Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sciences Po Changes Its Doctoral Program

Details here. With its affirmative action admissions policies, tuition fees, and now reformed doctoral program, Sciences Po has broken with the standard French university model in significant ways. Will it set an example for future changes across the university system? Or will it be rejected as alien to the spirit of French education? I invite your comments.


Anonymous said...

Science Po's determination to pursue "positive discrimination" comes as great surprise. As I am sure most of your readers know, French citizens are not recognized to be anything other than French ("Il y a un peuple francais, indivisible" to paraphrase the constitution), and therefore, do not enjoy a status as "protected class members" upon which to press claims of discrimination. (see Note 1, below --following Note 2.)

So Science Po's voluntary effort is a sea-change. The question is, whether other institutions will follow suit. In France there is a very strong countertrend as to "positive discrimination" --some of it has to do with the identification of "positive discrimination"/affirmative action as an "American" thing. Some of it has to do with a lack of institutional will, e.g., is it a coincidence that theories of "disparate impact" can find no statistical basis in French courts --because --as I have been told-- it is "ultra vires" for the agencies of the French government to keep statistics on, e.g., the number of Algerians that enter the Paris police force? So Science Po's willingness to break with the past seems a radical --and welcome-- departure. (See Note 2, immediately below.)

Note 2. Science Po's efforts might, in the best of all possible worlds, also influence the post-graduate job-search process. In France, the forwarding of a handwritten letter by a prospective hire for a private sector job is often the basis of a graphologist's analysis. Also, it is often required that a photograph be "photo-shopped" to the resume --which can be the equivalent of a passport to the circular file.

Note 1. Although even in the U.S. such claims at educational institutions must be narrowly tailored to specific alleged wrongs, e.g., discrimnation in acceptance to programs --c.f. the Supreme Court's recent University of Michigan cases; also, the "Bakke" case for a historic litigation of the reverse discrimination theory.

Tom Holzman said...

It's not the first time Science Po has broken with the French model. Its semester system, which is only a few years old, resembles the US college system much more than the traditional French system. So, good for them.

Positive discrimination is not all that new. Parité is just that.