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Top Social Science Schools: LSE Vs Sciences Po

By Laura Bridgestock

Updated June 11, 2021 Updated June 11, 2021

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

Both specialise in social sciences and humanities, including lawlanguagesgeography, 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.  

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 be possible to choose both. LSE 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... 

 
 

LSE 

Sciences Po 

QS World University Rankings® 2022 

  • Ranked 49th in the world overall 

  • Rated 11th by graduate employers and 83rd by academics 

  • 348th for student/faculty ratio, 70th for research impact (citations per faculty member) 

  • 30th in the world for percentage of international faculty members, and fifth for international students 

  • Ranked joint 261st in the world overall 

  • Rated 303rd by graduate employers and 414th by academics 

  • 75th for student/faculty ratio 

  • 601+ for research impact (citations per faculty member) 

  • 337th in the world for percentage of international faculty members, and 42nd for international students 

Subject strengths* 

  • 16th for arts and humanities 

  • Second for social sciences and management 

  • 162nd for arts and humanities 

  • Joint 56th for social sciences and management 

Location 

In the centre 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 

10,782 students, 5,331 undergraduates and 5,030 postgraduates 

Around 55 percent of students are from outside the UK 

 

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

 

Tuition fees 

  • Tuition fees for undergraduate students 2020/21 are £9,250 per year for UK students and £22,430 per year for international students.  

  • For postgraduate students, tuition fees range from £15,216 to £30,260 per year for UK students and between £23,520 to £30,960 per year for international students. 

  • Tuition fees for undergraduate students from the EEA, Lichtenstein, Norway or Iceland are up to €13,000 (~£11,180) per year based on household income and €13,000 for international students from outside these countries.  

  • Tuition fees for undergraduate students from the EEA, Lichtenstein, Norway or Iceland are up to €18,000 (~£15,480) per year based on household income and €18,000 for international students from outside these countries. 

*Based on the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021

QS World University Rankings® 2022 

Both institutions are strong performers in the QS World University Rankings, though LSE does have a strong lead – ranking 49th in the 2022 edition, compared to Sciences Po at joint 261st.  

The London school outranks its Parisian counterpart on almost all the performance indicators used to compile the rankings, apart from the faculty-student ratio: Sciences Po 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 70th, while Sciences Po is outside of the top 400. 

Subject strengths 

The QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021 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 2021 

 
 

LSE 

Sciences Po 

Accounting & finance 

4th 

201-250 

Anthropology 

8th 

101-120 

Art & design 

 

-- 

Business & management studies 

11th 

-- 

Communication & media studies 

3rd 

-- 

Computer science 

=139th 

-- 

Development studies 

=3rd 

=39th 

Economics 

6th 

=81st 

Geography 

2nd 

-- 

History 

5th 

51-100 

Law 

6th 

=51st 

Mathematics 

105th 

-- 

Modern languages 

-- 

201-250 

Philosophy 

6th 

-- 

Politics 

5th 

2nd 

Psychology 

=24th 

151-200 

Social policy & administration 

3rd 

21st 

Sociology 

3rd 

30th 

Statistics & operational research 

26th 

-- 

Location 

Rivalry between the two schools is further intensified by their locations in the heart of the capitals of 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 may also be based at one of six regional campuses, located across France. Each of these campuses 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. 

Community  

Sciences Po is slightly larger in terms of overall student numbers, with around 14,000 students, compared to roughly 10,782 at LSE.  

Both universities are very internationally diverse. At LSE, around 55 percent of students are from outside the UK, while 49 percent of Sciences Po students are from outside France.  

Tuition fees  

At LSE, undergraduate tuition fees are set at £9,250 per year for UK students and £22,430 per year for international students. At postgraduate level, tuition fees range from £15,216 to £30,260 per year for UK students and between £23,520 to £30,960 per year for international students. 

The LSE Undergraduate Support Scheme (USS) helps international students who don’t have the necessary funds to meet their costs of study. The amount of financial help will vary according to individual financial needs but is usually between £6,000 and £15,000. There are also several scholarships available to students, funded by private or corporate donations. These may be based on either financial need or academic merit. 

At Sciences Po, tuition fees for undergraduate students from the EEA, Lichtenstein, Norway or Iceland cost up to €13,000 (~£11,180) per year based on family income and €13,000 for international students from outside these countries. Tuition fees for postgraduate students from the EEA, Lichtenstein, Norway or Iceland are up to €18,000 (~£15,480) per year based on family income and €18,000 for all international students from outside these countries. 

Sciences Po has a variety of scholarships and grants available for domestic and international students, which you can read more about here.  

Resources 

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 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 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 2021 to include the latest data from the QS World University Rankings and other sources. 

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This article was originally published in June 2019 . It was last updated in June 2021

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Written by

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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