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Sciences Po shuts down for two weeks

Image: Ivan Radic [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

Elite Paris institution closes doors following Covid-19 outbreak

The Paris Institute of Political Studies, better known as Sciences Po, has shut down its campus operations for two weeks following a spike in coronavirus cases.

Announcing the decision to close for a fortnight from 21 September, the university spoke of a “significant number of positive cases”, describing the Paris campus as “a place of active circulation of the virus”. In a letter sent to staff and students on 18 September, director Frédéric Mion said the closure was agreed in compliance with recommendations from health authorities.

The shutdown will extend to all aspects of on-campus life, he said. “I would like to inform you that all educational and student life activities, as well as reception in the library and by the administrative services, are suspended on our Paris campus,” Mion wrote. “Sports and cultural activities outside the campus are also suspended.”

Mion asked students and staff to limit their “social activities and physical contact to the strict minimum during this period”. Teaching will switch to online classes, with buildings reopening on 5 October.

On 17 September, just one day before the closure was announced, the institute said that its teaching and research would continue via a “dual campus” strategy for the rest of the year—a mix of online and physical presence. However, the statement emphasised the rejuvenation of campus life.

“100 per cent of Sciences Po’s seven campuses will be open and will welcome all those who have the opportunity to go there, in complete serenity and security, to live 100 per cent of the student experience,” the university said. “They will attend connected courses, take part in group work or take part in associative and social activities. The seven campuses constitute the physical campus.”

The Paris closure comes 10 days after the Sciences Po branch in Reims was closed for the same reason. Sciences Po said that it was working with regional health authorities in the Île-de-France region to organise a programme of coronavirus tests. Tests will be provided to all staff, as well as “the most exposed students”, the university said in a Covid-19 information bulletin.

Sciences Po is considered a grande école rather than a university, but it is not a member of the Conference of Grandes Écoles. The institute offers PhD research programmes and often refers to itself as a university, but its official legal status is “grand établissement” run under ministerial charter, a status it shares with institutions including the Collège of France and the Arts et Métiers institute of technology.