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Is Sciences Po École Doctorale a good place for your Social Science PhD?

A graduate school in Political Science and International Relations spotlight: the world-renowned Sciences Po, Paris. In this month-long series, alumni share their insights about the school’s different programs, its culture and why it might or might not be a food fit for those going into an international politics career.

Sciences Po is a prestigious French institution of higher learning, which has taught many politicians and practitioners. Usually, prospective students consider Sciences Po in order to get well-paid positions in governments and international organizations. But what if your passion is research and teaching? Is the Sciences Po École Doctorale (Doctoral School) a good choice for you?


First of all, it is important to consider that French universities, even the most prestigious ones, are routinely badly positioned in international rankings. Unlike other countries, France remains a fierce defender of public and affordable education. Although that is a fantastic position, it also means there is less money invested in salaries and funding. If you consider the universities that usually top global ranking such as Oxford, Harvard or MIT, the tuition fees are very high. In France, students can usually attend university almost for free.

Additionally, French universities do not usually put a lot of money in marketing themselves as a global brand. One exception is Sciences Po, which has in recent years invested more in alumni outreach and institutional partnerships in order to become a world-class university.

Currently, Sciences Po ranks 4th university in the world in the “Politics and International Studies” category of the QS World University Rankings. It also ranks at 34th for economics research worldwide.

The prestige of a Sciences Po degree in French-speaking countries is incredibly high. And, a Sciences Po PhD may be even more admirable.

PhD programs at the Sciences Po Doctoral School

The Sciences Po Doctoral School specializes in key areas: Economics, History, Law, Political Science (Comparative Politics, International Relations and Political Theory) and Sociology.

All of these areas have excellent researchers and professors. Depending on the area of your choosing, you will be involved in different research centers and specialize in different methodologies.

International Relations and Politics research centers

Sciences Po is very focused on international relations and politics. That is why they have three different research centers: Centre de Recherches Politiques de Sciences Po (CEVIPOF), Center for International Studies (CERI) and Centre for European Studies and Comparative Politics (CEE).

Doing a PhD of Political Science at Sciences Po Doctoral School

The Political Science PhD includes a two-year Masters course and a three-year doctoral course, which requires a thesis. You also have the possibility to specialize in International Relations for a Doctorate.

There is also a dual degree PhD program, which allows you to study at both Sciences Po in France and Columbia University in the United States.

What you need in order to apply for a PhD at Sciences Po as an international student: a thesis project, excellent grades and academic recommendations, and at least a B2 level of French (or C2, if you apply for the PhD in Economics or Law).

The language requirement probably explains why there are less Americans pursuing PhDs in France. Unlike the Paris School for International Affairs, you really need to be fluent in order to apply for a PhD.

What does it cost?

This is the best part: the cost is nominal to do a PhD in Sciences Po. If you enter the PhD program at thesis level, the yearly tuition is 380€ (about $430). Furthermore, you can apply for a Doctoral Contract and actually get paid to do your PhD – 1768.55 € (almost $2,000) per month! There are also other funding opportunities available. Although it is not exactly a rich salary to live in Paris, at least you should be able to finish your PhD at a prestigious university without any student loans.

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