EXCLUSIVE – The war of succession to the management of Sciences Po is launched. Challenges unveils the full list of 23 candidates. This Thursday, September 23, the proposal committee meets to carry out a first screening.
It’s the last straight line. In a little over a month, Sciences Po must finally acquire a new director to replace Frédéric Mion, forced to resign, in February, following the Duhamel affair. A meeting of the “proposal committee”, internal to the school, must be held this Thursday, September 23 to proceed with a first skimming among the 23 applications received, including that of the current provisional director, Bénédicte Durand.
The commission will then proceed to hearings before selecting the few names that it will submit to the two supervisory bodies of the school: the council of the Institute and the National Foundation for Political Science (FNSP). White smoke is expected in the first half of November, and no later than November 20. Waiting for, Challenges obtained the complete list of candidates and deciphers the forces involved.
Few international profiles
First of all, it is striking to note that few foreigners jostled themselves at the gate of the self-proclaimed French “Oxford”. However, as already told Challenges, the school hired the services of American headhunter Russell Reynolds (470 consultants and 46 offices worldwide) to help it find the rare pearl. On arrival, apart from the somewhat absurd files of an Italian lawyer and two consultants, one Congolese and the other Indian, only the Germans Andreas Kaplan, the “dean” of the Parisian campus of the business school ESCP, and Cornelia Woll, already well known at Sciences Po, have an international profile. And again, the first is a graduate of ENA, the second has been teaching at rue Saint-Guillaume since 2004 and was even director of studies and education – sort of unofficial number two – from 2015 to 2018!
Not surprisingly, the list includes six enarques. With the exception of Julien Neutres, an executive of the National Cinema Center, all have made visits to ministerial offices or to the City of Paris, building up solid networks. The only woman of the lot is Agathe Cagé, co-founder of the Compass Label consulting agency. Sister of economist Julia Cagé, professor at Sciences Po, she was an advisor to Vincent Peillon at the Ministry of Education and one of the linchpins of Benoît Hamon’s presidential campaign. We find his former comrade of the socialist cabinets, François Perret. Advisor to Secretary of State Fleur Pellerin and current Managing Director of Pacte PME, he surrounded himself with a small team to fire up his project and even a communication agency.
Enarques in shambles
Another known figure of the left: Mathias Vicherat, from the Senghor class of the ENA, where he rubbed shoulders with Emmanuel Macron. A pillar in the cabinet of the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë and that of Anne Hidalgo, he then joined the SNCF and then Danone. He must leave his post of general secretary of the group on 1is October and already let it be known that he did not intend to Hidalgo presidential campaign. On the other side of the political spectrum – less popular at Sciences-Po – is Gilles Mentré, a financial inspector who worked in the private sector. Managing partner for eight years at Lazard, he recently founded Electis, an NGO that promotes electronic voting. Former deputy director of François Baroin’s cabinet in Bercy, he was also spokesperson for Rachida Dati during the last municipal campaign in Paris.
Finally, and this is notable, Edouard Geffray, former chief of staff to the short-lived Minister of Justice François Bayrou and current director general of school education, is the only State Councilor on the list. This large body that has been making rain and shine at Sciences Po for ages! Richard Descoings and Frédéric Mion were from it, while the vice-president of the Palais-Royal is an ex-officio member of the FNSP board. But this status is probably no longer a sesame today as the governance bodies of Sciences Po have been criticized for their self-esteem in recent months.
A single pure product from the private sector
Also passed by a ministerial cabinet, Bernard Salzmann is distinguished by being neither enarque nor graduate of Sciences-Po. This polytechnician is deputy secretary general of Société Générale. Another hybrid profile, that of Nicolas Metzger, former administrator of the Senate, who was President of the Council of the Institute from 2016 to 2019, but who has continued to criticize the governing bodies of Sciences Po in recent months. Finally, the only profile coming only from the private sector is that of Pierre Conte. Former Deputy Director General of Figaro and Editis, he recently created his company PCCP, which invested in the small publishing house, Novice.
The rest of the profiles come of course from the French academic world. Two “repeat” candidates are trying their luck again: a sociologist, professor at Sciences Po, Christine Musselin, who presented herself in 2012, and Claude Moog, research director in digital sciences at the CNRS, dismissed in 2018. There are also two academics labeled on the right: the director of the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts (Cnam), Olivier Faron, who was in Laurent Wauquiez’s office at the Ministry of Higher Education; and the political scientist Dominique Reynié, who presented to the regional 2015, for Les Républicains, and now heads the liberal think tank Fondapol (Foundation for political innovation). More original, Jean-Philippe Denis, professor of management sciences at the University of Paris-Saclay, known for having invented the concept of “hip-hop management”, is also part of the list.
Academics in sight
The two most prominent university figures are undoubtedly Anne-Sophie Barthez and Pierre-Paul Zalio. The first, a law associate having climbed the ranks of the University of Cergy-Pontoise, is the current director general of higher education and research. The second, a sociologist, has headed ENS Paris-Saclay (formerly Cachan) for almost ten years. He actively participated in the giant campus project on the Saclay plateau, where he moved the ENS in 2020, in a splendid building by architect Renzo Piano.
Finally, the last candidate: Jean-Baptiste Hennequin, Managing Director of the Inria Foundation (National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation). Coming from the public sphere without being an academic, however, he has the particularity of having led several fundraisers for educational and research organizations (Pierre-Gilles Institute in Gennes, Higher School of Industrial Physics and Chemistry, etc.). An asset as private sponsorship has taken a primordial place in Sciences Po’s economic model.