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Top Social Science Schools: LSE Vs Sciences Po

Top Social Science Schools: LSE Vs Sciences Po main image

Just as MIT and Caltech are top of the wish list for many technology students, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the Sciences Po are the big two names in the social sciences field. 

Both are specialized in social sciences and humanities, including law, languages, geography, international relations and management.

They are both highly international, in terms of their campus communities and wider collaborations. And both boast long lists of well-known alumni, including an impressive number of world leaders and Nobel laureates. In short, choosing between the two is likely to be a tough decision, especially since their respective locations – London and Paris – are also two of the world’s most exciting places to study and live.

If you really can’t decide, this is a rare occasion when it may actually be possible to choose both. LSE (pictured above) and Sciences Po offer a dual master’s degree in international relations or international political economy. This is a two-year program split between the two locations and leading to graduation from both universities. They also collaborate on an undergraduate exchange program. 

However, most students do have to choose just one! This may come down to course availability and options, which are similar but not identical at the two universities. Still stuck? Here’s a look at how these elite social science schools compare on key factors, with an at-a-glance overview followed by more detailed comparison...



Sciences Po

Ranked 49th in the world overall

Rated 11th by graduate employers and 72nd by academics

376th for student/faculty ratio, 68th for research impact (citations per faculty member)

28th in the world for percentage of international faculty members, and seventh for international students

Ranked joint 242nd in the world overall

Rated 334th by graduate employers and 391st by academics

93rd for student/faculty ratio

601+ for research impact (citations per faculty member)

338th in the world for percentage of international faculty members, and 43rd for international students

Subject strengths*

Global top 10 for accounting & finance, business & management, anthropology, development studies, social policy and administration, communication and media studies, geography, politics and more.

Ranked joint second for politics, joint 23rd for social policy and administration, and joint 28th for sociology. Also ranks joint 50th in the world for law.


In the center of UK capital London, ranked first in the QS Best Student Cities

Based in the heart of French capital Paris, ranked fifth in the QS Best Student Cities

Six additional campuses across France

Student community

11,960 students, 5,090 undergraduates and 6,870 graduates

Around 68 percent of students are from outside the UK

Source: LSE at a Glance

14,000 students, of which 49 percent are from outside France


The world’s largest library devoted to social sciences

Continental Europe’s largest library for social sciences and humanities

*Based on the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020.

QS World University Rankings® 2021

Both institutions are strong performers in the QS World University Rankings, though LSE does have a strong lead – ranking 49th in the 2021 edition, compared to Sciences Po at joint 242nd. Closer analysis shows the London school outranks its Parisian counterpart on almost all the performance indicators used to compile the rankings, with the exception of faculty-student ratio; the French institution promises more full-time academic staff members per student.

Both boast scores in the global top 400 among the international academic community, while receiving even stronger ratings from employers – their graduates are clearly in high demand in the workplace. Both also score well for the international diversity of students, with LSE placing among the world’s top 10 for its percentage of international students, and Sciences Po within the top 50.

In the indicator measuring research citations per faculty member, a reflection of research impact, LSE again takes the lead at 28th, while Sciences Po is outside of the top 400.

Subject strengths

The QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020 provides detailed insights into how these two leading social science schools compare in specific fields. As the table below shows, LSE tends to rank slightly higher than its cross-channel rival, though both are firmly established among the world’s leading institutions in core social sciences such as economics, politics and sociology. Sciences Po claims its strongest rank in politics, for which it comes joint second in the world, while LSE boasts a place within the global top 10 for 13 subjects, including politics, accounting and finance, development studies and social policy, as well as coming second in the world for the broad subject area of social sciences and management.

LSE and Sciences Po in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020



Sciences Po

Accounting & finance






Art & design



Business & management studies



Communication & media studies



Computer science



Development studies


















Modern languages












Social policy & administration






Statistics & operational research




Sciences Po Paris

Rivalry between the two can only be further intensified by their locations in the heart of the capitals of those long-time rivals: France and the UK. Just over 200 miles apart and connected by a train journey (beneath the English Channel) which takes just over two hours, London and Paris have a long history of competition, each vying to be Western Europe’s most-visited, loved and celebrated city.

In the QS Best Student Cities, London currently takes first place, with Paris ranking as the world’s fifth best city for students. The biggest gap between the two is in the “affordability” category; while both are relatively expensive places to live, the UK’s higher tuition fees make London a costlier overall prospect for both domestic and international students.

Undergraduate students at Sciences Po (pictured above) may also be based at one of six regional campuses, located across France, each of which specializes in a particular field of study – Reims for transatlantic relations, Le Havre for Asian studies, Dijon for a European focus, Nancy for French-German studies, Poitiers for the Latin American program and Menton for Middle East and Mediterranean studies.


Sciences Po is slightly larger in terms of overall student numbers, with around 14,000 students, compared to roughly 11,960 at LSE. However, those at the French school are a little more spread out; about a third of Sciences Po’s 6,000 undergraduate students are enrolled at the regional campuses, not the main Paris one (see above).

Both universities are very internationally diverse. At LSE, more than two-thirds of students are from outside the UK, while almost half (49 percent) of Sciences Po students are from outside France. 


Unsurprisingly, as the world’s leading institutions specializing in social sciences, LSE and Sciences Po boast two of the world’s most impressive resource collections in the field. LSE in fact claims the world’s largest library devoted to social sciences, while Sciences Po has the largest within continental Europe.

Sciences Po’s collection includes 660,000 books, 15,000 periodicals and 20,300 electronic journals. Meanwhile LSE’s British Library of Political and Economic Science features more than four million printed items, subscriptions to 33,600 e-journals, and 50km of shelving – equivalent, funnily enough, to the length of the Channel Tunnel which connects the UK to France. 

These famed institutions remain two of the most compelling choices for those with an interest in social science and humanities subjects, offering some of the world’s leading resource collections in these fields, and two of the globe’s most international and elite academic communities. While a straight-up comparison in the rankings tables makes LSE the clear winner, Sciences Po’s differentiated course offering, strong faculty/student ratio and choice of locations in Paris and beyond will nonetheless give it the edge for many prospective social science students.

This article was originally published in April 2013. It was last updated in June 2020 to include the latest data from the QS World University Rankings and other sources.

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mariami c, Yusuf Olasunkanmi D & 26 others saved this
Written by Laura Bridgestock
The former editor of TopUniversities.com, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'

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