integration of students. French language is therefore taught in a cosmopolitan and stimulating environment.

Martine Moulin, Director of the French Language and Culture Institute, has been promoting these exchanges for a number of years now by regularly travelling abroad in order to meet different institutional representatives and university partners, but also to establish new links and develop exchanges. With so many advantages, it is unsurprising that ILCF succeeded, in February 2013, to renew its quality certification under the title “Quality French as Foreign Language” awarded by the inter-ministerial Commission (composed of ministers of Higher Education, Research, Culture and Communication, and Foreign Affairs). On this occasion, the ILCF obtained the highest grade (3 stars) in all the listed categories; as many stars as the ones shining in the eyes of delighted students!

Copyright : UCLy

Sandra Fagbohoun

Doctor in antropology.

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