No difference at all!
This question comes up often, probably because we hear a lot about “Sciences Po” and rarely about the obscure, more administrative acronym of “IEP”.
What is an Institute of Political Studies
IEP is the acronym for the Institutes of Political Studies. These are schools, even grandes écoles, where political science is studied. The traditional training is in five years, after the baccalaureate: it follows the typical path of higher education in France and in Europe.
There are currently 10 Institutes of Political Sciences (IEP) in France:
The portal of the Parisian Sciences Po indicates, “Sciences Po.”
- Sciences Po of Paris
- Sciences Po of Strasbourg
- Sciences Po of Bordeaux
- Sciences Po Toulouse
- Sciences Po of Grenoble
- Sciences Po of Lyon
- Sciences Po of Aix-en-Provence
- Sciences Po of Lille
- Sciences Po of Rennes
- Sciences Po of Saint-Germain-en-Laye
As you may have noticed, there is also a Sciences Po in Paris which is none other than… Sciences Po Paris. The term Sciences Po is therefore no more specific to regional Sciences Po than Sciences Po in Paris.
So why do we still use the Sciences Po brand?
One or more “Sciences Po”?
Sciences Po is the common and popular name for an IEP. There are therefore as many Sciences Po as there are regional Sciences Po. The “Sciences Po” brand is much better known internationally, and it makes more of an impression than the acronym IEP, which few people really know what it means. In a way, Sciences Po is the more stylish and famous alias than the very technocratic term IEP.
One “Sciences Po” has a special place: Sciences Po Paris. It is indeed the oldest institute, and to this day, it is the only independent one, not attached to a university.
The expression“Sciences Po”, when not followed by the name of a city, designates the Parisian IEP:“Sciences Po Paris”.
There is therefore only one Sciences Po, but several Sciences Po + cities, as explained below.
Legal agreement on the Sciences Po brand
If today’s explanation is so simple and effective, it was not always the case. Rivalry and jealousy made the legal use of the expression “Sciences Po” very confusing.
For Sciences Po is in fact a trademark registered in 1988 by the Fondation nationale des sciences politiques, the same foundation that owns Sciences Po Paris.
To remove these obscurities, on January 30, 2015, an agreement was signed between the directors of the 10 French regional Sciences Po. The legal status is now that proposed by the Fondation nationale des sciences politiques in these terms: “each Sciences Po may use this name if, and only if, it is followed by the name of the city in which it is located”.
Sciences Po Paris therefore retains the prerogative of using the shortcut “Sciences Po”, while the regional institutes must always add the name of their city.
From now on, you can proudly write the following list:
- Sciences Po (= Sciences Po Paris)
- Sciences Po Strasbourg
- Sciences Po Bordeaux
- Sciences Po Toulouse
- Sciences Po Grenoble
- Sciences Po Lyon
- Sciences Po Aix-en-Provence
- Sciences Po Lille
- Sciences Po Rennes
- Sciences Po Saint-Germain-en-Laye
Sciences Po = Sciences Po.