“Pluralism is in the DNA of Sciences-Po”

15:55, March 20, 2022

Matthias Vishera, Bertrand Delanoé’s former chief of staff when he was mayor of Paris and former general secretary of Danone, took over as head of Sciences-Po Paris in November 2021, thus succeeding Frédéric Mion, who was forced to resign. Duhamel case. Admissions, social openness, pluralism… He explains how he hopes to breathe new life into this wonderful school.

What do you remember about those first months at the head of Science-Pau Paris?
The school has remained very attractive despite the institutional crisis. Sciences-Po has never won as many research projects or attracted as many applicants as it did in 2021. My project can be characterized as follows: appeasement and ambition. We have completed the creation of a system to combat sexist and sexual violence with the involvement of an external department of wiretapping and a special judge. We will contact you soon for the first evaluation. In parallel, I began to implement my project. For example, from the start of the next school year, students will have twenty-four hours a year to teach transition to the environment.

This is the second year the school has appeared in Parcoursup. What does it change?
Candidate scores matter much more. Last year, when their number doubled, we had a record selectivity of 6.6%. But we should be back by about 9% this year. The admissions reform promoted social and geographic openness. No sell-out – 97% of admissions were with honors – we have more scholarships, 29% vs. 24% a year earlier, and less than 30% of students come from Île-de-France. Perfection is everywhere on the field; it is not limited to the heart of Paris. Some secondary schools in the capital are complaining about fewer students. But, as I explained to the directors, institutions also have to adapt. Excessive strictness in grading puts students at a disadvantage.

The school does not allow same-sex gatherings, as well as an inclusive written allowance for grades.

What are the adjustments for the 2022 admissions campaign?
We’ve learned from last year’s hiccups. Now we will be able to inform unsuitable candidates without waiting for the end of the Parcoursup procedure. We are mobilizing more examiners. And we’re thinking about how to weigh the various exercises required. The idea is to put less emphasis on the hard-to-test commitment course, to focus on motivational exercises and on the test… keeping track of what might have been dictated by outside support. Then, at the end of this second year, the admissions reform will need to be evaluated again.

See also – The debate about “Islamic-leftism”: how Sciences-Po Grenoble caught fire

Fourteen thousand students, seven campuses… Is the school in danger of losing unity?
It’s a matter of balance between the common core and geographical features of each campus: Central Europe in Dijon, Africa and North America in Reims, Asia in Le Havre… I want to support this by strengthening certain disciplines such as the environment. or digital technology. A Director of Education and Research is being recruited. Applications are accepted until April 8th. We are also going to look at the number of teaching hours, which is more important than at other international universities. In particular, we are considering making Thursday evenings a regular occurrence to free up time for sports, reading, social events, etc.

How do you respond to accusations of “wokism” and the promotion of post-colonial ideas within Sciences-Po?
We have 50% international students; many come from the Anglo-Saxon world and some may be sensitive to these ideas. But not in the proportions that we imagine. In four months I learned of only one case: a course in the sociology of race at the Poitiers campus. A few extra hours from almost 3500 semester courses! For the 150th anniversary of Sciences-Po, we launched a study of student profiles, including issues of gender and discrimination. This should make it possible to demolish the received ideas. Same-sex gatherings are banned at the school, as is an inclusive written award for grades. But the idea is not to fall into the form of McCarthyism. Pluralism is in the DNA of Sciences-Po.

Additional staff, a new campus… How do you fund all this?
Registration fees will not increase. But the state grant can be overestimated. This was two-thirds of our budget twenty years ago and one-third today. Its size per student is lower than in universities. I offered the Prime Minister a multi-year contract with a malus bonus according to the goals achieved, such as the number of fellows, research projects won… The last possible resource is continuing education, sponsorship and donations. For example, former students are invited, in exchange for participation, to have a bench named after them in the Boothmy amphitheatre. The operation has already brought in 1 million euros intended for the health of students. I wanted to get involved myself: for someone who graduated from ZEP school, Science-Poe was the founder.

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