Top French University Faces Yet Another Crisis as Leader Resigns

One of France’s most elite universities found itself without a leader for the second time in just three years on Wednesday after its director, Mathias Vicherat, resigned to face a court case over accusations of domestic violence.

The university, Sciences Po in Paris, has produced five of France’s last eight presidents and over a dozen prime ministers, as well as top business leaders, well-known journalists and scores of high-ranking civil servants. It has been striving to grow even stronger by diversifying its student body and competing internationally for students.

But the resignation of Mr. Vicherat, 45, who denied any wrongdoing and said he was stepping down to protect Sciences Po’s standing, was the latest in a series of episodes of internal turmoil that have tarnished the school’s reputation.

Mr. Vicherat’s predecessor, Frédéric Mion, stepped down in 2021 after admitting that he had not taken action against a longtime professor and board member despite knowing of incest allegations against him; an investigation into the professor by prosecutors was later dropped because the statute of limitations had expired. The school’s previous director, Richard Descoings, was found dead in a Manhattan hotel room in 2012 — a death that was followed by an embarrassing government audit over the school’s use of public funds.

Sciences Po said in a statement on Wednesday that it had “taken note” of Mr. Vicherat’s resignation “to safeguard the institution,” but did not comment on the unrest surrounding his departure.

Laurence Bertrand Dorléac, who heads the National Foundation of Political Sciences, a private entity that oversees the university’s budget and governing strategy, said in a message to faculty members and students that a provisional administration would be appointed in the coming days.

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