Studying Political Science in France

Written and prepared by Mahmoud Shaheen
Are you interested in the World, History, and Law? Do you follow current events and global issues? Political science is for you! But in concrete terms, what does political science consist of? Political science is the discipline that studies political phenomena. This discipline comprises a set of other disciplines: law, history, sociology, and economics.
In France, there are several institutions and schools in which one can study political science. In Paris, there is a very prestigious school specializing in political science, named SciencesPo. For the provincials, there are the IEPs; there are also political science licenses in the universities.

I – SciencesPo Paris

This school is known for “training the nation’s elite,” and is ranked 3rd for the best schools in political science, after Harvard and Oxford. This school has seen 5 presidents of the Fifth Republic: Pompidou, Mitterrand, Chirac, Holland, and Macron.
You can enter this school after the baccalaureate. In the first year, the admission procedure is based on a dossier (see here), which consists of having good grades in continuous assessment at the high school and good grades in the baccalaureate, preparing a cover letter and a CV, and having an oral interview to show your determination and your project to a jury of teachers in this school.
It is also possible to enter the Master’s program by applying directly to SciencesPo Paris. The admission procedure is based on a dossier and an oral interview in case of admissibility.
It is not possible to apply to SciencesPo in the second or third year.
You can be exempted from the entrance exam if you have an excellent grade on your baccalauréat.
To apply for the first year at SciencesPo, follow the conventional procedure on Parcoursup.
This school offers an LMD scheme (Licence, Master, and Ph.D.), with 3 years of Licence (bachelor’s degree) and 2 years of Master.
This school also has a particularity: The third year is a year of mobility, i.e., the school requires students to spend an academic year abroad or do internships.

II – The Institutes of Political Studies (IEP)

The Institutes of Political Studies, are 9 public institutions of higher education, located in Aix-en-Provence, Bordeaux, Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Rennes, Strasbourg, Toulouse and Saint-Germain-en-Laye. SciencesPo Grenoble and Bordeaux are independent, while the rest are in collaboration. Although SciencesPo Paris remains the most prestigious, those in the provinces are nevertheless highly rated. SciencesPo Paris offers a more generalized curriculum, while the provincial IEPs are more oriented towards specialization. For example, Aix-en-Provence’s IEP is more focused on the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and the Arab world.
One can enter these establishments after the baccalaureate or in the 2nd year of the master’s program (same procedure as SciencesPo Paris). The admission procedure is not the same as at SciencesPo Paris. It is done through a written exam (including history, contemporary questions, and language tests), so there is no need to prepare a dossier.
You may be exempted from the exam if you have done very well in the baccalaureate.
To apply for the IEPs, follow the conventional procedure on Parcoursup.
The IEPs also offer an LMD scheme (Licence, Master, and Ph.D.) with 3 years of licence and 2 years of master.
The third-year at the IEPs is also a year of mobility.

III- Political science bachelor’s degrees

Although the two main ways to study political science are SciencesPo Paris and the IEPs, there are political science bachelor’s degrees in French faculties. The courses are less prestigious than in SciencesPo Paris or an IEP, but the reputation is also good.
If you had your baccalaureate in France, you could then apply on Parcoursup. Still, if you have a foreign degree, for the second or third one, if you are a refugee, you have to apply directly to the university (Dossier vert or DAP) depending on the university. It is also important to know that these licenses are selective; that is to say that you must have good grades in high school. You can apply for any year with the corresponding ECT points.
Always according to the faculties, the LMD scheme is present. On the other hand, there is no mobility year; however, one can always go on Erasmus abroad.
P.S1: The degree at SciencesPo Paris, at the IEPs of the provinces and in the faculties, is possible in a double degree, that is to say, that you can do two licenses/degrees at the same time (ex: Bachelor of History and Bachelor of Political Science), SciencesPo Paris has partnerships with the Parisian faculties so you can, for example, do a Bachelor of Philosophy at the Sorbonne and follow the training at SciencesPo Paris.
P.S2: The SciencesPo Paris and IEP exams occur during the senior year, usually around March/April, so you have to manage the workload, and you should not neglect the bac while preparing for the exam.

IV- Job opportunities

Students choose their specialization in M2. Although the program varies according to the specializations chosen, students can prepare for the following modules:
  • Sociology and Political Institutions
  • National or Territorial Civil Service
  • International Relations: Foreign Affairs
  • Modern Languages
  • International Organizations
  • Development and Humanitarian actions
  • Political and Institutional Communication
  • International Cooperation Administration
  • Territorial Public Action
  • European Public Affairs
Many opportunities await graduate students in political science. First, they can try their hand at competitions at business schools, schools of journalism, or one of the public service competitions. A multitude of professions can be practiced with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Graduates will be able to integrate:
  • Civil Service of the State: Territorial or European
  • Management or business
  • Media
  • Research
  • Consulting
  • and more!

V- Personal project

To give you an example of what the path of a political science student might look like, I, for example, am currently starting my first year in law after a year in a political science prep school in Toulouse. I am preparing in parallel with my year in law, the IEP exam next year, to enter the second year at an IEP (because you have to prepare for the exam 2 for 1 year in advance), the program is available on the scpo network site. After my IEP training, I want to take the Cadre d’Orient competition, a competition to become a senior civil servant (diplomat) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a specialization in the Middle East and North Africa.