Sci Po: Greater diversity and selectivity

Challenges- Science PO was eagerly waiting for its new recruitment process for high school graduates. Why did you change the rules?

Benedict Durand This reform of admissions in the first cycle, started five years ago, was aimed at re-starting the diversification of our candidates. Because we have seen a lack of steam since the inception of Priority Education Agreements (CEPs) in 2000, particularly with bypass policies on the part of families within partner establishments. The diversity of the student pool was no longer improving. It remained a form of self-censorship of some high school graduates, not to mention preparatory courses conducted at some high schools, or often by very expensive private institutions. Level improvements and our integration into Parcoursup were the right moments to transform the hiring process.

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The abolition of written examinations has been widely commented upon: There will be a risk of dragging the level down…

The idea was to simplify the process and duration of the competition, benefiting primarily the initial audience, while maintaining the tension between excellence and democratization that Science Po seeks to embody. Despite Covid disrupting final year, applications remain high

That doubled, with a total of over 15,000 files reviewed for graduate admissions on Parcoursup. Among them, 793 students were admitted, excluding international recruits, double degree and CEP, with a record selectivity rate of 6.6%. In addition to producing three personal writings, including graduation marks, school performances and cover letters, the oral conducted at a distance allowed young people from across France to introduce themselves without having to travel. On average, admitted students scored 72 out of 80, with a range of 65 to 79.

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Has the objective of diversifying the profile been achieved?

sure. We took care to write to each high school principal in France to inform them of the new recruitment process. Overall, applicants come from 1,995 different establishments, which shows an increase of 45%. In particular, there are more admissions whose high school is located in Burgundy, Centre-Val-de-Loire or Hauts-de-France. And the students who will integrate Science Po at the start of the school year tend to come from London, Sartrouville or Font-Romu. For Ile-de-France high school graduates, their proportion fell from 36% in 2020 to 30% in 2021, which still represents 10 points more than the region’s weight. But we have not implemented penalties for secondary schools in le-de-France and the reform had no significant effect on the representation of private high schools.

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What about social diversity, despite the CEP system, being inadequate in the Grands Ecoles, including Science Po?

Our school had 26% of students on higher education scholarships last year. We are targeting 30% and I am very hopeful that we will reach. Because this year the proportion of scholarship holders among those admitted, whose families are assisted during secondary studies, has increased from 5% to 13%. Hence it is half-triple of youth from disadvantaged social categories. They will be able to begin their studies on one of our many campuses in areas where life is now less expensive, with two-thirds of our graduate students studying outside Paris. This, too, is an important argument for changing the face of future promotions.

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