Sciences Po

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Paris Institute of Political Studies
Institut d'études politiques de Paris (French)
Sciences Po Coat of arms.png
Other name
Sciences Po
Former name
École libre des sciences politiques
French: Aux racines de l'avenir
Motto in English
Roots of the Future
Type Public research university
Grande école [1]
Established1872;150 years ago (1872)
Founder Émile Boutmy
Endowment 127.2 million (2018) [2]
Budget€197 million (2018) [3]
Chairperson Laurence Bertrand Dorléac (FNSP) [4]
President Mathias Vicherat
Provost Sergei Guriev [5]
Academic staff
Undergraduates 4,000
Postgraduates 10,000
Campus Urban
Language French and English (official, university-wide)
German (working language at the Nancy campus) [6]
Spanish (working language at the Poitiers campus) [7]
Printing houseSciences Po Press
Colours Red White
Affiliations CIVICA
Sorbonne Paris Cité
Mascot The lion and the fox
Logo Sciences Po.svg

The Paris Institute of Political Studies (French : Institut d'études politiques de Paris, commonly known as Sciences Po [sjɑ̃s po] or Sciences Po Paris), is a public research university, with the status of grande école and grand établissement, located in Paris, France, with further campuses in Dijon, Le Havre, Menton, Nancy, Poitiers and Reims. Sciences Po offers courses and conducting research in political science, history, economics, law, and sociology.


The institute was established in 1872 by Émile Boutmy as the École libre des sciences politiques, a private and independent institution of higher education, founded in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War with the stated objective of renewing the training of the political elites and thereby contributing to ameliorating the nation's fortunes after its defeat of 1870. Boutmy aimed at modernising education for French civil servants, by offering additional teachings than the classics, which had historically been taught in traditional universities, [9] to focus on the social sciences, a relatively new field of study at the time, as a medium to equip political leaders with competences enabling the analysis of the state of society. [10] In 1945, the school was nationalised and re-established as a public institution, after criticism of the attitude of its staff during the Second World War and subsequent calls for its closure. [11] From the Third to Fifth Republic, it acquired a substantial role in educating the growing number of people entering civil service.

After a reform in 1985, Sciences Po began offering full degrees in the social sciences as primary education for its students. [12] Since the mid-1990s, Sciences Po’'s curriculum has been substantially reformed to broaden its focus and to prepare students for the private sector as well as civil service, and has in accordance with the Bologna process implemented bachelor's and master's degrees as its education model. The Sciences Po curriculum has been expanded to social sciences such as economics, law, and sociology, in addition to its original curriculum in political science and history. [13] As of 2021, 80% of Sciences Po graduates choose careers in the private sector. [14]

The institute is a member of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA) and CIVICA – The European University of Social Sciences. [15]


1872 to 1945: École Libre des Sciences Politiques

Emile Boutmy, Sciences Po Founder Emile Boutmy.jpg
Émile Boutmy, Sciences Po Founder

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, [16] 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.". [17] His innovative intellectual axis was to teach contemporary history whereas political elites had been taught ancient humanities only for centuries, which they could still learn in universities at the same time. [9]

ELSP 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 and, in general, students were taking class there on top of earning a degree in the University of Paris, in particular the Law Faculty). [18]

Other countries created similar schools in the following century. In 1875, the Istituto Cesare Alfieri  [ it ] in Italy (now part of the University of Florence), at the end of the century, the École libre des sciences Politiques et Sociales in Belgium (not existing any more), the Deutsche Hochschule für Politik in Germany, the Columbia School of Political Science (now merged into the Columbia Graduate School of Arts and Sciences), the London School of Economics in the United Kingdom, [19] [20] and, after WW1, for the School of Foreign Service from Georgetown University in the United States. [21]

The connection between Sciences Po and French institutions meant that the school 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”. [22] [23] 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. [24] 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. [25]

1945 to the 1990s: Institute of Political Sciences of Paris

Roger Seydoux, director of the ELSP who obtained the preservation of the school after WW2 Roger Seydoux.jpg
Roger Seydoux, director of the ELSP who obtained the preservation of the school after WW2

1945: Re-foundation

Sciences Po underwent significant reforms in the aftermath World War II in 1945. At France's liberation from Nazi occupation, the public servants were accused of collaborating with the Vichy regime and Nazi Germany. Sciences Po was then directly concerned by the draining goal of the National Council of the Resistance. [11] [26] Communist politicians including Georges Cogniot accused the school to be the "home of collaboration" with Nazi Germany [11] and proposed abolishing the ELSP entirely and founding a new state-run administration college on its premises. [27] To fight against this, Roger Seydoux, Jacques Chapsal and André Siegfried, from the school, excluded the most compromised (with Vichy and Nazi Germany) members of the school's staff, defended the school against accusation of collaboration and built up a communication campaign to save the school. [11]

The choice would be made by France's Provisional Government, under Charles de Gaulle. Eight of its thirteen ministers were alumni from the school. They made the future of the school escape from the Parliament's control to end up in their own hands. Michel Debré, alumnus, Jules Jeanneney, alumnus whose son just came out of the school, and Roger Grégoire, alumnus, decided that the school would be preserved but under a new structure. Two separate legal entities were created: 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". [17] 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 most 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. [11] The epithet Sciences Po is applied to both entities, which inherited the reputation previously vested in ELSP. [28]

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, 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.

The government also established in 1945 the École Nationale d'Administration (ENA), an elite postgraduate school for training government officials. From then on, the Grands Corps de l'Etat were obliged to recruit new entrants from ENA. [29] Sciences Po became the school of choice for those hoping to enter the ENA, and so retained its dominant place in educating high-ranking officials. [30]

1945 to the 1990s

Between 1952 and 1969, 77.5% of the ENA's graduate student intake were Sciences Po alumni. [31]

FNSP received a significant donations from the Rockefeller Foundation. FNSP published 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. [17]

1990s to the 2020s: The new Sciences Po

Olivier Duhamel, Professor of Law and politician behind the changes in Sciences Po from the 1990s to the 2020s through different formal roles Voeux-olivier-duhamel.jpg
Olivier Duhamel, Professor of Law and politician behind the changes in Sciences Po from the 1990s to the 2020s through different formal roles

Sciences Po was substantially reformed from the mid-1990s so as to diversify its focus beyond political science and beyond France, mainly under the influence of Olivier Duhamel, who formally had different roles during until his resignation in 2021. [32] Sciences Po was also hit by a number of crises and controversies during this period.

1990s to 2012: Diversification and internationalization

After the directorship of Alain Lancelot (1987-1997), the latter choose Olivier Duhamel to sponsor the candidacy of Richard Descoings, who became the director of Sciences Po with Duhamel as special advisor. [32]

Under the directorship of Richard Descoings (1997–2012), the school incorporated courses in various branches of the social sciences on top of political science, such as law, economics, history, and sociology. In addition, the school began requiring all its undergraduate students to spend a year abroad, and introduced a multilingual curriculum in French, English, [33] 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 political elite. In 2001, Sciences Po founded the Equal Opportunity Program, widening its admissions policy. [34] 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. [35]

From 2001 to 2011, the proportion of scholarship students at Sciences Po went from 6 to 27 percent [36] with around 30% of all students at Sciences Po currently receiving some form of scholarship. [37]

The reforms Descoings spearheaded were at times controversial, however, and his leadership style came under heavy criticism for "reigning as almighty king" [38] and to implement a "management of fear". [39] 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, in particular to himself. [40]

2013 to 2021: Expansion

After the sudden death of Richard Descoing, Frédéric Mion, a graduate of Sciences Po, ENA and École Normale Supérieure and former secretary general of Canal+, was appointed director of Sciences Po on 1 March 2013. [41] It was criticized as a choice of Olivier Duhamel, even though the two other candidates were said to have a much stronger applications than the 9 pages given by Mion in his last minute candidacy with the sponsorship of Duhamel. [42] Louis Vogel, former front-runner candidate who retracted his candidacy to protest against the governance process in Sciences Po, stated that an institution that want to have a place in the academic national and international environment cannot achieve such a thing without having an academic ("universitaire", a researcher and lecturer coming from the universités as opposed to the grandes écoles) at its head. [43]

Mion's 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.[ citation needed ] The restructuring of Master's study into graduate schools continued with the creation of the School of Public Affairs [44] and the Urban School in 2015 and the School of Management and Innovation [45] 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). [46]

In late 2016, Sciences Po acquired a new site, the Hôtel de l'Artillerie in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, [47] which it intends to make it a site of "educational renewal".[ citation needed ]

In April 2018, Sciences Po students blocked the main entrance to the school in protest against Macron's education reforms which gives universités the power to set admission criteria and rank applicants (a power that Sciences Po has). [48]

2021: Crisis of reputation and governance

In 2021, Sciences Po was hit by the Duhamel scandal, mainly put forward by the best-seller [49] book La Familia Grande and newspaper articles from Le Monde and Nouvel Obs , a sexual violence scandal one and a succession crisis. Olivier Duhamel, director of the National Foundation of Sciences Po, Frédéric Mion, director of Sciences Po, and other members of the board of these institutions resigned. It led to appeals to a reform of the governance of Sciences Po. [50] Instead, Sciences Po faced "ultimate attempts of a generation to maintain control of the designation of a successor for Duhamel". [51] This process further tarnished the reputation of Sciences Po. [52] L'Express later published a significant investigation on the transformations of Sciences Po since the 1990s, called "Sciences Po goes off the rails". [53]

Bénédicte Durand, interim administrator of Sciences Po, published in L’Express an op-ed stating that Sciences Po is facing "one of the most painful crisis of (the) history" of Sciences Po. She criticized the fact that the school has become the "target" of a "witch hunt" and is held responsible for "all the woes of the society" without "intellectual honesty", and told "hate-mongers" that Sciences Po will survive this crisis in spite of the "threats". [54] The institute later published reports on deontology and sexual violence that were called by Nouvel Obs "abundant but shy". [53]

On 22 November 2021 Mathias Vicherat, former CEO of Danone, former spokesman of the French National Railways Network and former deputy cabinet director of the Mayor in Paris, assumed office as the new director of Sciences Po. [55] This appointment has been criticized, because Vicherat does not have an academic background and would have been chosen as the former classmate and friend of the president. [56] Vicherat pledged to name someone with an academic experience as number 2 to compensate his background. [57] He wants to reinforce the private sector outcomes of the Sciences Po diploma. [58]


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. [59] [60]

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

Paris campus

The entrance to Sciences Po on Rue Saint-Guillaume Entree scpo.jpg
The entrance to Sciences Po on Rue Saint-Guillaume
Sciences Po garden, between Rue Saint-Guillaume and Rue des Saints-Peres Scpo jardin.jpg
Sciences Po garden, between Rue Saint-Guillaume and Rue des Saints-Pères

The Paris campus is spread across several buildings concentrated around the Boulevard Saint-Germain in the 6th and 7th arrondissements. [61] 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 enrolls about 3,000 undergraduate students, almost a third of whom are international exchange students. [62]

Sciences Po purchased in 2016 the Hôtel de l’Artillerie, a 17th-century former monastery of 14,000 m2 located 200 meters from its campus on rue Saint-Guillaume, from the French Ministry of Defense and will refurbish the building for a total cost of around 200 million euros in total (estimation). [63] [64] The new facility will be for the graduate programs and will open in 2022. [65] It will provide social housing for 50 to 100 students with need-based aid from the State. [66] [67]

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. [68]

Le Havre campus

Located on the coast of Normandy, Le Havre has hosted the undergraduate Euro-Asian campus since 2007. The campus welcomes 300 students each year. [69] 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. According to the Sciences Po brochure, Le Havre campus has a 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 would be especially fortunate to benefit from guest speakers and professors coming from the capital.

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. According to the Sciences Po brochure, Menton is home to the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean focus branch of Sciences Po and welcomes 300 students each year. [70] 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.

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. [71]

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. [72]

Reims campus

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 the largest of the regional campuses of Sciences Po, welcoming over 1,600 undergraduate students each year. [73] The Reims campus hosts both the Europe-North America program and the Europe-Africa Program as well as an exchange program.

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


Diploma certificate from Sciences Po Paris Certificat de diplome de l'Institut d'etudes politiques de Paris.png
Diploma certificate from Sciences Po Paris

The academic bodies of Sciences Po consist of the Undergraduate College, six professional schools, and the Doctoral School.

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. [74]

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, and the University of California. [74]

The current dean of the Undergraduate College is Stéphanie Balme.

In 2021, 15,284 students applied to the Undergraduate College across all three admissions pathways (the exam procedure, the Equal Opportunity Programme, and the international procedure). 1,630 students were accepted, for an admission rate of 7%. [75]

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. [76]


The Undergraduate College (Collège universitaire) is the home of all undergraduate students. At the graduate level, there are seven professional schools: [77]

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 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. [78] In 2015, 32% of the school's budget was devoted to research. That year, 65% of its research publications were in French, 32% in English and 3% in other languages. [79]

The institute has research centers, seven of which are affiliated with France's National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). [80]

In addition to these research units, the institute has recently established three major research programs – the LIEPP, DIME-SHS and MaxPo. [80]

Library and publishing

Sciences Po Library Salles de lecture 27 rue Saint Guillaume.jpg
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 . [89] 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. [90]

Founded in the 1950s, Presses de Sciences Po is the publishing house of Sciences Po. It publishes academic works related to the social sciences. [91]

Public lectures

Sciences Po organizes 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. [92] [93] [94]

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. [95] [96]

Reputation and rankings


In rankings based on English-speaking publications, in 2022, Sciences Po ranks 2nd globally for the study of Politics in the QS World University Subjects Rankings, whereas it is ranked 62nd in social sciences by Times Higher Education. In QS Rankings and Times Higher Education, Sciences Po is globally ranked 242 and 401–500.

Rankings: International (national)/Total number of ranked institution [97]
Global and regional rankings
QS - Global ranking214222223220220221242 (7)242 (7)
THE - Global ranking401–500401–500401–500 (19)501-600 (21)
THE - Europe Teaching Ranking–/258 (–/14)
By field
QS - Social Sciences & Management62676959 (4)56 (3)
THE - Social Sciences & Management69 (2)
QS - Arts & Humanities154207176170 (6)162 (5)
THE - Arts & Humanities-/536 (-/20)
By subject
QS - Politics135444322 (1)
QS - Social Policy & Administration4051–10048222321 (1)
QS - Sociology3651–1005044372828
QS - Development Studies51–10051–10051–10051–10040
QS - Law & Legal Studies51–10051–10051–10051–10051–10051–10050
THE - Law–/190 (–/2)
Eduniversal - Law (global)(–/15)
QS - Economics & Econometrics101–150101–15051–100101–150101–150101–15051–100
THE - Business & Economics–/632 (–/20)
QS - History101–15051–10051–100101–150101–150
QS - Philosophy151–200
QS - Modern Languages151–200201–250251–300201–250201–250201–250
QS - Accounting & Finance201–250201–250

Reputation and criticism

Sciences Po is often described by others and itself as an elite institution, due to its admissions selectivity and its close connection with powerful networks within French society. [98] [99] [100] It has been described as a "school of power" that has emulated abroad. [9] Because this elite status is associated with social reproduction, Sciences Po launched an "Equal Opportunity Programme" in 2001, to increase the representation of working class families, which as of 2013, make up 9% of students. [101] [102]

Sciences Po has been described as a school prioritising professional networks over expertise. [103] [104] It diversification beyond political science and history in the 1990s would have resulted in limited expertise on each subject. [9] As a result, the school is nicknamed "Sciences Pipeau" (pronounced and sometimes spelled "Sciences Pipo", "pipeau" meaning "scam" in colloquial French [105] ) by the general public and within the school. [106] [107] [108] [109] One of the courses related to the Law have been nicknamed "Legal Bullshit" by students due to the lack of content. [110]

The school has therefore been criticized by outside observers and students for not having them acquire an actual expertise. [111] [106] [109] The sociologist Nicolas Jounin, alumnus of Sciences Po, talked about an "intellectual imposture" in an op-ed called "it is time to be done with Sciences Po". [112] The journalist at France Culture Guillaume Erner stated that the institution is "only advertisement and artifice". [113] According "Le Monde", students in the school would be sometimes "disillusioned" after having "fantasized" about the school. [114]

The institute has been described as having low expectations from its students. According to Le Monde, "when students educated in a faculty of social science join a master at Sciences Po, their academic level is often higher than those who followed multi-disciplinary education at an institute of political science". [115] The Law courses at Sciences Po have also received criticism for holding lower standards than those at full law degrees; a student both at Sciences Po and at Paris II told L'Express: "In Law (at Paris II), I spend three days on an essay and I have 8 (out of 20); at Sciences Po, I spend three hours on an essay and I have 16 (out of 20)." [110] In 2012, lecturers at Sciences Po criticized instructions they received from the school telling them not to take into account grammar mistakes in their marking. [116] The trend would furthermore be a decline of the level; according to Le Monde, the cause would be the 2001 "Equal Opportunity Programme", but a lecturer in the school stated in 2021 that the reason is more the desire to attract international students and therefore the need to mark more leniently: all marks are harmonized so that the average mark would always be the same. [117] [118]

The school has also been criticized for its close-mindedness and for its self-persuasion to be an elite institution. [119] [120] Libération stated in an editorial that the school have not understood that it is not special in the outside world. [121] Peter Gumbel called Sciences Po and other "Grandes Écoles" "elite colleges [which] have become a machine for perpetuating a brilliant but blinkered, often arrogant and frequently incompetent ruling freemasonry". [111] 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". [122]

Sciences Po has also been accused of being unduly helped by the media and politicians. "Almost every French newspaper is run by an alumnus of Sciences Po", and most of the journalists in France are alumni from Sciences Po, so it would give the school "an unparalleled media coverage" and permit it to "cultivate a culture of secrecy" about its internal affairs. [123] [ better source needed ] [124] "Sciences-Po is under-criticized," analyzes a professor for Mediapart , "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." [124] The journalist Ariane Chemin stated in 2013 that, because so many journalists come from Sciences Po, the school has an unduly good public reputation. [125]

The institute has also been criticized for the unfair favoritism it would be the subject of from the State, in which many public servants would be alumni of the school. It is partly state-funded, and some, including institutes of political studies in the provinces, have indeed 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". [126] Nicolas Jounin stated that the school is a "financial hold-up". [112]



Sciences Po is funded in large part by public money and is a semi-public institute but is governed as a private institution. It has been described by Alain Garigou as governed from 1872 to 2013 in compliance the "discreet rules of the bourgeoisie". [127] The founder Emile Boutmy stayed the director until his death in 1906 and his successor stayed until he was 90 years old in 1936.

In 2013, the process of designation of a successor for Richard Descoings has been openly criticized. Louis Vogel, professor of law, former president of the Society of Presidents of university, of Paris 2 University and of Sorbonne University and Sciences Po alumnus, had announced its candidacy based on bringing the school closer to the universités in a new international environment. [128] He was presented as the front-runner as his profile and experience matched the best the advertised job profile. [129] Louis Vogel was one of the three preselected candidacies but ended up retracting its candidacy before the final choice. He stated that the pre-selection also chose candidates who did not fit with the job profile, showed that the real desired profile was else, and that he did not want to endorse with his candidacy a process that is in opposition with his convictions. [130] He further stated that Sciences Po "is sending a bad signal" [131] and that they will have to solve their issue internally. [43] The student vice-president of the executive board said that this decision is a "disavowal" for the research committee of Sciences Po. [132] Two other candidates publicly criticized the process. [132] In the end, Frédéric Mion made a last minute candidacy with a light application of 9 pages and was chosen with the sponsorship of Olivier Duhamel. [42]

In 2021, after the Duhamel scandal, and the resignations of Olivier Duhamel and Frédéric Mion, the process for the designation of the new head of the National Foundation, a new board of the Foundation and a new head the institute (Sciences Po itself) was heated and largely criticized. [52] [133] The press talked about a "bad soap" [134] filled with "low blows", [135] and alumni and academics talked about a "grotesque" "parody of democracy" [51] According to Challenges , people close to Duhamel who are still members of the board of the National Foundation and who will be leaving are creating ad hoc committees, outside of the status of the Foundation, to process to votes in which they have a preponderant voice to choose in advance who can be candidate to become the head and the new members of the board, who will select afterwards the director of Sciences Po itself. [134] After several votes which have been criticized for their lack of due process, Laurence Bertrand has been pre-selected to become the new head of the Foundation. [136] Another candidate judged the legitimity of the process "hardly credible". [136] A third candidate published an op-ed in Le Monde exposing the details of what he called a "tragicomedy". [137] In the end, Mathias Vicherat, former CEO of Danone, was chosen. [55] This appointment has been criticized, because Vicherat does not have an academic background. He would have been chosen as a friend and former classmate of Emmanuel Macron. A lecturer at the Institute said: "The whole procedure was shamelessly rigged so that in the end, only the candidacy of Mathias Vicherat, the President's friend, with no academic experience, remained. They methodically discarded all serious candidates." [56] [57]

Duhamel scandal

Camille Kouchner, daughter of Bernard Kouchner, published a book in which she wrote that her step-father Olivier Duhamel, at that time president of the Foundation of Sciences Po which was the "heart of [his] power" for 30 years, [32] sexually abused his step-son for two years during his childhood. [138] [139] [140] She denounced the "microcosm of powerful people, [at] Saint-Germain-des-Prés" (headquarters of Sciences Po) who "knew" according to her, but acted "like nothing happened". [141] Newspapers further unearthed a series of controversial attitudes toward the sexuality of minors. [142] [143] It led to a series of investigations on the environment of Duhamel at Sciences Po and on the way they dealt with these abuses. [32]

The scandal "shook" Sciences Po ( Le Monde ) [144] [32] and put it into turmoil (France Culture). [145] The scandal was compared to a "bomb" launched on Sciences Po ( Le Figaro ), [146] to an "unpinned grenade throwned on Sciences Po" ( Le Temps and Courrier International ) [147] and to a "shockwave" on Sciences Po ( The Times , [148] La Croix [149] etc.). Frederic Mion had been alerted, in particular by Aurélie Filippetti in 2019, former Ministry of Culture, [150] of the situation but a "law of silence" had been put in place in the family regarding this. [138] Mion declared he thought he was "rumour" and that he should have taken the issue more seriously. He told Le Monde: "I let myself be fooled". [151] [150] According to Le Temps , a group of lecturers knew these allegations, some of them since 2008. They didn't break the silence, justifying themselves by the possible prescriptive period or that these facts were part of the "familial saga" in a hedonist context and "complex parents-children relations" in the 1970s. [152]

The scandal eventually led to a series of resignations under pressure at Sciences Po. After Duhamel himself resigned, both students of Sciences Po and public figures asked for the resignation of Frédéric Mion, director of Sciences Po, who first refused to do so. [153] [154] [155] [156] Mion, who Duhamel hand-picked in controversial circumstances as director of Sciences Po with a salary of 200,000 euros, [42] [148] [151] first acknowledged "errors in judgment in [his] handling of the allegations", and after a continuous pressure to do so, resigned in the end. [157] It later became apparent that he had lied to the inspectors to protect at least 6 other people inside Sciences Po. [158] Marc Guillaume, former secretary of state, current prefect of the Paris region, and a close associate of Duhamel, resigned from the National foundation of Sciences Po. [159]

Through Sciences Po, Duhamel had a large "network of influence" in politics, newspapers, TV channels, finance, etc. and therefore the scandal attained many people because of their link with the institution. [160] Their role in protecting this intellectual environment has been questioned. [161] Duhamel's power has extented to Emmanuel Macron and Édouard Philippe (former prime minister), both Sciences Po alumni, and both are trying to distance themselves from the "Dumahel case". [162] Elisabeth Guigou, former minister of Justice, resigned from the national commission on incest. [159]

The scandal also has put into light the power of the Foundation of Sciences Po, less well known than Sciences Po itself but "at the heart of strategical decisions since 1945", and that the FNSP and Sciences Po are "untouchable with the power of their network". [149]

Following the Duhamel 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.” [139]

Sexual violence

After Richard Descoing, head of the school from 1997 to 2012, died under suspicious circumstances, it was revealed that he had sex with students, [163] and made no case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn's habit of "seducing" young students. [138] Descoing also has been accused of sending burning messages to students, but no further inquiry was made. [32] Descoing had a controversial night life and relation to drugs, and was found dead in a hotel in suspicious circumstances. [164] [165] [166] After the New York v. Strauss-Kahn case, DSK had to stop giving lectures at Sciences Po. [167] He admitted orgies with young women[ who? ][ where? ] but had denied any violence. [168]

In February 2021, hundreds of students and former students shared on Twitter allegations of rape or sexual abuse at several Instituts d'études politiques, and claimed that despite denunciations of victims, "colleagues and staff [were] unwilling to take their complaints seriously". [169] [170] A hashtag #SciencesPorcs ("Sciences Pigs", similar to the French #Metoo hashtag #Balancetonporcs) has been widely used to do so. [171]

Among many op-eds dealing with the 2021 crisis at Sciences Po, two male alumni published in L'Express an op-ed specific to the sexual violence scandal, stating their disagreement with the "caricature" that is made of Sciences Po, which would be the object of "passions, sometimes irrational ones" in the public "imaginary" because of the elite status they say the institute has; they assured there is no systemic problem regarding sexual violence in Sciences Po. [172] Bénédicte Durand, interim administrator of the school, further told Le Figaro that "no, there is no rape culture in Sciences Po". [173]

The school published a report on sexual and sexist violence that was called "abundant but shy". [53]

Racism and social issues

Students have created the associations "Alwanat" and "Being Black at Sciences Po" to denounce open anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, anti-Black and anti-Asian hate by staff and students in the Reims and Menton campuses. Students anonymously asked the institute to recognise the existence of racism in Sciences Po. [174]

Many students and some members of the French Parliament have expressed concern about the enforcement of racialism in Sciences Po. [175]

The institution has been accused by two members of Parliament, in particular Annie Genevard, to give additional points to students using the controversial écriture inclusive. Sciences Po has denied this claim and it has been widely reported as fake news, [176] but Le Figaro news have found the information to be true [177] and some media have taken back their assessment of this information as being fake news. [178]

Financial scandals

Alain Lancelot, director of Sciences Po from 1987 to 1996, was investigated for financial mismanagement by the French Court of Audit. [179]

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. [180] [181] [182]

Descoings, director 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. [183]

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. [184]

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, [185] but the final coronary report eventually stated that he died a natural death. [186] Descoings' energy on this last day and the missing phones and computer have raised questions as to the precise circumstances of his death. [187]

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. [188] The Court noted that the school's complex legal status – a public institute managed by a private trust – had contributed to dysfunction and waste. It also criticized the French government for increasing state funding for the school without insisting on additional public oversight. [189] [190] Sciences Po has also been accused to prevail results over morals. [191]

In November 2012, the government dismissed Hervé Crès  [ fr ], Sciences Po's interim director, but he sought the school's permanent directorship all the same, reasoning that Alain Lancelot and Richard Descoings, former Sciences Po directors, had also been reprimanded by the Court of Audit and yet performed well in their management of the school. [192]

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 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. [193] [194]

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 school's record and asked the judges to write their report again. [195] [196]

Access to the Bar

Originally, only the "maîtrise en droit" delivered after 4 years of study by universités (as opposed to Grandes écoles like Sciences Po) 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 faculties of law in universités, 54 professors of law signed a long text in the 'Recueil Dalloz' (major French legal journal), called "The Fight for the Law". 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 Paris II Panthéon-Assas, and François Gaudu, professor at Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne. [197]

In 2007, however, a governmental decree authorized Sciences Po students to pass the Bar exam, providing they take a master's degree with the mention "law". Academics in law labeled 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. 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. [197] To them, with this decree, the law was becoming a marketing product in a service of a school of political science that has many connections with politicians. They would have preferred Sciences Po to keep with political sciences. [198]

In 2009, Sciences Po created the "École de droit de Sciences Po" ("law school", as opposed in French to a faculté de droit, "faculty of law"), delivering masters (graduate) degrees only. In 2008, partly as an answer, Paris II Panthéon-Assas created a collège de droit (undergraduate level) and then an "école de droit" (graduate level) on top of its faculty of law to attract top students in France. [199] [200] [201] A lot of universities followed this model, and created these highly selective "colleges" or "schools". [202]

Use of adjunct lecturers

Sciences Po has been criticized for the abuse of the title of "professor" from their adjunct lecturers. Only 7% of the teaching body have permanent employment. People lecturing only a few hours call themselves "professor at Sciences Po". This creates artificial advertisement, both for Sciences Po advertising a prestigious "staff" and for politicians and journalists linking themselves to this prestigious network. [203]

Notable people


It has been customary to graduate in Sciences Po in addition to a law school or a grande école in Paris, therefore many of these graduates are also graduates of the latter. [204] Most the alumni network is composed of students who received lectures in Sciences in addition to another studies.

In 2016, the Sciences Po Alumni Association declared that there were 55,000 alumni. [205] Many alumni are notable for their roles in fields such as politics or business. [206] [207]


French Presidents who attended Sciences Po
Georges Pompidou 1969 (cropped).jpg
Georges Pompidou, 2nd President of the French Fifth Republic
President Francois Mitterrand in 1983.jpg
François Mitterrand, 4th President of the French Fifth Republic
Jacques Chirac (1997) (cropped).jpg
Jacques Chirac, 5th President of the French Fifth Republic
Francois Hollande - 2017 (27869823159) (cropped 2).jpg
François Hollande, 7th President of the French Fifth Republic
Emmanuel Macron (cropped).jpg
Emmanuel Macron, 8th and Incumbent President of the French Fifth Republic

Five of the eight presidents of the French Fifth Republic have attended Sciences Po, including Georges Pompidou (in addition to the École normale supérieure), François Mitterrand (in addition to the Paris Law Faculty), Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy (who did not graduate; in addition to the law school of Paris Nanterre University), François Hollande (in addition to HEC and Paris II), and Emmanuel Macron. [208] Acting president Alain Poher (in addition to Mines ParisTech) is also an alumnus. A number of French politicians who are SciencesPo alumni also graduated from Ecole Nationale d'Administration (ENA), as the SciencesPo degree and its preparatory programmes prepare well for the competitive entrance to ENA. [209]

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. [210] The French Castex government includes a number of Sciences Po graduates, including Florence Parly, Bruno Le Maire, and Jean-Michel Blanquer. [211]

Some politicians having a role in international organisations were also students at Sciences Po, including Simone Veil (in addition to the Paris Law School), 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; [212] Jean-Claude Trichet, former President of the European Central Bank.


Senior French diplomats including François Delattre (currently Permanent Representative of France to the UN), [213] Gérard Araud (former ambassador to the USA), [214] Sylvie Bermann (currently ambassador to Russia), [215] Bernard Émié (currently Director of the DGSE), [216] Jean-Maurice Ripert (currently ambassador to China) [217] and Maurice Gourdault-Montagne (currently ambassador to China) [218] are also alumni.


The writer Marcel Proust for one year, the founder of the modern Olympics Pierre de Coubertin for one year, [219] fashion designer Christian Dior, author Leïla Slimani, author Emmanuel Carrère, Harvard University Professor of political science Stanley Hoffman, journalist Arthur Dreyfus, researcher, Margaret Maruani, and former Le Monde editor Jean-Marie Colombani have studied from Sciences Po. [220]

Teaching staff

Sciences Po recruits many former or current professionals to teach courses as temporary adjunct lecturers. 7% of the teaching body are permanent members. [203]

Permanent members

The philosopher, anthropologist and sociologist Bruno Latour has been teaching at Sciences Po since 2006. [221]

Arbitrator Emmanuel Gaillard taught at the Law School. [222]

Past temporary lecturers

High ranking civil servants have given lectures in the past alongside their daily job, at the beginning of the evening: 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, [223] Nobel Prize Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz, and former Economics Minister and Ex-Managing Director of IMF Dominique Strauss-Kahn. [224] 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, economist Yann Algan and former French Minister of Culture Aurélie Filippetti.

Over 20 other international politicians have given talks at Sciences Po, including but not limited to: 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. [225] [226]


National foundation of Sciences Po (FNSP)

Sciences Po

EmileBoutmy PereDeSciencesPo.jpg
Emile Boutmy
Eugene d'Eichthal.jpg
Eugène d'Eichtal
Michel Gentot.jpg
Michel Gentot
Vignette lancelot.jpg
Alain Lancelot
Directors of the Paris Institute of Political Studies and Administrators of the National Foundation of Political Sciences
  • 1872-1906 : Emile Boutmy
  • 1906-1936 : Eugène d'Eichtal
  • 1945–47 : Roger Seydoux
  • 1947–79 : Jacques Chapsal
  • 1979–87 : Michel Gentot
  • 1987–96: Alain Lancelot
  • 1997–2012: Richard Descoings
  • 2012: Hervé Crès (interim)
  • 2012–13: Jean Gaeremynck (interim)
  • 2013–2021: Frédéric Mion
  • 2021–2021 Bénédicte Durand (interim)
  • 2021–present Mathias Vicherat

See also

References and notes


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Coordinates: 48°51′15.02″N2°19′42.49″E / 48.8541722°N 2.3284694°E / 48.8541722; 2.3284694

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