Foreign Affairs Others

“Diversity is the core of the success of excellence”

In the last decade, Sciences Po, Paris, has transformed itself from a political science academy to train the French elite to an international social sciences institute. As many Indian universities plan to globalise their approach to education, Francis Vérillaud, vice president and director of international affairs and exchanges, Sciences Po, talks to KUNAL MAJUMDER about the importance of internationalisation in higher education.

The Indian government wants to globalise the education system here, with more international exposure in the sector of higher education. As a representative of one of the most respected French education institutes, what advice do you have?

First, I do not have the pretension to talk about the higher education system in countries other than in my own. All education systems have their own national cultural mark. Some of them have international vision. In the last ten years, my own institute has developed from being a national body to an international one. And I come from a country that is not known for developing such international institutions.

What we achieved was difficult, compared to schools not just in Germany and Spain, but also in the UK or the US. The problem was not just about the language, but also of the structure and autonomy. One thing I may underline is what made it possible to transform Sciences Po into an international university is its very strong autonomy. I think we cannot rely on the state, the government, laws and ministries to operate the transformation of the institution; it must come from the institution in itself. What we can expect from the state is first trust and second is maybe some support.
So, what are the factors required for an educational institution to become an international one?
I know only a few higher education institutions can become international, depending on the environment, objectives, the ways of functioning and the future vision. If Sciences Po were in Marseille or in Grenoble, we would not have the same ambition as we have being in Paris.
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