Sciences Po

Paris Institute of Political Studies
Institut d'études politiques de Paris
Former names
École libre des sciences politiques
Type Public, Grande école
Established 1872
Endowment €173 million
President Olivier Duhamel
Director Frédéric Mion
Academic staff
Students 13,000
Undergraduates 4000
Postgraduates 3900
Location Paris, Reims, Dijon, Le Havre, Nancy, Poitiers, Menton, France
Campus Urban
Nickname Sciences Po
Mascot The lion and the fox

Sciences Po (French pronunciation: [sjɑ̃s po]), or Paris Institute of Political Studies (French: Institut d'études politiques de Paris, French pronunciation: [institut d'etudes politiques]), is a selective university (known as a Grande École[1] in French) located in Paris, France.

Its main campus is located on rue Saint-Guillaume in the 7th arrondissement. It maintains departments in political science, economics, history, sociology, law, finance, business, communication, social and urban policy, management, and journalism.

Sciences Po is ranked 4th in Politics and International Studies by QS 2016 World University Rankings.[2] Sciences Po is a member of several academic consortia (including APSIA and the College Board).

The school was created in 1872 to improve the training available for public servants and politicians following a series of political catastrophes.[3][4]

It is seen in France as an elite institution[5][6][7] but is strongly criticised in France and abroad and faced numerous scandals.[8][9][10]


1872–1945: École Libre des Sciences Politiques

Sciences Po Founder, Émile Boutmy

Sciences Po was established in February 1872 as the École Libre des Sciences Politiques 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.”[11]

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.

The situation since 1945

As per ordinance 45-2284 issued on 9 October 1945, two entities were created from ELSP: Fondation nationale des sciences politiques (English: National Foundation of Political Science) or FNSP and Institut d'études politiques de Paris (English: Paris Institute of Political Studies) or IEP Paris. 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”.[11]

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 an entire system of institutes of political studies (French: Institut d'études politiques) across France, namely in Strasbourg, Lyon, Aix, Bordeaux, Grenoble, Toulouse, and then in Rennes and Lille. They are not to be confounded with Sciences Po's satellite campuses.

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, contribute to the reputation attained by Sciences Po research.[11]

The Richard Descoings Era (1997-2012)

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 March 2001, the school's governing council widened its admissions policy. From September 2002, Sciences Po began accepting students from certain schools located in economically depressed suburbs of Paris on the basis of their school record and a 45-minute interview, rather than the name-blind examination all other students must pass to be admitted.


Sciences Po garden, between the rue Saint-Guillaume and the rue des Saints-Pères.

Sciences Po is located in Paris, in the 6th and 7th districts (arrondissements):

Sciences Po also has five regional campuses. Each campus has a specific regional focus:

The Paris Campus offers a general social sciences programme. It is also home to a regional concentration on Africa.



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, socioeconomics and globalization.

Network of universities

Sciences Po is part of a network of 410 partner universities. Partner universities include: Berkeley (USA), Cambridge (England), Columbia (USA), Freie Universität Berlin (Germany), Fudan (China), Keio (Japan), London School of Economics (England), Tufts (USA), etc.

Sciences Po is a member of the Global Public Policy Network along with the London School of Economics, the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

Sciences Po is a member of the Sorbonne Paris Cité alliance.

Library and publishing

Sciences Po Library

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 National Ministry of 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.

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

Rankings and reputation


For the year 2016 the QS World University Rankings Sciences Po ranked globally 223 in the world (7th in France), 86 (4th in France) in social sciences and management, 149 (4th in France) in art and humanity, 4th (1st of France) for Politics and International studies, 50 in sociology (2nd in France) 51-100 (2nd of France) in Law, 51-100 (1st ex aequo in France) in Economics & Econometrics, 51-100 (2nd ex aequo in France) in History.[12] Its master's degree in Economics and Policy was ranked 6th of Western Europe (1st of France) by Eduniversal among masters in Economics.[13] The magazine Foreign Policy, for their 2015 rankings, ranked Sciences Po 21st in the world to obtain a master's degree for a policy career in International Relations.[14] In the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2013/2014, Sciences Po ranked 98th in the world for Social Sciences.[15] 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.[16]

Reputation and scandals

Due to its prominent alumni, its selectivity and its history of providing candidates for admission to the École nationale d'administration, it is seen in France as an elite institution.[5][6][7] However, it is criticised, as well as the ENA, for creating in France an oligarchy[8] of disconnected with reality,[9] '...blinkered, arrogant and frequently incompetent people.'[10]

Sciences Po has had numerous scandals:

During the World War II (1939-1945), the formerly private institution had a cloudy behaviour, the honorary president of Sciences Po being Philippe Pétain, head of the antisemitic Vichy Régime. So it was decided in 1945 to semi-nationalize the École Libre des Sciences Politiques.[17]

Alain Lancelot, president of the Institut d'études politiques de Paris from 1987 to 1996, has been sued by the French Court of Audit for financial mismanagement and has been found guilty.[18]

Since the "Richard Descoing era" (1997-2012), the number of scandals has increased.[19][20] Descoing 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 in partly stately funded.[21] He was found dead in his luxury hostel in a Manhattan luxury hotel room, police thought the cause of death would be an overdose[22] linked to his controversial gay livestyle,[23] the final coronary report concluded to natural death but his energy the day of the death and the missing phones and computer have raised suspicion.[24] In February 2012, it has been found that an inspector of the French Court of Audit, in charge of investigating the financial behaviour of Sciences Po, was in the same time employed by Sciences Po.[25]

In October 2012, the French Court of Audit castigated the serious financial mismanagement in Sciences Po.[26][20] It strongly denounced the large use of public money for personal use of the staff, the tax evasions, the absence of doing of contractual work by most of the lecturers,[27] the infringement of financial regulation on public works contract, the absence of any control from the State, and even the rise of 33% of the public funding in the last 5 years.[28] Sciences Po has also been accused to prevail results over morals.[29] The French Court of Audit has appealed to the public attorney for bringing a lawsuit for some of these facts.[28] Hervé Crès the interim manager of Sciences Po (now head of the doctoral school of Sciences Po) has promised to change while preserving its identity[29] 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 Descoing have been found guilty too, but it doesn’t matter for what concerns the presidency of Sciences Po.[18]

In July 2015, the public attorney sued Jean-Claude Casanova, the head of the institution which was supposed to supervise Sciences Po, for a trial before the Court of Financial and Budgetary Discipline.[30] Sciences Po, with Frédéric Mion as new director, tried to defend Casanova.[31] 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 customery in Science Po to follow all the financial rules.[32]

Notable people


Over 65,000 people have studied at Science Po, and alumni and former staff include twenty-eight heads of state or government, specifically the last four French presidents (François Hollande, Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy - although he didn't graduate - and François Mitterrand), 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 was a doctoral student at this institution in 2012.[33]

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.


Instructors included or still include former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, former WTO president Pascal Lamy, current French President Francois Hollande, former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, former French foreign minister Hubert Védrine, Nobel Prize Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz and former Economics minister as well as former Managing Director of IMF Dominique Strauss-Kahn.


References and notes


  2. "QS World University Rankings by Subject 2016 - Politics & International Studies". Top Universities.
  3. Dieckhoff, Alain. The Sciences Po Series in International Relations and Political Economy. Springer.
  4. Paul Amis, The integrity of integration: the ethics of exchange student welfare in undergraduate programmes at a French higher education institution, p. 2
  5. 1 2 Conley, Marjorie (09.09.2003). "Sciences Po ― an elite institution's introspection on its power, position and worth in French society". Portfolio,The Journalism of Ideas. New York University. Retrieved August 10, 2016. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. 1 2 Koh, Aaron (2016). Elite Schools: Multiple Geographies of Privilege. New York; Oxon: Routledge. pp. 193,. ISBN 978-1--138-77940-2.
  7. 1 2 Guttenplan, D.D. (04.09.2011). "In France, a Bastion of Privilege No More". The New York Times. Retrieved August 10, 2016. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. 1 2
  9. 1 2
  10. 1 2 Lichfield, John (17.05.2013). "Liberte, inegalite, fraternite: Is French elitism holding the country back?". The Independent. Retrieved August 10, 2016. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. 1 2 3 “Sciences Po 1945–1979” Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po
  12. "QS World University Rankings by Subject 2016". Top Universities.
  13. Eduniversal Best Masters Ranking in Economics - France
  14. "Foreign Policy - The Best International Relations Schools in the World". Foreign Policy.
  15. THE World University Rankings for 2013-2014. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. "Alma Mater Index: Global Executives 2013". Times Higher Education.
  17. La dérive proconsulaire de Sciences Po
  18. 1 2 Sciences Po : la Cour des comptes demande des poursuites
  19. MediaPart, Dossier: Sciences-Po, la fuite en avant et les scandales
  20. 1 2 La dérive financière de Sciences Po et la complaisance de l’État
  21. MediaPart, Les dirigeants de Sciences-Po touchent des superbonus
  22. Cops Believe French Scholar Accidentally Overdosed
  23. French educator found dead in New York was dynamic, controversial figure
  24. Le Monde, Richard Descoings est mort "de causes naturelles" selon le légiste
  25. Quand Sciences-Po salarie son contrôleur
  26. Sciences Po Paris : la grande gabegie de l'ère Descoings
  27. Le Monde, La Cour des comptes fustige la gestion de Sciences Po
  28. 1 2 Sciences Po : une forte ambition, une gestion défaillante
  29. 1 2 Document : la réponse de Sciences-Po à la Cour des comptes
  30. Scandale des salaires à Sciences Po : Jean-Claude Casanova renvoyé devant la Cour de discipline budgétaire
  31. Affaire Descoings : Sciences po fait bloc derrière Jean-Claude Casanova
  32. Jean-Claude Casanova condamné dans l’« affaire Sciences Po »
  33. José Sócrates: 1 more year in Paris (Portuguese)
  1. ^ "LSE: A History of the London School of Economics and Political Science, 1895–1995", Oxford University Press, 1 June 1995.
  2. ^ "Consolidation de L'autonomie de Sciences Po" Sénat, 1996.
  3. ^ "Le statut juridique de Sciences Po: la dualité FNSP et IEP de Paris" Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po
  4. ^ “Sciences Po Paris Overview: Introducing Sciences Po” Sciences Po Website, 2001.
  5. ^ “Sciences Po Paris Overview: Introducing Sciences Po” Sciences Po Website, 2001.
  6. ^ “Sciences Po Paris Overview: Introducing Sciences Po” Sciences Po Website, 2001.
  7. ^ "La Bibliothèque de Sciences Po", Sciences Po Website, 2007
  8. ^ "IBSS Boosts Coverage of French Social Science Journals", IBSS, 2005.
  9. ^ "Presses de Sciences Po", Sciences Po Website, 21 October 2004.
  10. ^ "Columbia University, LSE and Sciences Po launch Global Public Policy Network", PRNewsWire, 19 September 2005.
  11. ^ "Sciences Po’s Joint Degrees", Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs, 21 October 2004.
  12. ^ "Sciences Po ― an elite institution's introspection on its power, position and worth in French society" NYU Department of Journalism, 9 September 2003.


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