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‘We push people to develop their potential’

Francis Verillaud, vice-president, Sciences Po, talks about a new MoU with the Young India Fellowship.
Hindustan Times | By Ayesha Banerjee, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 06, 2013 02:27 PM IST

Francis Vérillaud, vice-president of Sciences Po, talks about the new MoU between his institute and the Young India Fellowship, and more...

Do tell us something about the new MoU you have signed with YIF? Why did you choose YIF?
I'm proud of this MoU with the Young India Fellowship because of its innovative character. YIF has introduced a novel concept of liberal arts in India, which connects the classic pluridisciplinary approach typical of liberal arts education to India's historic, cultural and intellectual roots. This is something that we have tried to do in France when we transformed our undergraduate education into liberal arts; trying to connect our intellectual traditions with a global, comparative perspective on education. Both institutions share a similar philosophy of education, which consist of broadening the minds of young people as much as possible and pushing them to develop their potential in areas they would not have thought of. Our agreement is for an exchange of students and for Sciences Po to contribute to their curriculum. Sciences Po has already conceived and delivered a course on the governance of Indian cities, last fall. We will offer the next batch a new course on the BRICS. More courses will follow.

When will the selection process start? Do let us know something about the process
The selection process will start in the summer of 2013. Each partner institution is responsible for recruiting its own students. This is an important aspect, as a genuine exchange programme implies a mutual recognition of each other's values. So we trust our partners in India to select the students we host at Sciences Po. The other important aspect is that the courses students choose at both institutions will be credited and integrated into the curriculum of their home institution.

What courses will YIF students be studying at Sciences Po and vice versa?
It is up to the students to decide. The full range of masters programmes will be open to the Young India Fellows. As we offer many programmes in English, French is not a prerequisite. They can take courses in international affairs, urban studies, governance, communication, economics, or choose among nearly a thousand elective courses in all fields of social sciences and the humanities. In turn, Sciences Po students will integrate into the regular courses offered by the Young India Fellowship, which are spread over a period of six weeks each. Our students could be exposed to course on Gandhi, art appreciation, economics, environmental sociology, among others. They will also live among the Fellows, which will ensure their full integration.

Do tell us something about your visit to India? What are your other engagements? Would you say this visit has been fruitful?
The visit coincided with the visit of the French President, Mr Francois Hollande, who happens to be Sciences Po alum and a former faculty. This helped us to strengthen our ties with our partners in Delhi. It also helped us to explore new collaborations. We signed an agreement with Delhi University to set up an ambitious and innovative exchange program that would include the transfer of credits. We gave admissions interviews to a group of Class XII students short-listed for the Sciences Po College, our under-graduate school. Sciences Po also conducts executive training programmes for Indian civil servants, and we sought to expand the scope of that activity in collaboration with the Government of India.

We have about 80 students coming to India every year and a growing number of alumni. My visit is an opportunity for them to gather and for me to help them connect with our research and corporate partners in Delhi. I'm particularly happy to see our graduates doing very well professionally and our current students gaining so much from the exposure they get in India for one year.

All of this has been made possible through setting up a representation office in Delhi seven years ago. Our representatives to India, Mr. Gilles Verniers and Ms. Neha Khanna, have given a face to Sciences Po and its community in India. This permanent office and the range of activities that we conduct in India attest to the importance we place on India at Sciences Po. It is essential that we should build as many bridges as possible - at our modest level - to increase mutual understanding between our students.

In your own words - how is studying at Sciences Po a wonderful opportunity for an Indian student? What does he or she have to look forward to over there?
Sciences Po offers an international, multidisciplinary and issue-based education, rooted in the social sciences. It offers an extremely multicultural learning environment, in the heart of Paris. Students from India are given the opportunity to present their individual worldviews on contemporary global issues and to confront them through the collective vision of students hailing from more than 130 nations from across the globe. They will benefit from courses taught by top-notch faculty - either academics or practitioners - at the peak of their careers. They will also get into a network of students, faculty and alumni that spans the highest levels, on each and every continent, and will help them shape their personal ambitions.

Interviewed by Ayesha Banerjee

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