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Sciences Po:
The mismanagement
of a vast ambition
Notice to readers
of the
Thematic Public Report
his summary is intended to help in the reading and
use of the report from the Cour des comptes.
The Cour des Comptes is answerable only for the
report, not this summary.
The responses from those departments and organisa-
tions concerned by this report appear at the end.
November 2012
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An atypical institutional structure.
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Rapid expansion and numerous
innovations, but at significant cost . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
Corporate management flawed
by numerous irregularities
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of the Thematic Public Report from the Cour des comptes
ciences Po is the name generally used to denote the Institution that groups toge-
ther two separate entities - the Fondation nationale des sciences politiques
(FNSP) and the Institut d’études politiques de Paris (IEP). It is a selective
higher education establishment which has expanded considerably over the past ten
years. This development has been particularly noteworthy in the numbers of students
enrolled, in the manner in which they are recruited, in the internationalisation of the
learning pathways, and in the expansion of its research capability.
Sciences Po occupies a very special place within France’s higher education system. In
the area of initial training, it can be considered as an alternative to the ‘grandes
écoles’, with which it has in common the same selective method for student entry and
the same system of teaching in small groups. As for research in the humanities and
social sciences, the institution pursues much the same objectives as the universities.
Sciences Po has taken advantage of its peculiar status, which has enabled it to be a
forum for innovation and experimentation, and to expand its facilities in the heart
of Paris. Whilst recognising that the institution operated outside the normal rules for
students’ fees that prevail for all higher education organisations, the Central govern-
ment has always accepted Sciences Po’s special status and has been, and still is, the ins-
titution’s major funding partner. The regional authorities concerned have also given
their support to Sciences Po’s expansion, with several regional campuses in place.
It is in this context that the Cour des Comptes instigated its audit of Sciences Po for
the period 2005-2010.
This audit has highlighted the dynamic nature of the institution, but has also unco-
vered a lack of control over expenses and significant shortcomings in management,
which are the source of numerous irregularities.
These revelations call for significant reforms to be implemented in order to put an end
to such irregularities, to ensure that the establishment’s management system is more
transparent, and to enable a proper control over its budget.
of the Thematic Public Report from the Cour des comptes
An atypical
institutional structure
A singular but
Sciences Po comprises two sepa-
rate entities - a private organisation,
the Fondation nationale des sciences
politiques (FNSP) and a public insti-
tution, the Institut d’études politiques
de Paris (IeP).
The FNSP, whose mission is to
«encourage the development and dis-
semination, in France and elsewhere in
the world, of political, economic and
social sciences», carries out research
and documentation, whereas the tea-
ching activities of Sciences Po are
under the auspices of the IeP.
The creation of these two entities
and the decision to give to the FNSP
the management and financial respon-
sibilities for the IeP were the result of
a compromise agreed in 1945 between
the representatives of the Central
government and those of the ‘ecole
libre des sciences politiques’: the for-
mer wished to integrate the training of
future senior civil servants in the
national education department, whe-
reas the latter wanted above all to have
the greatest possible autonomy, both
vis-à-vis the Central government and
the University of Paris, in managing
the institution that was to replace the
‘ecole libre des sciences politiques’.
Sciences Po to maintain a freedom of
action, the results of which are seen
today in the free definition of its edu-
cational project, the ownership of its
property assets, and the status of its
personnel, the majority of whom are
recruited by the Foundation, using
private contracts. At the same time it
allows Sciences Po to belong to the
national education service since the
IeP, a ‘
grand établissement
’ since 1985,
is classified as a public scientific, cultu-
ral and professional body under the
tutelage of the Ministry of Higher
education and Research. As such, it is
able to award national degrees, to be
Cour des comptes
of the Thematic Public Report from the Cour des comptes
An atypical institutional
of the Thematic Public Report from the Cour des comptes
state-financed, and to benefit from the
use of lecturers and teachers from the
universities’ teacher/researcher panel.
This situation, where the finan-
cial and administrative management
of the IeP is handled by the FNSP, is
very unusual: despite the fact that the
IeP is a public institution, it does not
have its own budget and has no staff to
manage, as these functions are carried
out by the FNSP.
A dysfunctional
creates management difficulties which
the unusual governance and ineffective
coordination mechanisms are unable
to overcome.
The FNSP is managed by a
Board of directors responsible for all
questions relating to managing the
Foundation. The IeP is managed by a
management board which handles all
questions relating to teaching activi-
ties. It also has a scientific committee,
a joint committee and a committee
constituted by the teachers/researchers
assigned to the establishment.
Coordination between the two
structures and their respective execu-
tive bodies is simplified by the fact
that the functions of director General
of the Foundation and director of the
IeP have traditionally been performed
by the same person.
The lack of control mechanisms,
both internal and external, stems lar-
gely from this situation. In addition,
although the Ministry of Higher
education and Research is the princi-
pal provider of funds for the FNSP,
there is no ministerial representation
directors, a situation which is difficult
to understand.
of the Thematic Public Report from the Cour des comptes
Cour des comptes
Rapid expansion and
numerous innovations,
but at significant cost
A selective
that has expanded
considerably in
ten years
Sciences Po, an independent and
selective establishment, with a mission
to «ensure initial and ongoing education
in the social sciences to further a better
understanding of the modern world»,
has expanded considerably in the past
ten years.
during the period under review,
2005 to 2010, it has continued on the
growth path that it started at the begin-
ning of the years 2000. The number of
students has significantly increased,
especially the number of foreign stu-
dents, which has meant that syllabuses
have been increasingly internationalised.
Thus in 2010-2011, the school had
more than 10,000 students enrolled
(8,539 students in initial training and
1,471 exchange students) - of which
35% were overseas students and 7% had
dual nationality - compared with 5,570
in 2004-2005.
The policy of establishing regional
campuses continued, with the creation
of new sites in Menton, Le Havre and
Reims to add to those already in place in
Nancy, dijon and Poitiers. This expan-
sion has in no way diminished the pre-
dominance of the Paris campus as,
during this same period, Sciences Po
increased the number of its facilities in
Paris’s 7 th arrondissement.
The establishment also continued
its policy of changing the social mix of
its student intake which started in 2001
with the launch of the «conventions
éducation prioritaire », which have hel-
ped some 860 students in ten years. The
proportion of grant-aided students has
grown since 2005, but has not achieved
the target of 30% of all students that was
set in the four-year contract.
Seeing the way in which higher
Rapid expansion and numerous
innovations, but at significant
education and research were evolving,
Sciences Po decided to make research a
strategic mission within its expansion
programme. The teaching model and
the special characteristics of its organisa-
tional structure had for a long time put
Sciences Po at a disadvantage in this
area. In the period 2010-2011, 93% of
lecture-hours given at the IeP were
handled by more than 3,000 part-time
contracted teachers who had no research
activity at all. The increasing internatio-
nal trend of classifying universities by
their level of research thus decided
Sciences Po to reinforce its permanent
academic staff. during the period 2005-
2010 the number of state-employed tea-
chers and research staff changed little
(about 90 teacher-researchers and 53
National de la Recherche Scientifique),
but Sciences Po recruited around 50
additional teachers and research staff
using private contracts. In a relatively
short timespan, the institution was able
to create both an economics department
and a law department.
Finally, as part of the research and
higher education centre of excellence
called «Sorbonne Paris Cité», Sciences
Po is part of the excellence Initiatives
(Idex - for «Initiatives d’excellence») pro-
ject which it helped define in 2011 as
part of the «Investissements d’avenir »
programme. However, this involvement
seems to be ambiguous, as there is a
contradiction between the idea of a uni-
fied governance inscribed in the statutes
of the Idex project, and the desire of
Sciences Po’s management to preserve
the special status of its own organisatio-
nal structure.
Expenses must be
The cost of a student at Sciences
Po is greater than that for a university
student for a number of reasons: the
administrative staff -student ratio, the
teacher/researcher salaries, and having
students in the centre of Paris where
overhead costs are much higher than
As a consequence, the increase in
the number of students between 2005
and 2010 caused an enormous increase
Rapid expansion and numerous
innovations, but at significant
in costs: the FNSP’s budget grew from
€78.7 million to €127.1 million. In par-
ticular, the wage bill, which represents
59% of Sciences Po’s running costs, rose
This expansion was essentially
financed by an increase in the Central
government’s contribution and the addi-
tional admission fees. Thus FNSP’s sub-
sidy from the ministry of Higher educa-
tion and research grew from €47.7 mil-
lion in 2005 to €63.6 million in 2010,
an increase of almost a third, to which
needs to be added the cost to the Central
government of the salaries of the publi-
cly employed teacher/ researchers assi-
gned to the IeP (€11 million in 2010).
during this same period, receipts from
admission fees rose from €9.9 million to
€27.9 million. For the academic year
2012-2013, the admission fee grid can
reach €9,800 for a first degree course
and €13,500 for a master’s, depending
on family income.
As for the institution’s invest-
ments, especially in real estate, these
have been financed through loans, with
the Foundation’s level of debt rising
above €53 million at 31st december
2010, a sum that adds to the nation’s
overall burden of debt.
In this area, there exists no precise
contractual arrangement between the
Central government and Sciences Po
concerning explicit and shared medium
term objectives, no clear desired sizing,
no agreement on the number of students
to admit and a fortiori no agreed ceiling
on the level of funding to be provided.
In addition, the state funding of
Sciences Po was accompanied by insuffi-
cient commitments and guarantees in
terms of control and overseeing of
expenses. Central government funding
of Sciences Po must be stabilised forth-
with. It is essential that the contracts
covering the years to come include
mechanisms and indicators that can
ensure an adequate control, with measu-
rements demonstrating the establish-
ment’s effective and efficient use of
funds. In addition, as with any other
publicly funded organisation, a ceiling
on both hiring and the wage bill must be
notified to Sciences Po every year, at the
same time as operating cost funding is
Rapid expansion and numerous
innovations, but at significant
communicated, so that the wage bill can
be stabilised.
Sciences Po’s financing policy also
needs to take account of the law dated
28 december 2010 concerning public
financing arrangements, which now for-
bids varying types of central government
organisations, which includes the FNSP,
from contracting any loans with credit
organisations where the payback period
is greater than 12 months. Given that, at
this time, the Central government pos-
Sciences Po’s financial forecasts, a rigo-
rous multi-annual financial plan must
be drawn up, in close cooperation with,
and the approval of, the minister of
Higher education and research.
of the Thematique Public Report from the Cour des comptes
Corporate management
flawed by numerous
The anomalies uncovered during
the audit by the Cour comprise both
management shortcomings and repeated
The institution’s
The audit carried out by the Cour,
which covered the relatively short period
from 2005 to 2010, brought to light
numerous shortcomings in the institu-
tion’s management both of its assets and
its finances.
Among these it is pertinent to
highlight the following:
- not complying to the ministerial
order of 6th June 2005 concerning the
signing of contracts by certain public or
private organisations not subject to the
normal public sector tendering process;
- contracting a loan with a high
risk potential for the institution,
without prior authorisation from the
Board of directors and without
information from the appropriate minis-
terial authorities;
- the development of an impene-
trable system for remunerating the
Foundation’s salaried personnel;
- multiple and persistent irregulari-
ties in the functioning and monitoring
of the teacher/researcher department;
- irregularities in the managing of,
and fiscal returns concerning, ‘company’
- a system for remunerating the
FNSP’s director General/IeP’s director
that escaped any form of check and
devoid of any visibility by the appro-
priate Central government or institutio-
nal functions;
- financing, using Sciences Po’s
own resources, of a mission entitled
«Lycée pour tous», assigned intuitu per-
sonae to the director General, without
approval from the Foundation’s Board of
Cour des comptes
of the Thematic Public Report from the Cour des comptes
The irregularities uncovered by the
Cour were for the most part found to be
persistent. Thus, the policy of recruiting
teachers and researchers with attractive
conditions, for example in terms of
accommodation, was a source of nume-
rous such irregularities. In the same
vein, the remuneration packages of
senior management and the director
General were always handled outside the
appropriate legislative and regulatory
The frequently repetitive nature of
these irregularities stems from the weak-
ness of both internal and external
control mechanisms.
The third chamber of the Cour
which carried out the audit, the results
of which are in the public report, has
decided to refer certain of these irregula-
rities to the ‘Cour de discipline budgé-
taire et financière’ and has passed the
appropriate file to the public prosecutor.
As for internal audit, the appro-
priate internal functions have not exerci-
sed their role of supervising executive
decisions: the shortcomings in the insti-
tution’s management system reflect a
lack of due diligence by the FNSP’s
Board of directors and the IeP’s mana-
gement board.
As far as external control mecha-
nisms are concerned, it would appear
that the Central government, Sciences
Po’s principal supplier of funds, has no
effective means of monitoring the acti-
vity of this ‘grand établissement’. The
composition of the Foundation’s Board
of directors should be modified to
include seats for a representative from
both the ministry of Higher education
and research and the Budget depart-
ment. Putting in place financial controls
and a means of ensuring the institution
respects going-rates in the teaching pro-
fession should be considered. Finally,
putting the management system in order
must be accompanied by a clarification
of the rules that apply to the FNSP and
to the IeP to avoid any recurrence of
these shortcomings.
of the Thematic Public Report from the Cour des comptes
Corporate management flawed
by numerous irregularities
of the Thematic Public Report from the Cour des comptes
n the past ten years, Sciences Po has demonstrated its ability to adapt to changes in
higher education and in research. With its very special status affording total freedom
in managing its affairs, the institution has expanded considerably whilst remaining
faithful to its particular method of teaching.
has shown itself to be very resourceful in obtaining outside funding, but has also been par-
ticularly well blessed with Central government subsidies. In the present budgetary climate,
the special nature and long-term survival of the institution can only be guaranteed if the
necessary reforms are put in place to ensure efficient management control.
The Cour recommends
that Sciences Po and the Central government take the necessary steps forthwith to ensure
complete transparency in the institution’s management system and to ensure a coherent
view of the governance process and day-to-day running procedures.
of the Thematic Public Report from the Cour des comptes
In the first place, in order to put
an end to the irregularities uncovered
in the establishment’s management,
the Cour recommends that Sciences
1) ceases the practice of allowing
additional working hours to be accu-
mulated with periods of teaching dis-
pensation for those teachers employed
by the Central government;
2. ceases the practice of allowing
periods of dispensation to be combi-
ned with bonuses for the same func-
3) ceases to allow periods of dis-
pensation to exceed two thirds of total
contracted teaching time;
4) ceases the unauthorised prac-
tice of applying weighting coefficients
to lessons and adopts the hourly equi-
valence references in line with the
national references contained in the
ministerial order of 31st July 2009;
5) submits the allocation of
‘company’ accommodation for appro-
val by the FNSP’s Board of directors
and ceases to accord such benefits to
teacher/researchers on the permanent
6) adheres to the ministerial
order of 6th June 2005 concerning the
signing of contracts by certain public
or private organisations not subject to
the normal public sector tendering
Secondly, in order to have conso-
lidated accounts for the establishment
and to install a rigorous expense
control mechanism, especially as far as
salaries are concerned, the Cour
recommends that the Central govern-
7) draws up a contract with pre-
cise objectives incorporating efficiency
and effectiveness indicators;
8) notifies head-count, hiring
and total salary ceilings at the same
time as communicating the annual
operating budget. To meet this objec-
tive, the Cour recommends that
Sciences Po:
9) submits annually to the
FNSP’s Board of directors a multiyear
financing strategy covering all the ins-
titution’s activities, based on an objec-
tive for running costs that is in line
with a stabilised public subsidy.
of the Thematic Public Report from the Cour des comptes
Thirdly, in order to have a trans-
parent system for remunerating the
FNSP’s employees, the Cour recom-
mends that Sciences Po:
10) clarifies the criteria for awar-
11) submits a new salary grid to
the FNSP’s Board of directors, along
with the decisions taken by the direc-
tor General concerning the remunera-
tion of teacher/researchers incorpora-
ting the recommendation contained
under number 7 above;
12) fixes the level of remunera-
tion for senior managers by reference
to the practice in similar higher educa-
tion establishments and by putting in
place a system of evaluation based on a
written appreciation of performance
against previously assigned objectives;
13) obtains annual approval
from the Foundation’s Board of direc-
tors for an overall budget envelope to
be used for senior management
Fourthly, in order to put in place
the necessary legislative and regulatory
reforms to ensure transparent manage-
ment of the institution, and to keep
the Central government properly
informed, the Cour recommends that
the Central government and Sciences
14) ensure that Sciences Po
comes under the recently created sta-
tus for the independence of universi-
ties the ‘régime des responsabilités et
compétences élargies (RCe)’;
15) modify the composition of
Foundation to include a representative
of both the ministry of Finance and
the economy and the ministry of
Higher education and research;
16) limit the number of terms
that can be served by the director and
the Chairman of the management
board of the IeP, as well as by the
director General and the Chairman of
the Board of directors of the FNSP;
17) specify in the Foundation’s
statutes the method for determining
account of the rules in the appropriate
legislation on taxation;
of the Thematic Public Report from the Cour des comptes
18) fix the level of the total
remuneration package for the director
General taking into account the usual
practices in similar higher education
establishments, the remuneration of
the director of the IeP being determi-
ned by the State.
Finally the Cour recommends
that Sciences Po:
19) clarifies its position regar-
ding its participation in the unified
governance within the Idex ‘Sorbonne
Paris Cité’, a condition sine qua non
for receiving Idex funding.