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On the Horizon, Part Deux

Immediately following UBC’s uplifting Pep Rally on Imagine Day, I rushed to the airport for a flight to Munich, then to Nice (France) to catch a ride to the small city of Menton, France, on the border with Italy. Menton is one of three cities in which Sciences Po, one of France’s leading universities, has developed branch campuses, and which are now part of a UBC-Sciences Po dual degree. To give you a sense of the importance of the university, Sciences Po, which specializes in the social sciences and in law, has trained every President of France since Charles de Gaulle!

A walkway in the old city of Menton

The Dual Degree has proven wildly popular in its launch this year. It admits students into both universities and rewards them with degrees from both universities at the successful completion of their studies. Students interested in the social sciences take two years of courses at one of the Sciences Po campuses where the language of instruction is English. Then they come to UBC in time to declare a major and to spend two years on the Vancouver campus (with two additional courses in August): we guarantee access to three departments presently, but the students can apply to get into any program we offer. In the process, the students will be exposed to two different traditions of instruction on two continents, develop contacts in their cohorts with students all over the world, and emerge with degrees from two globally leading universities. As a bonus, they have automatic acceptance in Sciences Po graduate programs. These are students who will have, I think, unprecedented global experience and mobility.

You can read about the partnership on the Sciences Po website at:

A view from the Sciences Po campus in Menton

Menton is a shockingly beautiful city on the French Riviera, but although many tourists flock there for part of the year, it has little of the glitz associated with Nice, Cannes, Marseilles and other well-known destinations on the coast. Narrow and winding walkways meander through a steeply raked medieval and early modern city, and the city overlooks a sparkling bay ringed by beaches, with a rich mix of restaurants and markets. Some of the students live in dorms on the beach! I kept wondering what it would have been like to attend university in such an extraordinary location. I met with students in the program and with students interested in joining the dual degree, even though they had just enrolled as normal Sciences Po students.

From Menton, I travelled to Paris and then on to the city of Reims, located in the heart of the Champagne district (and yes, students were sipping Champagne on the first day of school). Reims is also a beautiful small city, and Sciences Po occupies a lovely former Jesuit seminary, which is being renovated with great reverence for the historical buildings.

In each of the towns, I attended the ceremony that starts the French university year called the Rentrée Solennelle (hard to translate, something close to “solemn return”) and I gave the opening lecture at Reims. Frederic Mion, the Director/President of Sciences Po, and the Director of International Programs, Francis Verriaud, and I also signed the agreement that formalizes the dual degree, the product of hard work over a number of years by our wonderful partners at Sciences Po and by a UBC crew led by Senior Associate Dean Janet Giltrow. The UBC-Sciences Po agreement is the first international dual degree involving any university in Canada, so it is historic in its way.

To give you a sense of how international our dual degree program is, I took note of the national origins of the students gathered around the table in Reims and in Menton, and here is my recollection of what I jotted on a napkin: Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Zaire (by way of Bangladesh and Singapore), Pakistan, the US, and yes, there were two students from Canada (both with the same first name, both of whom grew up on Bowen Island, and both of whom attended the same high school in West Vancouver!). I will have forgotten a few, but you get the picture! I wasn’t able to visit the third campus of the Sciences Po-UBC dual degree, Le Havre, but I intend to visit the next time around. In the meantime, Associate Dean Giltrow will visit in October to be followed in spring by an academic advisor from UBC.

We will continue to develop exchange opportunities for our students, but I was impressed at how much more complete an international experience the students in this dual degree program will be getting. They will be supported by two institutions that know each other, remain in contact, solve problems, and that have designed a nuanced and finely coupled degree program. We are already talking with other potentially strong partners in Europe and Asia about building similar dual degrees.

2 Responses to On the Horizon, Part Deux

  1. Nizar Jiwan

    I know a perfect student for this program and would like to encourage him to apply. His profile fits the description of an ideal student for UBC’s Science Po program.

    Is these a pre-application orientation or info session he can attend. He currently attends Upper Canada College in Toronto and will be applying to university next fall. If the requested sessiom is not available in Toronto, As his university application advisor and mentor, I would be happy to recommend that he visit British Columbia and/or France. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Thank you,


  2. averillg

    Hi Nizar — Thanks. We did hear from a mother of a student at UCC yesterday — could be the same student. In any case, you can access advisors in the program through the dual degree webpage: OR contact Lois Nightingale at

    Thanks for thinking of us! This year’s recruitment efforts look incredible for the dual degree.

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