Sciences Po (French pronunciation: [sjɑ̃s po]), or Paris Institute of Political Studies (French: Institut d'études politiques de Paris, French pronunciation: [ɛ̃s.ti.ty de.tyd pɔ.li.tik də pa.ʁi]), is a highly selective French university (legally a grande école). It was founded as a private institution by Émile Boutmy in 1872 to promote a new class of French politicians in the aftermath of the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian war of 1871  and grew to become a highly influential academic institution in the social sciences in France.
Alumni include many notable public figures, including seven of the last eight French presidents, 12 foreign heads of state or government, heads of international organizations (including the UN, WTO, IMF and ECB), and six of the CAC 40 CEOs. The pervasiveness of the school's graduates in French society has led to claims that Sciences Po, together with other prominent grandes écoles, is perpetuating a technocracy of out-of-touch leaders.
The school undertook an ambitious reform agenda starting in the mid-1990s, which included an emphasis on the internationalization of the school's curriculum and student body, establishing a special admission process for underprivileged applicants, and expanding the school's presence by establishing new campuses outside Paris. Sciences Po currently has campuses in Dijon, Le Havre, Menton, Nancy, Paris, Poitiers, and Reims. The institution is a member of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs and the Global Public Policy Network. In 2018 it was ranked as the world's 4th best school for politics and international studies.
Sciences Po was established in February 1872 as the École Libre des Sciences Politiques 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. Following defeat in the 1870 war, the demise of Napoleon III, and the Paris Commune, these men sought to reform the training of French politicians. Politically and economically, people feared France's international stature was waning due to inadequate teaching of its political and diplomatic corps. ELSP was meant to serve as "the breeding ground where nearly all the major, non-technical state commissioners were trained."
New disciplines such as International Relations, International Law, Political Economy and Comparative Government were introduced. In August 1894, the British Association for the Advancement of Science spoke out for the need to advance the study of politics along the lines of ELSP. Sidney and Beatrice Webb used the purpose and curriculum of Sciences Po as part of their inspiration for creating the London School of Economics in 1895.
ELSP proved very successful at preparing candidates for entry into senior civil service posts, and acquired an image as a major feature of France’s political system. From 1901 to 1935, 92.5% of entrants to the Grands Corps de l'État, which comprises 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).
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 moreover the collapse of the Vichy regime provided the impetus for a major restructuring of the state's institutions.
Charles de Gaulle, as leader of France's Provisional Government, appointed Michel Debré to overhaul of the recruiting and training of public servants. Though eight of thirteen ministers in De Gaulle's government were Sciences Po alumni, the university had also been instrumental in training the class of leaders whom many accused of having given in to Nazi aggression. Communist politicians including Georges Cogniot proposed abolishing the ELSP entirely and founding a new state-run administration college on its premises.
Debré proposed the compromise that was eventually adopted. First, the government established the Ecole 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 exclusively from the ENA's graduates. In 1945, the École libre des sciences politiques was restructured into two separate legal entities: the Institut d'études politiques (IEP) and the Fondation nationale des sciences politiques (FNSP). Though legally a public institution, it was to be managed by a private trust, the newly-established Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques (English: National Foundation of Political Science) or FNSP, with Roger Seydoux as its first president. Though the appointment of high-ranking faculty members now required government approval, the FNSP allowed Sciences Po to retain considerable administrative autonomy. Both entities were tasked by the French government to ensure "the progress and the diffusion, both within and outside France, of political science, economics, and sociology".
The epithet Sciences Po was applied to both entities, which inherited the reputation previously vested in ELSP. France's Legislature entrusted FNSP with managing IEP Paris, its library, and budget, and an administrative council assured the development of these activities. The curriculum and methodology of the ELSP were also the template for creating a network of institutes of political studies throughout the country, namely in Strasbourg, Lyon, Aix, Bordeaux, Grenoble, Toulouse, and then in Rennes and Lille. They are not to be confused with the seven campuses of Sciences Po in France.
It was now the ENA rather than Sciences Po that fed graduates directly into senior civil service posts. However, 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.
Between 1952 and 1969, 77.5% of the ENA’s graduate student intake were Sciences Po alumni.
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.
Sciences Po underwent various reforms under the directorship of Richard Descoings (1997–2012). In these years, Sciences Po introduced a compulsory year abroad component to its undergraduate degree, and began to offer a multilingual curriculum in French, English, and other languages. It was during this period that Sciences Po added its regional campuses.
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 or those who could afford year-long preparatory courses. In 2001, Science Po founded the Equal Opportunity Program governing council widened its admissions policy. This program enables the institution to recruit high-potential students at partner high schools in France who, due to a social and financial constraints, would not otherwise have applied to Sciences Po. This process has been accused of being superficial and being in fact a "lotto for poor people".
From 2001 to 2011, the proportion of scholarship students at Sciences Po went from 6 percent to 27 percent.
Descoings was accused of "reigning as almighty master on his school, by distributing material advantages and "small envelopes", and setting up a clientelist and authoritarian "carrot system"" and to implement a "management of fear".
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. 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 and the Urban School in 2015 and the School of Management and Innovation 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). This reform is "the most significant since 1945" and clarifies Sciences Po's governance with new rules, which address observations made by the Cour de comptes in a 2012 report.
In late 2016, Sciences Po acquired a new site, the Hôtel de l'Artillerie in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, which it intends to make the new heart of its urban campus and a seat of "educational renewal".
Sciences Po has seven campuses in France.
The Paris campus hosts undergraduate students enrolled in the general curriculum programme, the dual Bachelor’s degree with UCL as well as all seven graduate schools. The Paris campus is spread across several buildings concentrated around the Boulevard Saint-Germain in the 6th and 7th arrondissements (districts). 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:
In 2016 Sciences Po purchased the Hôtel de l’Artillerie, a 17th-century former monastery located 200 meters from its campus on Rue St.Guillaume. The building was previously the property of the French Ministry of Defense and is 14,000m2 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.
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.
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.
Work will begin at the site in 2018. It is scheduled to open in 2021.
Located on the coast of Normandy, Le Havre has hosted the undergraduate Euro-Asian campus since 2007, recently celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the campus in September 2017. With a choice between a history, law, or economics major, students primarily choose to spend their third year abroad in an Asian country. Furthermore, Le Havre is home to six Dual Degree programs, and welcomes international students from over thirty countries from all around the world.
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. Students study in one of two tracks (anglophone/francophone) and must take one of three core Oriental languages (Arabic, Farsi, or Turkish) in order to graduate. The third mandatory year abroad is spent in the Middle East (with the exception of derogation and/or national origin, or participation in a dual degree program).
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.
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.
In the heart of the Champagne region, the Reims campus opened in September 2010.
The academic bodies of Sciences Po consist of the University 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 Columbia University, the National University of Singapore, and the Sorbonne Paris Cité alliance.
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.
On all campuses, students choose a multidisciplinary major - Politics & Government, Economies & Societies, or Political Humanities. In addition, each campus offers a different regional concentration that anchors students intellectual objectives : 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.
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.
The University College (Collège universitaire) is the home of all undergraduate students. At the graduate level, there are six professional schools:
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. 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.
The university has numerous research centers, seven of which are affiliated with France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).
In addition to these research units, the university has recently established three major research programs – the LIEPP, DIME-SHS and MaxPo.
Sciences Po is part of a network of 470 universities, including:Berkeley (US), Bocconi (Italy), Cambridge (England), Colegio de Mexico (Mexico), Columbia (US), Freie Universität Berlin (Germany), Fudan (China), Keio (Japan), the London School of Economics (England), McGill (Canada), National University of Singapore, Oxford (England), Peking University (China), Princeton (US) University of Cape Town (South Africa), and University of São Paulo (Brazil).
In 2002, it co-founded the Alliance program in partnership with Columbia University, École Polytechnique and Panthéon-Sorbonne University. Each year, this program facilitates dual degrees, exchanges and research projects for around 240 students and 80 professors, and organizes around 40 conferences in Paris and New York. In France it is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Education Ministry, the Regional Council of the Île-de-France and by private sponsors including the utility company EDF.
In 2005, it established a doctoral/post-doctoral partnership program with the University of Oxford to provide a platform for comparative analysis of political systems and societies. OxPo, as this program is now known, facilitates academic and student exchanges between the two universities, provides grants for research collaborations, and organizes joint workshops, graduate conferences and seminars.
Sciences Po co-founded the Global Public Policy Network in 2005 in co-operation with the London School of Economics and the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. The network provides dual degree programs that allow students to study at two institutions. It has since expanded to include the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, the Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Tokyo and the Fundção Getúlio Vargas (FGV) at the Escola de Administração de Empresas in Brazil.
Sciences Po is a member of the Sorbonne Paris Cité association.
Founded in 1871, the nucleus of the school’s research is 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 Bibliothèque Nationale de France. 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.
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.
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.
For 2016–2017 the QS World University Rankings, based on English speaking publications, ranked Sciences Po 4th in the world for Politics & International Studies (1st in France), 51–100 in Law (2nd in France), 51–100 in Economics & Econometrics (1st in France), 51–100 in Social Policy & Management (1st in France), 51–100 (2nd in France) in History, 62nd in Social Sciences & Management (3rd in France), and 44th in Sociology (1st in France). Overall, it ranked 220 in the world (7th in France). Times Higher Education ranked Sciences Po 50th in the world for social sciences (1st in France) for 2018. Foreign Policy magazine ranked Sciences Po 21st in the world to obtain a master's degree for a policy career in International Relations in 2015 (3rd in Europe). In the 2013 Times Higher Education Alma Mater Index of Global Executives, a ranking of an academic institution's number of degrees awarded to chief executives of the world's biggest companies, Sciences Po is ranked 81st.
Due to its prominent alumni, its selectivity and its history of providing candidates for admission to the École nationale d'administration, Sciences Po is seen in France and abroad as an elite institution. However, it was criticised, as well as the École nationale d'administration, for creating in France an oligarchy of disconnected with reality, '...blinkered, arrogant and frequently incompetent people.' Sciences Po is now recognized for its efforts to promote social inclusion in higher education. Central to Sciences Po's policy to diversify its student body is the Equal Opportunity Programme, launched in 2001. The rate of scholarship holders among Sciences Po students has increased four-fold over the past ten years, with 27% of students now receiving scholarships or need-based financial aid.
The institution is partly state-funded, and some have accused it of receiving a disproportionate share of public money. In 2012, a joint statement from Sciences Po Lille students representatives called Sciences Po (Paris) the "coronation of inegalitary State".
Critics have accused Sciences Po of prioritizing access to professional networks over education and expertise. As a result, the school is often nicknamed "Sciences Pipeau" (pronounced and sometimes spelled "Sciences Pipo", "pipeau" meaning "scam" in colloquial French). This nickname has also been employed by students. The sociologist Nicolas Jounin, alumnus of Sciences Po, stated that the school is an "intellectual imposture" and a "financial hold-up". 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". The journalist at France Culture Guillaume Erner stated that the institution is "only advertisement and artifice".
Sciences Po has also been accused of being unduly helped by the media. "Almost every French newspaper is run by an almunus of Sciences Po", and most of the journalists in France are alumni from Science Po, so it would give the school "a mediatic cover without equivalent" and permit it to "cultivate a culture of secrecy" about its internal affairs. "Sciences-Po is under-criticized," analyzes a professor. 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." The journalist Ariane Chemin stated in 2013 that, because so many journalists come from Sciences Po, the school has an undue good public reputation.
Descoing, 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, included his wife, in spite of the fact that Sciences Po is partly stately funded.
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.
On 3 April 2012, Descoings was found dead in his Manhattan luxury hotel room during a trip to represent Sciences Po in New York. The police initially concluded that his death had been caused by an overdose, but the final coronary report eventually stated that he died a natural death. Descoings' energy on this last day and the missing phones and computer have raised questions as to the precise circumstances of his death.
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. 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. Sciences Po has also been accused to prevail results over morals.
In November 2012, Hervé Crès has been dismissed by the government, but he sought to president of Sciences Po anyway, saying that Alain Lancelot and Richard Descoings have been found guilty too, but it doesn’t matter for what concerns the presidency of Sciences Po.
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 €1500 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 sentenced him with leniency because the procedures had some part of regularity and because it wasn’t customary in Sciences Po to follow all the financial rules.
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.
Over 65,000 people have studied at Sciences Po. Alumni and former staff include twenty-eight heads of state or government, including seven of the last eight French presidents (Emmanuel Macron, François Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy (although he didn't graduate), Jacques Chirac, François Mitterrand, Alain Poher (though he served only as an interim president), and Georges Pompidou), thirteen past or present French prime ministers, twelve past or present foreign heads of state or government, a former United Nations Secretary-General, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, the former head of the European Central Bank and the former head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Former Portuguese Prime Minister, José Socrates, studied at Sciences Po as a doctoral student in 2012.
Among the alumni are CEOs of France's forty largest companies (Frédéric Oudéa of banking group Societe Generale, Michel Bon of Carrefour, Jean-Cyril Spinetta of Air France, Serge Weinberg of PPR, Gérard Mestrallet of Suez, Philippe Camus of Alcatel-Lucent), private bankers such as David René de Rothschild, the CEO of Lazard Italy, the CFO of Morgan Stanley Europe, the Director of Credit Suisse World, Co-founder, Chairman and CEO of TradingScreen and the Chairman of Credit Suisse Europe as well as the current head of the European Federation of Businesses, Industries and Employers and the current head of the French Businesses and Employers Union and many others. Influential cultural figures such as the writer Marcel Proust and the founder of the modern olympics Pierre de Coubertin also graduated from Sciences Po.
Senior French diplomats including François Delattre (currently French ambassador to the UN), Gérard Araud (currently ambassador to the USA), Sylvie Bermann (currently ambassador to the UK), Bernard Émié (currently ambassador to Algeria), Jean-Maurice Ripert (currently ambassador to Russia) and Maurice Gourdault-Montagne (currently ambassador to China) are also alumni.
Instructors included or still include former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, former WTO president Pascal Lamy, former French President Francois Hollande, former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, former French foreign minister Hubert Védrine, noted historian Pierre Milza, Nobel Prize Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz and former Economics minister as well as former Managing Director of IMF Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The philosopher, anthropologist and sociologist Bruno Latour has taught there since 2006. Emmanuel Gaillard also teaches at the Law School.
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