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"To be a PhD student is to be at the heart of knowledge production"

  • Doctoral School's dean Pierre François ©Sciences PoDoctoral School's dean Pierre François ©Sciences Po

Of Sciences Po’s seven graduate schools, the Doctoral School has a unique status. This school awards both Master’s and doctoral degrees, and supports aspiring researchers at the beginning of their research careers in law, economics, history, political science and sociology. At the Research Forum – an annual event for students that promotes careers in research – the Doctoral School’s new dean Pierre François, a researcher at the Centre for the Sociology of Organisations, sat down for an interview.

What is a Doctoral School? What are its missions at Sciences Po?

The Doctoral School is one of Sciences Po’s seven graduate schools and offers programmes starting at Master’s level. What makes it different is that it also awards doctoral degrees. While each of the other schools focuses on a certain field, the Doctoral School’s course offerings are primarily organised by discipline, including the five disciplines that structure Sciences Po’s intellectual mission: law, economics, history, political science and sociology. Less formally, I would say that the Doctoral School is the nexus for Sciences Po’s two fundamental missions: research and teaching. Pedagogy is central because the goal is to educate students by teaching them the concepts and methods of social science research. But the Doctoral School is also a key player in research at Sciences Po; as is the case at all higher education institutions, PhD students are critical to our institution’s research capacity. This is true in both quantitative terms – Sciences Po’s permanent faculty includes around 200 researchers and research professors, and double that number of PhD students – and in qualitative terms, because PhD students’ research reflects the most advanced theoretical and methodological innovations in their respective disciplines.    

What defines your school compared to others in the research landscape?

Compared to its counterparts in France and worldwide, the Doctoral School stands out in two ways. In France, it was one of the first to take the form of a standalone school that integrates Master’s and doctoral programmes on the one hand, and education and research centres on the other. This early structuring allowed the school to initiate crucial reforms and implement an organisation of studies that allows us to go much further today. But the Doctoral School also owes some of its distinctiveness to the special link between Sciences Po’s history and the history of the social sciences. Sciences Po and the social sciences were founded at the same time, in the last third of the nineteenth century. The origins of both derived from the contention that Western societies were experiencing a crisis which science could help understand, if not resolve. That is not to say that the histories of Sciences Po and of the social sciences are one and the same, but rather to emphasise that in France they are closely related, and that the transformations in doctoral education need to take account of this long history.       

You have just joined the Doctoral School: what is your initial assessment?

A lot of work was done under my predecessors, especially Jean-Marie Donegani whom I succeeded as dean. The first major accomplishment was to change the model and ensure that all PhD students would be funded, which is the case today. This is exceptional for a French doctoral school, especially in the social sciences. The other major change was to integrate PhD study into a collective approach. For a long time, thesis supervision depended on the interpersonal relationship between the PhD student and the thesis supervisor. Now PhD research is part of a collective dynamic within the research centres. Admission into a PhD programme is based on a collegial decision. The thesis supervisor obviously plays a key role, but the research centre has a say, as do the Doctoral School and the department. PhD students then pursue their research within Sciences Po’s research centres, where regular meetings are held with the doctoral committees. 

What are your future goals?

My mission is to continue this significant transformation process within the school based on three development priorities. The first priority is to encourage Master’s students from other Sciences Po schools to enter the Doctoral School. The second priority is to develop a multidisciplinary approach. The third is internationalisation.    

Will a research-based Master’s programme no longer be the only path to PhD study?

Research-based Master’s will of course remain the main path, as they offer the most direct access and the most comprehensive and relevant training. But we would also like to give students the option of pursuing their PhD after any Master’s programmes, not just the research-based ones. It goes without saying that we will not compromise on the academic requirements for obtaining a PhD, which remains a highly demanding and necessarily selective programme. Sciences Po must maintain a very high standard of doctoral education if it is to position itself successfully as a research university. The idea is to adapt our course offerings at Master’s level so that students from other schools can test their interest in the basic disciplines and acquire the skills that they would need to pursue a PhD.

You said that your second development priority is a multidisciplinary approach? What is that exactly?

Sciences Po’s research policy defines a disciplinary perimeter encompassing five contiguous disciplines, which share a great many productive points of contact. At the doctoral level, we now need to organise and intensify the dialogue between them, whether through teaching (giving historians the possibility of taking law courses, for example), or through forums for interdisciplinary dialogue, workshops and conferences on a shared topic in which one or two guests from outside the university might take part. Sciences Po’s Laboratory for the interdisciplinary evaluation of public policies (LIEPP) in particular has a long experience with interdisciplinary initiatives that will be extremely useful to us.

Has progress been made with regard to internationalisation?

Initiatives have already been undertaken concerning joint PhD supervision, dual degrees and mobility, and since 2011 international students have represented 40 percent of our PhD students. Now the idea is to internationalise further through a more institutional approach, rather than solely based on individual initiatives or isolated measures. Our goal is to continue attracting excellent students from French institutions – and obviously Sciences Po – as well as top international students.

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This summer, experience college life at Sciences Po

Discover our Summer Pre-College Programme
  • Sciences Po Reims campusSciences Po Reims campus

Every summer, Sciences Po opens its doors to secondary school students from around the world as part of the Summer School’s Pre-College Programme. This programme is an opportunity to discover Sciences Po and experience college life and academics at one of France’s leading universities.

Get a taste of university life

During three weeks in July, students undertake rigorous coursework in the social sciences, which introduces them to the key disciplines and methodologies of a Sciences Po education.

Participants explore current international issues from an interdisciplinary perspective through thematic master classes taught by Sciences Po professors. These master classes address subjects such as the European Union, migration, peace-building and sustainable development.  Interactive tutorials reinforce learning, while preparing students for university studies through an emphasis on academic methodology.

Elective classes allow students to either focus on one of Sciences Po’s core disciplines (such as international relations, political science, law or sociology) or to study French language.

Learn more about the academic programme.

Explore Reims and Paris

During the Pre-College Programme, students get the chance to live in both Reims and Paris, and study on two of Sciences Po’s most beautiful campuses.

The first two weeks take place on the Reims campus of Sciences Po, a beautifully restored historical site located in the heart of the city. A medium-sized city in the heart of France’s famous Champagne region, Reims is an ideal location for participants to immerse themselves in French life and culture. The programme culminates with a week in Paris, where students take classes on Sciences Po’s flagship campus in the historic Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighbourhood, and discover the capital’s landmarks and cultural sites.

Participants are housed together in shared rooms located in proximity to the Sciences Po campuses. A team of certified counselors, present 24 hours a day, ensures that students enjoy the best possible conditions for learning, comfort and security at Sciences Po. Meals are provided by the Summer School both on and off-campus.

Discover life outside the classroom.

Join Sciences Po’s international community

With participants coming from many different countries, the Pre-College Programme is truly an international experience. Reflecting the multiculturalism of the entire Sciences Po community, the 2017 student cohort represented 24 different nationalities and 25 countries of studies in total - from France, China and the USA to Italy, Mexico, Ivory Coast, India or Jordan.

Here’s what some of our alumni have to say about their experience in the Pre-College Programme:

"Looking back at these two weeks gives me an intense feeling of nostalgia. I gained friends, knowledge and many, many memories. I gained a whole experience that, frankly, can’t compare to anything that came before." - Marc, 16 years old, Spain

"My French language class was extremely useful to an international unfamiliar with the French system. The teacher was amazing, super interesting, and knew how to keep us interested. Thumbs up!" - Ana Sofia, 17 years old, USA

"The best experience I had during the Summer School is the opportunity of exchanging of opinions and ideas about almost anything with classmates [and] to get to know people living in other parts of the world. Gladly, the Summer School provides this kind of chance. Frankly, I really enjoyed it." - Mingxi, 17 years old, China

Find out more about Pre-College Programme's student profiles.

Eligibility and how to apply

The Pre-College Programme is open to students currently enrolled in secondary school, and who will still be enrolled in secondary school in Fall 2018. Candidates have to be at least 15 years old at the time of the programme. Online applications for this year's Summer School will open on January 8th, 2018. Learn more about eligibility criteria and how to apply.

Why choose Sciences Po over another university ?

Secondary school students gain valuable insight from Sciences Po undergrads
  • Amy Greene, assistant dean and James Quinn ©Campus ChannelAmy Greene, assistant dean and James Quinn ©Campus Channel

“What can I learn at Sciences Po?”, “Are all the courses in English?”, “Why choose Sciences Po rather than another university?”, “What is the best way to prepare for the interview?”, “Is accommodation available on campus?”, “What are the best clubs and societies at Sciences Po?”, ... These are some of the questions that secondary school students asked current undergraduates and Sciences Po representatives during the live Q&A on 28 November.

Watch the replay of the Q&A - you can select the particular questions you are interested in - and hear directly from James Quinn, undergraduate student on the Reims campus, Amy Greene, Assistant Dean for undergraduate international affairs, Chama Squalli, undergraduate student on the Menton campus, and Tilman Turpin, Director of the Reims campus.

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7 reasons to choose a One-Year Master's at Sciences Po

Sciences Po offers one-year Master’s for young graduates and early- to mid career- professionals seeking to take their career to the next level
  • The Eiffel Tower in Paris © Kiev.Victor / ShutterstockThe Eiffel Tower in Paris © Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock

Sciences Po in Paris offers one-year Master’s programmes for young professionals who want to fast-track their career. Each of these intensive programmes is taught in English in Paris. Discover seven of the many reasons young professionals from all over the world choose Sciences Po to take their expertise to the next level.

1. Boost your career with a degree from a world-renowned university

Sciences Po is ranked 4th internationally among research universities for Politics & International Studies (QS rankings) and 1st in France for Social Sciences (Times Higher Education rankings). Our degrees fast-track graduates to key positions in both the public and private sectors. Nearly 90 percent of Sciences Po graduates find work within six months of graduation.

2. Meet some of today’s most influential figures

Prominent figures from business, politics, and academia speak regularly at Sciences Po. Recent visitors include Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google Inc, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, Condoleeza Rice, former United States secretary of state, Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, Joseph Stiglitz, American economist, Nobel laureate in Economics, and Mark Thompson, New York Times CEO

3. Learn from the best academics and professionals

Courses at Sciences Po are taught by highly respected academics and internationally renowned practitioners. Leading recruiters value this combined academic and practical education, meaning that our graduates are highly sought after.

4 - Build an international network of reputed practitioners

Located in the heart of Paris, Sciences Po benefits from an extensive network of major companies, international organisations, governments, foundations and media outlets. Students at Sciences Po have direct access to this network.

5 - Engage with a community of top international students

Sciences Po students are recruited from among the finest candidates in France and abroad. Students on the one-year Master’s programmes are immersed in Sciences Po’s wider community of 13,000 undergraduate and graduate students, half of whom are from over 150 countries outside France.

6- Join a community of 65,000 alumni

Sciences Po alumni include French President Emmanuel Macron, former prime minister of Canada Pierre Trudeau, former UN secretary general Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former president of the IMF Michel Camdessus, and former president of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet.

7 - Experience life in a Parisian setting

The Sciences Po campus in Paris is located in the heart of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district, within walking distance of the city’s most famous landmarks including the Musée d’Orsay, the Luxembourg gardens, the Louvre and the Seine river.

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6 One-Year Master's for professionals from 6 fields

  • ©Martin Argyroglo©Martin Argyroglo

Sciences Po offers one-year Master’s programmes for young graduates and early- to mid-career professionals who want to fast-track their career. Each of these six intensive programmes is taught in English on the Sciences Po campus in Paris.

The LLM in Transnational Arbitration and Dispute Settlement for legal professionals

The LLM in Transnational Arbitration and Dispute Settlement offered at the Sciences Po Law School is an opportunity for professionals to learn the theory and practice of transnational arbitration and dispute settlement in one of the world’s most important centres for arbitration. Candidates must hold a law degree (Master 2, JD, LL.B., or the equivalent) and a professional experience (internships can be considered in the required professional experience).

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The Master in Advanced Global Studies for early- to mid-career professionals in the cardinal fields of International Affairs

The Master in Advanced Global Studies offered at the Sciences Po Paris School of International Affairs is an opportunity for early- to mid-career professionals to follow a one-year accelerated programme in International Affairs. The programme offers specialisations in International Security, International Public Management, International Economic Policy, Development Practice, Human Rights & Humanitarian Action, Environmental Policy, International Energy, as well as a further choice from 24 concentration programmes. Candidates must hold an undergraduate degree with at least five years of full-time, post-graduate professional experience in order to be eligible.

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The Master in Arts and Politics for young social science researchers, artists and those working in the cultural or political spheres

The Master in Arts and Politics offered at the Sciences Po School of Public Affairs is positioned at the crossroads of the social sciences, politics, and the arts, as can also be said of the work of its founding father, French philosopher Bruno Latour.  It is designed for architects, designers, academics, public servants, managers, researchers, administrators, activists, artists and curators who wish to give a new momentum to their career.

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The Master in Corporate Strategy for graduates aspiring to become highly specialised corporate strategists

The Master in Corporate Strategy is designed for young graduates interested in corporate strategy, entrepreneurship and humanities. It is the ideal accelerated programme for graduates aspiring to become highly specialised corporate strategists, either in-house or in consulting firms. Candidates must hold at least a Bachelor's degree with either 3-year work experience or a Master Year 1 under validation and, ideally, internship experience.

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The Master in Financial Regulation & Risk Management for graduates interested in regulatory issues

The Master in Financial Regulation and Risk Management offered at the Sciences Po School of Management & Innovation is designed for graduates interested in regulatory issues, corporate finance, risk management, compliance and the humanities. Candidates must hold at least a Bachelor's degree with either 3-year work experience or a Master Year 1 under validation with one year of full-time work experience (internship included).

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The Master in Public Affairs (MPA) for public policy professionals

The Master in Public Affairs (MPA) offered at the Sciences Po School of Public Affairs in Paris is designed for mid-career professionals wanting to further their expertise in public policy and public-private sector interaction. It offers specialisations in Cultural Policy, New Technology & Public Policy, Economic & Regulatory Policy, Energy & Sustainability, Health, Management of Public Affairs, Social Policy. Candidates must have at least five years of professional experience in the public, private or non-profit sector, be proficient in English, and hold at least a Bachelor's degree.

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