What goes on outside the classroom at Sciences Po?

With over 230 student volunteer projects, a thousand activities and events, and a whole range of sports and art workshops, the academic year at Sciences Po is packed with volunteering, cultural, and athletic opportunities that offer all students the chance to put their talents to use and quench their thirst for activity. But beyond the stats, what do our students really get up to in their free time? Here’s a fact-checking overview of a generation of students ever in tune with the times.

Students take rowing and calligraphy classes – TRUE

Did you know that the Sciences Po Sports Association has been around since 1931? Like arts, athletics play an integral role in the Sciences Po experience: they can even be counted as ECTS academic credits. Today, students have a choice of over 45 sports – from horseback riding to rowing, and not to mention zumba – and some 20 cultural activities, including classical singing and calligraphy.

The main student associations are affiliated to political parties – FALSE

You might be surprised to hear that among the 100 student associations registered in 2019, the three most frequent categories were “art and culture”, followed by “international affairs”, and only then “politics/debate”. “Furthermore”, comments Andreas Roessner, Sciences Po’s Director of Student Life and Activities, “within this category, political party derivatives are in a minority compared to debate and think tank-related associations. Over the last few years we’ve been seeing a sort of ‘deinstutionalisation’ of political engagement at Sciences Po”. Tying fourth in the top ten of popular student topics were “education” and “solidarity/citizen engagement”.

Students prefer to act on behalf of specific causes – TRUE

“Student activism has changed”, summarises Sébastien Thubert, a student life administrator. “In the same way that they sign very targeted online petitions, Sciences Po students of today tend to prefer precise and concrete causes, actions with a strong short-term impact”. That explains the success of a new type of voluntary activity created in 2017, the “student initiatives”: short-term projects aimed at achieving a specific outcome. “At the end of the project, the initiative can either stop there or evolve into a more permanent registered association”, explains Sébastien Thubert. Students voted firmly in favour of this kind of flexibility for projects, launching more than 116 initiatives across all campuses in 2018/2019.

Online petitions have replaced pamphlets – TRUE

“The ways associations persuade and communicate have changed”, explains Andreas Roessner, “like the rest of their generation, students are increasingly using social networks to start movements and moving away from student stalls and pamphlets. Which doesn’t mean they are less actively engaged: it’s even likely that their activism at Sciences Po is just one part of their involvement in any given cause.”

The places used by student associations are changing as well. Today the proliferation of activity is spread across seven different campuses. Meanwhile on the Paris Campus, whole new spaces are emerging for associations: “These days, the 28 rue des Saint Pères site, brought to life by student association PAVéS and with fresh vegetables provided every week by AMAP, has become a central space for student groups to discuss and socialise”, explains Sébastien Thubert. As for their activities, recent years have been far from a lull: in 2018/2019, the Paris Campus played host to almost a thousand activities and events organised by the associations, including seven specifically coordinated themed weeks. Making it to the top five most frequent activities (in order): culture, theatre, oration, diplomacy and… the environment.

There’s no room left for new associations and student movements - FALSE

Got an idea for an association or initiative? You won’t have any difficulty turning it into a collective project and finding it a place within campus life at Sciences Po. Any association can be registered with the Student Life and Education Committee, which works in partnership with the Department of Student Life and the administrative teams on each campus. The Department of Student Life can provide all information to help you create your own student association. You will need to find other students who share your values, your passions, and are committed to your causes, form a team, then work together to advance them. In doing so you’ll be developing your capacities for decision-making, team work, public speaking, civic engagement, and activism: all vital skills that the university promotes and supports by the proliferation of its student associations.

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