The École libre des sciences politiques was founded in Paris in 1872 as France recovered from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. Writer and political thinker Emile Boutmy wanted to open the school to educate a new generation of French students in politics and government for a modern French state. From the beginning, Sciences Po, as it came to be known, followed a different pedagogical approach. “Political sciences” included law, history, sociology, geography and economics, with a focus on contemporary society and research.
Political professionals taught alongside academics to emphasize practical application and engagement with the present. In addition, the university actively sought to involve itself with its international counterparts.
In 1945 the government partially nationalized the school. However, Sciences Po was able to maintain autonomy, and it now walks a unique line between private and public, allowing the school control of its instruction and faculty. Since the 1990s, Sciences Po has placed an even heavier emphasis on international study, with one year abroad required of all students and almost 50% international student population. It has introduced English language programs, and there are now seven Sciences Po campuses around France, each with its own geographic focus of study.
Today the school is well known for having produced almost all of France’s diplomatic, political and business leaders, including the country’s past four presidents. The three-year undergraduate program includes law, economics, management, history, political science, geography, languages and marketing. In 2001 it launched a socioeconomic diversity initiative to open its rigorous admission process to students from backgrounds who previously would have been unable to attend. The central Paris campus of 13,000 students now offers more than thirty masters and five doctoral degrees, and Sciences Po boasts more than 65,000 alumni.
Sciences Po in the FDA
Sciences Po is one of the founding members of the FDA, won the Tournament in 1997, and has often reached the Final since.