Sciences Po: A Unique Institution

copyright Frederic S

Unfolding the History of Sciences Po

Founded in 1872 as the Ecole Libre des Sciences Politiques, Sciences Po has been training the best young minds of France and Europe for leadership service. As one of Europe's most distinguished universities, Sciences Po prepares its graduates to take the reins in international business, multilateral organizations, public service, communication, culture and other fields of endeavor.

The multidisciplinary approach of Emile Boutmy, the School's founder, went against the grain of the late XIXth century academic world. As a result, the project originally designed as part of the French university system opened its doors as a private school (école libre). In 1945, however, the Ecole Libre was transformed into the Institut d'Etudes Politiques (IEP, or Sciences Po Paris), fully integrated into the public education system. At the same time, the Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques was created to ensure the guardianship of the school's buildings, its matchless library, its autonomy and research foundation. Today, Sciences Po is a full-fledged, self-governing institution, which both enjoys the freedom and resources of a "grande école," and offers the key characteristics of a university - namely, a cluster of research centers, a major library and documentation facilities, and an active university press.

A Merit-Based Institution

From its onset, Sciences Po has trained a merit-based elite for leadership. Students are admitted upon passing a highly competitive entrance exam, which tests the candidates' quantitative, verbal and analytical skills. Pursuing the school founder's philosophy, the current President of Sciences Po, Richard Descoings, launched in 2001 a specific admission program aimed at fostering equality of opportunity for talented students coming from immigrant and/or low-income families. To date, 264 students have been recruited, 75 of whom joined the school in 2006. Sciences Po is the first institution in France to experience opening its doors to the most talented, yet socially less favored, students. The program is a great success so far, both in terms of integration and the students' obtaining their diploma.

Located at the Heart of Paris

Located in the world famous left-bank Saint-Germain district, Sciences Po's urban "campus" is composed of majestic seventeenth- and eighteenth-century mansions. It is surrounded by ministries, embassies, corporate headquarters, publishing houses and the National Assembly in short, the decision-making center of the capital. In addition to the professional advantages of Sciences Po's prime location, its students get to take in the rich cultural life of the Saint-Germain district with renowned cafés, art galleries, shops and theaters just steps away.

For more information about Sciences Po visit

Additional information