Sciences Po
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Sciences Po

Paris Institute of Political Studies
Sciences Po
Logo Sciences Po.svg
Former names
École libre des sciences politiques
TypePublic Higher Education Research Institution, Grande École[1]
BudgetEUR197 million
PresidentFrédéric Mion
Academic staff
AffiliationsSorbonne Paris Cité
MascotThe lion and the fox

The Paris Institute of Political Studies (French: Institut d'études politiques de Paris, IPA: [stity detyd p?litik d? pa?i]), commonly referred to as Sciences Po Paris or just Sciences Po (IPA: [sjs po]), is a higher education institution and grand établissement located in France. It was founded in 1872 to promote a new class of French politicians in the aftermath of the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War.[3]

Sciences Po undertook a substantial reform agenda starting in the mid-1990s, which broadened its focus to prepare students for the private sector, internationalized the school's student body and curriculum, and established a special admission process for underprivileged applicants. Sciences Po also expanded outside Paris by establishing additional campuses in Dijon, Le Havre, Menton, Nancy, Poitiers, and Reims. The Sciences Po curriculum now incorporates core courses in various branches of the social sciences, such as law, economics, history, political science, and sociology.[4] The institution is a member of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA) and the Sorbonne Paris Cité.


1872 to 1945: École Libre des Sciences Politiques

Sciences Po Founder, Émile Boutmy

Sciences Po was established in February 1872 as the École Libre des Sciences Politiques (ELSP) by a group of French intellectuals, politicians and businessmen led by Émile Boutmy, and including Hippolyte Taine, Ernest Renan, Albert Sorel and Paul Leroy Beaulieu. The creation of the school was in response to widespread fears that the inadequacy of the French political and diplomatic corps would further diminish the country's international stature, as France grappled with a series of crises, including the defeat in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, the demise of Napoleon III, and the upheaval and massacre resulting from Paris Commune. The founders of the school sought to reform the training of French politicians by establishing a new "breeding ground where nearly all the major, non-technical state commissioners were trained.".[5]

ELSP proved remarkably successful at preparing candidates for entry into senior civil service posts, and acquired a major role in France's political system. From 1901 to 1935, 92.5% of entrants to the Grands corps de l'État, the most powerful and prestigious administrative bodies in the French Civil Service, had studied there (this figure includes people who took civil service examination preparatory classes at Sciences Po but did not earn a degree).[6] By August 1894, the British Association for the Advancement of Science was advocating for the creation of a similar school to advance the study of politics in Great Britain. One year later, Sidney and Beatrice Webb used the Sciences Po curriculum and purpose as an inspiration for creating the London School of Economics.[7]

The connection between Sciences Po and French institutions meant that the university also played a key role in the apparatus of the French Empires. In 1886, the university established a colonial school with the goal of training students to take on professions in the colonial administration in a way that "propagates [...] a more scientific and international colonialism".[8][9] Many professors and members of the ELSP administration, such as  Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, chair in colonial affairs at ELSP, Joseph Chailley-Bert, Jules Cambon, Charles Jonnart, Auguste Louis Albéric d'Arenberg and Ernest Roume, were also closely linked to or worked directly with the colonial government.[10] The colonial branch of ELSP closed in 1893 after a state-sponsored colonial school was created in 1889; however positions in the administrations of French colonies and protectorates continued to accept graduates from the ELSP.[11]

1945: the École Libre des Sciences Politiques becomes Sciences Po

Sciences Po underwent significant reforms in the aftermath of France's liberation from Nazi occupation in 1945. The humiliation of France's surrender to Nazi Germany and the collapse of the Vichy regime provided the impetus for a major restructuring of the state's institutions.[12][13]

Charles de Gaulle, as leader of France's Provisional Government, appointed Michel Debré to reform the recruiting and training of public servants. Even though eight of thirteen ministers in De Gaulle's government, including Debré himself, were Sciences Po alumni, a significant reform of the university seemed inevitable, as it had been instrumental in training the class of leaders whom many accused of complacency in face of Nazi aggression. Communist politicians including Georges Cogniot proposed abolishing the ELSP entirely and founding a new state-run administration college on its premises.[14]

Debré proposed the compromise that was eventually adopted. First, the government established the École Nationale d'Administration (ENA), an elite postgraduate college for training government officials. From then on, the Grands Corps de l'Etat were obliged to recruit new entrants from ENA.[15] The change, however, had little impact on Sciences Po's central role in educating the French elite. Although it was now the ENA rather than Sciences Po that fed graduates directly into senior civil service posts, Sciences Po became the university of choice for those hoping to enter the ENA, and so retained its dominant place in educating high-ranking officials.[16]

The reforms also restructured the administration of École libre des sciences politiques (ELSP), by creating two separate legal entities: the Institut d'études politiques (IEP) and the Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques (English: National Foundation of Political Science) or FNSP. Both entities were tasked by the French government to ensure "the progress and the spread, both within and outside France, of political science, economics, and sociology".[5] FNSP, a private foundation that receives generous subsidies from the government, manages the IEP de Paris, owns its buildings and libraries, and determines its budget. The two entities work together in lockstep, however, as the director of the school is, by tradition, also the administrator of FNSP. This institutional arrangement gives Sciences Po a unique status, as the school draws much of its resources through substantial government subsidies to FNSP, but does not subject it to many government interventions and regulations, giving it a much higher level of autonomy compared to other French universities and schools.[12] The epithet Sciences Po is applied to both entities, which inherited the reputation previously vested in ELSP.[17]

The public-private nature of Sciences Po, Paris, also distinguishes it from a network of institutes of political studies throughout the country that were inspired by its curriculum, but that do not enjoy the same level of autonomy and prestige, namely in Strasbourg, Lyon, Aix, Bordeaux, Grenoble, Toulouse, Rennes and Lille. They are not to be confused with the seven campuses of Sciences Po in France.

1945 to 1997

Between 1952 and 1969, 77.5% of the ENA's graduate student intake were Sciences Po alumni.[18]

FNSP further strengthened its role as a scientific publication center with significant donations from the Rockefeller Foundation. FNSP periodicals such as la Revue française de science politique, le Bulletin analytique de documentation, la Chronologie politique africaine, and the Cahiers de la Fondation as well as its seven research centres and main publishing house, Presses de Sciences Po, consolidated the university's reputation as a research hub.[5]

1997-2012: the Richard Descoings era

Sciences Po underwent various reforms under the directorship of Richard Descoings (1997-2012). The school began requiring all its undergraduate students to spend a year abroad, and introduced a multilingual curriculum in French, English,[19] and other languages. Sciences Po also began to expand outside Paris, establishing regional campuses throughout France.

During this period, Sciences Po also implemented reforms in its admissions process. Previously, Sciences Po recruited its students exclusively on the basis of a competitive examination. This system was seen to favor students from prestigious preparatory high schools, largely attended by the children of the French elite. In 2001, Sciences Po founded the Equal Opportunity Program, widening its admissions policy.[20] This program enables the institution to recruit high-potential students at partner high schools in more disadvantaged parts of France who, due to a social, academic, and financial constraints, would not otherwise have been able to attend Sciences Po.[21]

From 2001 to 2011, the proportion of scholarship students at Sciences Po went from 6 to 27 percent[22] with around 30% of all students at Sciences Po currently receiving some form of scholarship.[23]

The reforms Descoings spearheaded were at times controversial, however, and his leadership style came under heavy criticism for "reigning as almighty king"[24] and to implement a "management of fear".[25] A further report by the French Court of Audit in 2012 severely criticized Sciences Po under the Descoings leadership for its opaque, and possibly illegal, financial management, notably with regard to management salaries.[26]

2013-2022: reorganization and development under Frédéric Mion

Frédéric Mion, a graduate of Sciences Po, ENA and École Normale Supérieure and former secretary general of Canal+, was appointed president of Sciences Po on 1 March 2013.[27] His intention to pursue Sciences Po's development as a "selective university of international standing" is detailed in the policy paper "Sciences Po 2022", published in the spring of 2014. The restructuring of Master's study into graduate schools continued with the creation of the School of Public Affairs[28] and the Urban School in 2015 and the School of Management and Innovation[29] in 2016.

In early 2016, Sciences Po updated its governance structure, adopting new statutes for its two constituent bodies: the Fondation nationale des sciences politiques (FNSP) and the Institut d'études politiques de Paris (IEP).[30] This reform is "the most significant since 1945" and clarifies Sciences Po's governance with new rules, which address observations made by the Cour des comptes in a 2012 report.[31]

In late 2016, Sciences Po acquired a new site, the Hôtel de l'Artillerie in the 7th arrondissement of Paris,[32] which it intends to make the new heart of its urban campus and a site of "educational renewal".

In April 2018, Sciences Po students blocked the main entrance to the school in protest against Macron's education reforms which gives public Universities the power to set admission criteria and rank applicants.[33]

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mion announced in May 2020 that Sciences Po would be adopting a "dual campus" system for the upcoming academic year.[34] The school would thus be pursuing its teaching obligations in two prongs:

  1. A physical campus. Tutorials, seminars, small group meetings, and one-on-one consultations will continue on all of Sciences Po's seven campuses.
  2. A digital campus. All larger meetings and classes (such as lectures) will be streamed online, likely through a third party platform such as Zoom.

The school has promised that all materials (including recordings of tutorials) will be available online. As such, students who are unable to travel to France will be able to complete their entire year through distance learning.


Sciences Po has seven campuses in France, with each specialising in different regions of the globe. Every May, at the end of the academic year, all seven campuses come together for the inter-campus Collegiades de SciencesPo tournament, also known as the MiniCrit. At the tournament, students represent each campus and compete against one another in arts and athletic competitions. Different events include athletic games such as volleyball and football, as well as artistic competitions such as music and dance.[35][36]

Sciences Po's undergraduate campuses in the regions outside the capital.

Paris campus

The entrance to Sciences Po on Rue Saint-Guillaume
Sciences Po garden, between Rue Saint-Guillaume and Rue des Saints-Pères

The Paris campus hosts undergraduate students enrolled in the general curriculum programme, the dual bachelor's degree with University College London, as well as all seven of the university's graduate schools. The Paris campus is spread across several buildings concentrated around the Boulevard Saint-Germain in the 6th and 7th arrondissements.[37] The historic centre of Sciences Po at 27 rue Saint-Guillaume houses the head office and central library since 1879. It is also home to Sciences Po's two largest teaching halls, the Amphitheatres Émile Boutmy and Jacques Chapsal. Other buildings include:

  • 117, boulevard Saint-Germain: School of Journalism
  • 199, boulevard Saint-Germain: Doctoral School
  • 174 and 224, boulevard Saint-Germain: offices and classrooms
  • 13, rue de l'Université / The René Rémond building: Law School and administrative offices
  • 8, rue Jean-Sébastien-Bach: Urban School
  • 28, rue des Saints-Pères: Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA)
  • 56, rue des Saints-Pères: Language Lab, audiovisual service and a cartography workshop.
  • 56, rue Jacob: Research Center for History (Centre d'histoire de Sciences Po) and International Relations (Centre d'études et de recherches internationales)

The Paris campus welcomes about 3,000 undergraduate students, almost a third of whom are international exchange students.[38]

In 2016 Sciences Po purchased the Hôtel de l'Artillerie, a 17th-century former monastery located 200 meters from its campus on rue Saint-Guillaume. The building was previously the property of the French Ministry of Defense and is 14,000 m2 in size. The university has announced its intention to refurbish the building as a major addition to its facilities in Paris. It is estimated that this project will cost around 200 million euros in total.[39][40]

The Hôtel de l'Artillerie will house new facilities for Sciences Po's graduate programs, including a courtroom for the Law School and a newsroom for the Journalism School. It will also incorporate a cafeteria, study areas and accommodation for 50 to 100 students on scholarships.[41]

Frédéric Mion, the director of Sciences Po, stated his intention to create a campus comparable in quality and capacity to Sciences Po's most prominent international partner universities such as Columbia University, the London School of Economics and Hong Kong University.[42]

Work will began at the site in 2018. It is scheduled to open in 2022.[43]

Dijon campus

Located in the region of Burgundy in a 19th century building, the Dijon campus was created in 2001 and now welcomes around 160 students.[44]

Le Havre campus

Located on the coast of Normandy, Le Havre has hosted the undergraduate Euro-Asian campus since 2007, recently celebrating the tenth anniversary of the campus in September 2017. The campus welcomes 300 students each year.[45] With a choice between 3 majors, including economics and society, politics and government and political humanities, students primarily choose to spend their third year abroad in an Asian country. Furthermore, Le Havre is home to several Dual Degree programs, and welcomes international students from over thirty countries from all around the world. The Le Havre campus is primarily known for its vibrant campus culture, upholding numerous artistic and sports clubs and celebrating important Asian holidays, such as Diwali and Chinese New Year. Being situated only two hours away from Paris, the students of this campus are especially fortunate to meet with exceptional guest speakers and be taught by remarkable professors.

Menton campus

Established in the French Riviera city of Menton in 2005, the campus is located in an entirely renovated 19th-century building overlooking the Mediterranean. Menton is home to the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean focus branch of Sciences Po and welcomes 300 students each year.[46] Students study in one of two tracks (anglophone/francophone) and may take one of three core Oriental languages (Arabic, Farsi, or Turkish) and an additional concentration language (Italian or Hebrew) if they are fluent in their core language. The third mandatory year abroad is spent in the Middle East or elsewhere. The Menton campus takes part in the dual BA programmes with Columbia University, University College London, the National University of Singapore, the University of British Columbia, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Hong Kong and the University of Sydney.

Nancy campus

Established in the region of Lorraine in 2000, the Nancy campus is located in a prestigious 18th century heritage site, the Hôtel des Missions Royales. The curriculum is taught in French, English and German, as it focuses on the European Union and French-German relations. The campus welcomes over 300 students each year.[47]

Poitiers campus

Opened in 2010, the campus is located in the heart of the historic city of Poitiers in the Hôtel Chaboureau, a renovated building dating from the 15th century. The academic programme is focused on Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula. The campus welcomes about 200 students.[48]

Reims campus

In the heart of the Champagne region, the Reims campus opened in September 2010. It is housed in the 17th century College des Jesuits. Despite being the most recent campus, it is by far the largest of the regional campuses of Sciences Po, welcoming over 1,600 undergraduate students each year.[49] The Reims campus hosts both the Europe-North America program and the Europe-Africa Program as well as an exchange program. In addition to the traditional undergraduate programs, the Reims campus is also host to several dual degree programs, including ones with Columbia University, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of British Columbia.

In autumn 2017, a brand new section of the campus, complete with a new cafeteria and amphitheatre was opened to accommodate even more students.


The academic bodies of Sciences Po consist of the Undergraduate College, six professional schools, and the Doctoral School. The university also contains a library system, the Presses de Sciences Po, and holds ties with a number of independent academic institutions, including Bocconi University, Columbia University, King's College London, the National University of Singapore, and the Sorbonne Paris Cité alliance.

Undergraduate level

The Sciences Po Undergraduate College offers a three-year Bachelor of Arts degree with a multidisciplinary foundation in the humanities and social sciences with emphasis on civic, linguistic, artistic, and digital training.[50]

On all campuses, students choose a multidisciplinary major - Politics & Government, Economies & Societies, or Political Humanities. In addition, each campus offers a different regional specialism which anchors students' intellectual objectives, the regions are: Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East-Mediterranean, and North America.

Sciences Po offers dual bachelor's degrees with Columbia University, Keio University, University College London, Freie Universität Berlin, University of British Columbia, the University of Sydney, the National University of Singapore, the University of Hong Kong, University of California Berkeley.[50]

The current dean of the Undergraduate College is Stéphanie Balme.

In 2019, 11,123 students applied to the Undergraduate College across all three admissions pathways (the exam procedure, the Equal Opportunity Programme, and the international procedure). 1,904 students were accepted, for an admission rate of 18%.[51]

Graduate level

At the graduate level, Sciences Po's seven schools offer one- and two-year Master's programmes and PhD programmes. All graduate programmes are delivered on the Sciences Po campus in Paris. Sciences Po also hosts dual Master's programmes with international partners. Students enrolled in these dual degree programmes spend one year at Sciences Po in Paris and one year at the partner university.[52]


The Undergraduate College (Collège universitaire) is the home of all undergraduate students. At the graduate level, there are seven professional schools:[53]

The Doctoral School offers Master and PhD programmes in law, economics, history, political science, or sociology. The PhD programme contains roughly 600 doctoral candidates.


Research at Sciences Po covers economics, law, history, sociology and political science, while also taking in many interdisciplinary topics such as cities, political ecology, sustainable development, socio-economics and globalization.

Sciences Po is home to a research community that includes over 200 researchers and 350 PhD candidates.[54] In 2015, 32% of the university's budget was devoted to research. That year, 65% of its research publications were in French, 32% in English and 3% in other languages.[55]

The university has numerous research centers, seven of which are affiliated with France's National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).[56]

  • Center for Socio-Political Data (CDSP), which provides scientifically-validated data for international survey programs. It also supports training in data collection and analysis.
  • Centre for European Studies and Comparative Politics (CEE), which focuses on inter-disciplinary European studies; participation, democracy and government; election analyses; the restructuring of the state and public action.
  • Centre for International Studies (CERI), which produces comparative and historical analysis on foreign societies, international relations, and political, social and economic phenomena.
  • Centre for Political Research (CEVIPOF), which investigates political attitudes, behaviour and parties, as well as political thought and the history of ideas.
  • Centre for History (CHSP), whose research focuses on: arts, knowledge and culture; wars, conflicts and violence; states, institutions and societies; the political and cultural history of contemporary France; from local to global; international history and its levels.
  • Centre for the Sociology of Organisations (CSO), which conducts research on the sociology of organisations, sociology of public policy, and economic sociology. It also studies issues related to higher education and research, healthcare, sustainable development, the evolution of firms, and the transformation of the state.
  • Center for Studies in Social Change (OSC), which conducts research on topics such as urban, school and gender inequalities, stratification and social mobility, and ethno-racial or social segregation.
  • Department of Economics, which investigates areas such as labour markets, international economics, political economy, microeconomics and development.
  • Law School, whose research focuses on globalisation, legal cultures and the economics of law. It has also produced work on the theory and history of law, public and private international law and intellectual property.
  • Médialab, which studies the way data generated by new information technologies is produced, circulated and exploited.[57]
  • The French Economic Observatory (OFCE), which is both a research centre and an independent economic forecasting body. Its stated mission is to "ensure that the fruits of scientific rigour and academic independence serve the public debate about the economy".[58][56][59]

In addition to these research units, the university has recently established three major research programs - the LIEPP, DIME-SHS and MaxPo.[56]

  • The Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire d'Evaluation des Politiques Publiques (LIEPP) analyzes public policy based on qualitative, comparative, and quantitative methods.[60] The laboratory has been selected by an international scientific jury as a "Laboratoire d'Excellence" (Labex) that will be financed for the next ten years by the French government.[61]
  • Données Infrastructures et Méthodes d'Enquête en Sciences Humaines et Sociales (DIME-SHS) aims to collect and disseminate data for use in humanities and social sciences research.[62]
  • The Max Planck Sciences Po Center on Coping with Instability in Market Societies (known as MaxPo), was founded in 2012 in co-operation with the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies (MPIfG). It investigates how individuals, organizations, and nation-states deal with various forms of economic and social instability. It is located at Sciences Po's Paris campus.[63][64]

Library and publishing

Sciences Po Library

Founded in 1871, the nucleus of the school's research is the Bibliothèque de Sciences Po. The library offers a collection of more than 950,000 titles in the field of social sciences.

In 1982, the Ministry of National Education made the Bibliothèque the Centre for Acquisition and Dissemination of Scientific and Technical Information in the field of political science, and since 1994, it has been the antenna associated with the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.[65] The Bibliothèque de Sciences Po is also the main French partner in the International Bibliography of the Social Sciences, which is based at the London School of Economics.[66]

Founded in the 1950s, Presses de Sciences Po is the publishing house of Sciences Po. It publishes academic works related to the social sciences.[67]

Public lectures

Sciences Po organizes numerous public lecture events. Recent guest speakers have included Ban Ki-moon, General David Petraeus, Condoleezza Rice, former President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Eric Schmidt, Joseph Stiglitz, Sheryl Sandberg, Mario Draghi, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and Harvard University professor Michael Sandel.[68][69][70]

Since 2007 it has organized the Franco-British Dialogue Lecture Series in collaboration with the LSE and the French Embassy in London. The lectures are held every term at the LSE's European Institute.[71][72]

Rankings and reputation


In rankings based on English-speaking publications, QS Rankings and Times Higher Education, Sciences Po is globally ranked 242 and 401-500. It ranked very well in politics and international studies, where it was ranked 2nd globally in the QS World University Subjects Rankings 2020, whereas it is ranked 62nd in social sciences by Times Higher Education.

Rankings: International (national)/Total number of ranked institution[73]
Year 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Global and regional rankings
QS - Global ranking 214 222 223 220 220 221 242 (7) 242 (7)
THE - Global ranking 401-500 401-500 401-500 (19) 501-600 (21)
THE - Europe Teaching Ranking -/258 (-/14)
By field
QS - Social Sciences & Management - - - 62 67 69 59 (4)
THE - Social Sciences & Management 69 (2)
QS - Arts & Humanities - - - 154 207 176 170 (6)
THE - Arts & Humanities -/536 (-/20)
By subject
QS - Politics & International Studies 13 5 4 4 4 3 2 3
QS - Social Policy & Administration - - 40 51-100 48 22 23
QS - Sociology 36 51-100 50 44 37 28 28
QS - Development Studies - 51-100 51-100 - 51-100 51-100 40
QS - Law & Legal Studies 51-100 51-100 51-100 51-100 51-100 51-100 50
THE - Law -/190 (-/2)
Eduniversal - Law (global) (-/15)
QS - Economics & Econometrics 101-150 101-150 51-100 101-150 101-150 101-150 51-100
THE - Business & Economics -/632 (-/20)
QS - History - - 101-150 51-100 51-100 101-150 101-150
QS - Philosophy - - - - - - 151-200
QS - Modern Languages - 151-200 201-250 251-300 201-250 201-250 201-250
QS - Accounting & Finance - - - - - 201-250 201-250

Reputation and criticism

Sciences Po is broadly perceived as an elite institution.[74][75][76] In recent years, however, Sciences Po's concerted efforts, at times controversial, to promote social inclusion in higher education have taken center stage. Central to Sciences Po's policy to diversify its student body is the Equal Opportunity Programme, launched in 2001.[77] Young people from working class family represent, in 2013, 9% of students.[78]

The school has been criticized by Peter Gumbel, along with the École nationale d'administration, and "Grandes Écoles" in general as "elite colleges, devised by Napoleon two centuries ago and re-invented after the Second World War - [which] have become a machine for perpetuating a brilliant but blinkered, often arrogant and frequently incompetent ruling freemasonry".[79] The academic Gilles Devers criticized the institution for being the "base of the conservatism, and the mold of the molluscs that make the public elite" where "dissenting ideas are only admitted if they strengthen the system".[80]

Critics have accused Sciences Po of prioritizing access to professional networks over education and expertise.[81][82] As a result, the school is often[need quotation to verify] nicknamed "Sciences Pipeau" (pronounced and sometimes spelled "Sciences Pipo", "pipeau" meaning "scam" in colloquial French[83]).[84] This nickname has also been employed by students.[85][86][87] The sociologist Nicolas Jounin, alumnus of Sciences Po, stated in a tribune that the school is a "financial hold-up" and asked the question if it is an "intellectual imposture".[88] The journalist at France Culture Guillaume Erner stated that the institution is "only advertisement and artifice".[89]

Sciences Po has also been accused of being unduly helped by the media. "Almost every French newspaper is run by an alumnus of Sciences Po", and most of the journalists in France are alumni from Science Po, so it would give the school "an unparalleled media coverage" and permit it to "cultivate a culture of secrecy" about its internal affairs.[90][better source needed][91] "Sciences-Po is under-criticized," analyzes a professor[who?]. Former students are unlikely to criticize it. "Those who teach there have no interest, and not necessarily the urge, to do so. Those who are not there can hope to be there one day."[91] The journalist Ariane Chemin stated in 2013 that, because so many journalists come from Sciences Po, the school has an unduly good public reputation.[92]

The institution is partly state-funded, and some, especially institutes of political studies in the provinces, have accused it of receiving a disproportionate share of public money. In 2012, for example, Sciences Po Lille student representatives called Sciences Po (Paris) the "coronation of State inequity".[93]


Political and financial scandals

Alain Lancelot, director of Sciences Po from 1987 to 1996, was investigated for financial mismanagement by the French Court of Audit.[94]

Since 1997, the institution has been hit by a number of scandals, notably concerning the leadership of Richard Descoings, its director from 1997 to 2012.[95][96][97]

Descoings, president from 1997 to 2012, had been criticized for offering large sums of money (through salary rise, free accommodation, etc.) to diverse members of staff, including his wife, in spite of the fact that Sciences Po is partly stately funded.[98]

In February 2012, it was revealed that an inspector of the French Court of Audit, in charge of investigating the financial behaviour of Sciences Po, was at the same time employed by Sciences Po.[99]

On 3 April 2012, Descoings was found dead in his Manhattan luxury hotel room during a trip where he was representing Sciences Po in New York. The police initially concluded that his death had been caused by an overdose,[100] but the final coronary report eventually stated that he died a natural death.[101] Descoings' energy on this last day and the missing phones and computer have raised questions as to the precise circumstances of his death.[102]

In October 2012, the Court of Audit reprimanded Sciences Po for financial mismanagement, accusing it of opaque remuneration procedures, unwarranted expenses claims and excessive pay-rises for managers.[103] The Court noted that the university's complex legal status - a public university managed by a private trust - had contributed to dysfunction and waste. It also criticized the French government for increasing state funding for the university without insisting on additional public oversight.[104][105] Sciences Po has also been accused to prevail results over morals.[106]

In November 2012, the government dismissed Hervé Crès [fr], Sciences Po's interim director, but he sought the school's permanent presidency all the same, reasoning that Alain Lancelot and Richard Descoings, former Sciences Po presidents, had also been reprimanded by the Court of Audit and yet performed well in their management of the school.[107]

In July 2015, Jean-Claude Casanova, the former president of the Foundation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, the private trust which manages Sciences Po, was fined EUR1500 for failing to properly consult the Foundation's Administrative Council over budgeting decisions involving public money. The Court of Financial and Budgetary Discipline eventually found Casanova guilty, but gave him a lenient sentence because the procedures had some part of regularity and because it was not customary in Sciences Po to follow all the financial rules.[108][109]

In February 2016, the Court of Audit noted that reforms had been made, but stated that greater transparency was still needed. Frédéric Mion, director of Sciences Po since 2013, defended the university's record and asked the judges to write their report again.[110][111]

Access to the Bar since 2007 and creation of a "law school" in 2009

With the Bologna Process, the master's degree in law became assimilated to other "master's degrees" that could have had "law" as a specialty. Yet, originally, only the master's degree in law ("maîtrise en droit") was giving access to the legal profession. As soon as 2004, fearing for the access to the bar and legal professions to be open to institutions that are not law schools, 54 professors of law signed a long text in the 'Recueil Dalloz' (major French legal journal), called "The Fight for the Law". According to them, institutions like Sciences Po or business schools should stay complementary to a program in the universities and not replace them. They pointed out in particular the problem of the quality of the knowledge of legal professionals and of their deontology, should it be otherwise. They managed to have the education in law to have a special place in the French Code of Education. The move was co-led by Guillaume Drago, professor at University of Paris II Panthéon-Assas, and François Gaudu, professor at University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne.[112]

In 2007, however, a governmental decree authorized Sciences Po students to pass the Bar exam, providing they take a masters degree with the mention "law". Academics in law labelled such a move as a "coup" and created an online petition called "call against the questioning of the utility of legal studies in the education of lawyers" ("appel contre la remise en cause de l'utilité des études juridiques dans la formation des avocats"). 445 academics publicly signed the petition, which is 15% of all French academics in law. The unity of the French academic body was noted: left- and right-wing professors, professors from Paris and outside Paris, in public law or private law... were in favor of the move. Students' unions supported it. The union of (French) law school's deans "totally" associated itself to the move too. They called for candidates in the 2007 French presidential election to take a stance on this issue and they went to court to contest the legality of the decision. The governmental decree was not eventually cancelled, by the new government or by the Conseil d'État.[112]

These critics said that it would not be a problem if Sciences Po was offering 8 semesters of law, as required as a general rule, to access to the bar. However, Sciences Po would be offering only general courses in social sciences with only a "sprinkling of law" in the masters programs. That would not be enough to become a barrister ("avocat") and would put into question the utility of the law to become one. It would be creating barristers with a cheap education in law and would be detrimental, in particular, for the citizens who would take the services of barristers who did not have a proper education in law.[112]

To them, with this decree, the law was becoming a marketing product in a service of a school of political sciences that has many connections with politicians. They would have preferred Sciences Po to keep with political sciences.[113]

They also criticized the fact that the government is giving much more money per student to Sciences Po and this undue access to the bar with only light courses in law would create an unfair competition between French law schools and Sciences Po.[113]

Richard Descoings, president of Sciences Po, responded in the media saying that the students are doing "lots of law" during their whole education and that Sciences Po is not responsible for the lack of funding of universities. He also argued that before 1994, Sciences Po students already could become barristers.[114]

In 2009, Sciences Po created the "Sciences Po Law School", in a new meaning for France, since it is not a faculty of law (see the disambiguation page, third meaning).

In 2008, partly as an answer to the announcement of the creation of a "law school" in this new meaning in Sciences Po, University of Paris II Panthéon-Assas, created a "law college" (undergraduate level) and then a "law school" (graduate level) on top of its faculty of law to attract top students in France (see the disambiguation page, second meaning). It was widely reported in the media as the creation of a "way of excellence in law" for "brilliant students".[115][116][117] Several universities followed this model, and created these highly selective schools.[118]

Attitude of the direction of Sciences Po toward sexual violence

Richard Descoing, former head of the school, made no case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn's habit of "seducing" young students.[119] He has been himself accused of sending burning messages to students, but no further inquiry was made.[120] Descoing had a controversial night life and relation to drugs, and was found dead in a hotel in suspicious circumstances.[121][122][123] DSK, a lecturer at Sciences Po, had admitted orgies with young women[who?][where?] but had denied any violence.[124]

Olivier Duhamel, the former president of the institution governing of Sciences Po (FNSP, the "Foundation of Sciences Po") and the person having a considerable influence in Sciences Po since 30 years,[120] has resigned in january 2021 after her step-daughter, Camille Kouchner [fr], daughter of Bernard Kouchner, published a book in which she writes that Duhamel was sexually abusing his step-son for two years during his childhood.[119][125][126] The alleged victim confirmed at Le Monde that revelations of Camille Kouchner are true.[125] Their mother, Évelyne Pisier, professor at Sciences Po, privately defended her husband, saying that it was only fellations, and that he regretted it; she also accused Camille of not having told her earlier.[127] Bernard Kouchner learned about it in the 2010s and wanted to bash Duhamel, but Camille Kouchner prevented him to do so.[127][128]Marie-France Pisier, who had a dispute with her sister to make a scandal of it, was found died in her swimming pool in 2011, possibly by suicide, but it is unclear if it is linked with it.[129] An investigation concerning Duhamel has been opened by Paris prosecutors in january 2021 about "rape and sexual aggression against a minor".[128][130]

Sciences Po has been "shaken" as a consequence of the Duhamel revelations.[131][120] Its direction had been alerted, in particular by Aurélie Filippetti, former Ministry of Culture,[132] of the situation but a "law of silence" had been put in place regarding this.[119][132] Frédéric Mion, director of Sciences Po, admitted he knew, having brushed aside the allegations;[133] he said he was made aware of a "rumour" in 2019 and acknowledged that he should have taken the issue more seriously. He told Le Monde: "I let myself be fooled".[134] Some students asked for his resignation, but he refused.[135] Following the scandal, Sciences Po issued a statement condemning "all forms of sexualized violence" and declaring "its shock and astonishment". It also stated: "The fight against sexual and gender-based violence is at the heart of our institution's core values and actions."[125]

Notable alumni and academics

In 2016, 55 000 alumni were declared by the association Sciences Po Alumni.[136] Some of them are notable, for instance for their role in politics[137] or business.[138]


French Presidents who attended Sciences Po

Six of the eight presidents of the French Fifth Republic have attended Sciences Po, including Georges Pompidou, François Mitterrand, Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy (who did not graduate), François Hollande, and Emmanuel Macron,[139] as well as acting president Alain Poher.

According to a study published in Le Monde in 2017, 14% (81 of the 577) of French members of parliament elected the same year were Sciences Po graduates, the most represented university in the National Assembly.[140] The French Castex government includes a number of Sciences Po graduates, including Florence Parly, Bruno Le Maire, and Jean-Michel Blanquer.[141]

International leaders who attended Sciences Po

Over 20 other international leaders have been educated at Sciences Po. This number includes Chandrika Kumaratunga, President of Sri Lanka; Sir Austen Chamberlain, British Foreign Secretary and 1925 Nobel Peace Prize laureate; Pierre Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada; Prince Rainier III of Monaco; Pierre Werner, Prime Minister of Luxembourg; Esko Aho, Prime Minister of Finland; Salomé Zourabichvili, President of Georgia; José Socrates, Prime Minister of Portugal.[142][143]

International organisations and diplomacy

Sciences Po alumni heads of international organisations

Sciences Po has also educated a considerable number of diplomats and actors in international organisations, including Simone Veil, former President of the European Parliament; Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former UN Secretary General; Pascal Lamy, former Director-General of the World Trade Organisation; Michel Camdessus and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former presidents of the International Monetary Fund;[144]Jean-Claude Trichet, former President of the European Central Bank.

Senior French diplomats including François Delattre (currently Permanent Representative of France to the UN),[145]Gérard Araud (former ambassador to the USA),[146]Sylvie Bermann (currently ambassador to Russia),[147]Bernard Émié (currently Director of the DGSE),[148]Jean-Maurice Ripert (currently ambassador to China)[149] and Maurice Gourdault-Montagne (currently ambassador to China)[150] are also alumni.

Business and finance

Business leaders who attended Sciences Po

Among the alumni are CEOs of France's forty largest companies (CAC 40) (Frédéric Oudéa of banking group Société Générale, Michel Bon of France Télécom and Carrefour, Jean-Cyril Spinetta of Air France, Serge Weinberg of PPR, Gérard Mestrallet of Suez, Philippe Camus of Alcatel-Lucent, Bertrand Puech of the Hermès Group, Louis Schweitzer of Renault, Jean-Marc Espalioux, CEO of Accor ).

Alumni in the financial sector include private sector bankers such as the founder of Rothschild & Co David René de Rothschild, CEO of Lazard Italy Gerardo Braggiotti , the CFO of Morgan Stanley Europe Jean-Hugues Bittner, former chairman and CEO of Lazard Michel David-Weill, the Director of Credit Suisse World, Co-founder, Chairman and CEO of TradingScreen Philippe Buhannic, former Chief Economist for Latin America at BBVA Javier Santiso, the Chairman of Credit Suisse Europe Jean-François Roussely , Global Head of M&A of Lazard Matthieu Pigasse and CEO of Lazard France Jean-Louis Girodolle among others. Public sector alumni also include the former President of the European Central Bank and Governor of the Bank of France Jean-Claude Trichet, the former head of the European Federation of Businesses, Industries and Employers and head of the French Businesses and Employers Union Laurence Parisot, among many others.

Literature and arts

Literary figures who attended Sciences Po

Influential cultural figures, such as the writer Marcel Proust, the founder of the modern olympics Pierre de Coubertin, fashion designer Christian Dior, author Leïla Slimani, author Emmanuel Carrère, Harvard University Professor Stanley Hoffman, former Le Monde editor Jean-Marie Colombani also graduated from Sciences Po.[151]


Notable members of the Sciences Po academic body

Sciences Po recruits many former or current professionals to teach courses as temporary adjunct lecturers. Many high ranking civil servants give lectures alongside their daily job, at the beginning of the evening. Adjunct professors include former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, former WTO director-general Pascal Lamy, former French President Francois Hollande, former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, former French foreign minister Hubert Védrine, noted historian Pierre Milza,[152] Nobel Prize Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz, and former Economics Minister and Ex-Managing Director of IMF Dominique Strauss-Kahn.[153] The philosopher, anthropologist and sociologist Bruno Latour has been teaching at Sciences Po since 2006.[154]Emmanuel Gaillard also teaches at the Law School.[155] The Sciences Po Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA) was founded by former Lebanese Minister of Culture Ghassan Salamé, who was succeeded by former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta. Other notable faculty members include economist Yann Algan and former French Minister of Culture Aurélie Filippetti.


Jacques Chapsal
Jacques Chapsal
Michel Gentot
Michel Gentot
Alain Lancelot
Alain Lancelot
Directors of the Paris Institute of Political Studies and Administrators of the National Foundation of Political Sciences

See also

References and notes


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  • Anne Muxel (direction), Les Étudiants de Sciences Po, Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2004, ISBN 2-7246-0937-9: Résultats d'une grande enquête menée en janvier 2002 auprès des élèves par le Cevipof
  • Comité national d'évaluation des établissements publics à caractère scientifique, culturel et professionnel, Rapport d'évaluation de l'Institut d'études politiques de Paris, Septembre 2005
  • Cyril Delhay, Promotion ZEP. Des quartiers à Sciences Po, Paris: Hachette, 2006, ISBN 2-01-235949-3

External links

Coordinates: 48°51?15.02?N 2°19?42.49?E / 48.8541722°N 2.3284694°E / 48.8541722; 2.3284694

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