By European Affairs
Richard Descoings, 53, headed the Paris Institute of Political Studies, better known as “Sciences Po” -- the university that has spawned many leading French politicians, businessmen, academics and media people. He was found dead in his hotel room with no apparent signs of crime in New York, where he was attending a UN conference of university heads.
Descoings was a prominent leader in reform efforts in France, as elsewhere in Europe, to modernize higher education in an era of globalization. Since taking over at Sciences Po in 1996, Descoings had attracted international attention for his work in shaking up the venerable institution, promoting “affirmative action-style” access for underprivileged French students and introducing reforms to modernize its teaching approach and make the prestigious school more competitive in attracting more foreign students.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy paid tribute to him as a man who had devoted his life to education.