For departmental news, check out the English page

As of June 22, 2015, news will be published on the department's English website only. You can find the news page of the English website here.

June 2015: PhD defense on deadly governmental accidents

On June 8, Stephan Berndsen will defend his dissertation entitled 'Between Error and Evil: The Dynamics of Deadly Governmental Accidents'. This dissertation focuses on deadly accidents in which the government has played a role, such as the Schiphol fire, the poison scandal of the Probo Koala and the fire in the Catshuis. One of his results is that error is the most common, combining coincidence, bad luck, failure and at times bad choices. Also administrative evil can occur. “People in organizations can through their daily routines, often without knowing this, contribute to unnecessary accidents,” states Berndsen, giving as an example the whistle blower Fred Spijkers after accidents with land mines. The government is not always aware of this type of danger, as the responses from governments show. They are generally willing to cooperate in investigations, but don't really know how to respond, leading to an oftentimes defensive response. Berndsen's findings can benefit governments, people and organizations affected and scientists. Seeking the right balance between evil and error remains challenging.

May 2015: Gjalt de Graaf appointed as Chair of Integrity of Academic Education, with a focus on governing conflicting public values

The Department of Political Science and Public Administration is very proud to announce that Gjalt de Graaf has been appointed as Chair of Integrity of Academic Education, with a focus on governing conflicting public values per 1 May 2015.

The global financial crisis demonstrates only too well what happens when countries, institutions and individuals lose their moral compass and personal integrity is thrown to the winds. Within the professions, what has happened to the idea of stewardship, and to the notion of the guardianship of other people’s interests? The ethics of education is also in need of attention. As there are integrity issues and dilemmas in academic research, there are integrity issues and dilemmas in academic education. Academic teachers should, of course, feel a loyalty towards their students, but also to their employers, colleagues, science, private life and profession. Balancing these loyalties is not always easy. As Chair Integrity of Academic Education, Gjalt will contribute to and complement VU initiatives on integrity of methodologies and research, by broadening the concept and issues of integrity, and by focusing on the integrity of education.

Gjalt will conduct research on the integrity of academic education, with special attention for dealing with conflicting values. The fundamental challenge to public institutions, including universities in serving the public interest, is to balance the pursuit of different, inevitably contradictory, standards. Trade-offs between valued principles are thus an ineluctable fact of any designing process. For instance, services that are fully responsive to the needs and wants of some students may not be very efficient in terms of the interests of the wider academic community. Besides, ideas of effective operational structures could be in breach of the law. Many public organizations such as universities have put together codes which lists those values that should characterize the quality of governance and education. The idea of good governance is often given substance by normative statements on those values that a public organization such as a university should adhere to. However, the meaning of all these values in daily practice remains unclear. Moreover, easy as it is to applaud specific values – who is against openness, impartiality or efficiency in higher education? – and to set these values down on paper in a codified form, it is much more difficult to subsequently act in line with all of them. In daily practice, multiple values that are all desirable will conflict in such a way that choices have to be made.

Broad developments such as globalization, individualization and information technology have major implications for universities. New social networks challenge traditional modes of public service delivery like higher education, and lead to new value conflicts – where values such as impartiality, transparency, participation or accessibility are apparently at odds with efficiency, stability or democratic processes. A more specific development is the increasing use of social media by students. As the Cohen Committee (2013) concluded, Project X parties such as the Haren event in The Netherlands show that there is insufficient understanding of the impact social media can have. This mode of communication is connected to micro-organization, framing and unpredictability, facilitates large scale action and offers alternatives to conventional patterns of decision making and participation. For example, with the possibility for students to film classes with their start phones and quickly widely distribute the material, openness can conflict with privacy. New technologies can certainly help the efficiency of academic education, but how do they impact the quality of education?


April 2015: Congrats to the new dr.'s!

Over the last months, no less then six PhD candidates in the department defended their PhD dissertations successfully! The new dr.'s are:

  • Leonie Heres (December 2014), One Style Fits All? The Content, Origins, and Effect of Follower Expectations of Ethical Leadership.
  • Benjamin Neudorfer (December 2014), Consequences of Multilevel Governance.
  • Debbie Rice (February 2015), Building Active Welfare States: How Policy Shapes Caseworker Practice.
  • Falk Ostermann (April 2015), French Security and Defense under Sarkozy and Chirac. The Discursive Reconstruction of Autonomy, Integration, and Identity.
  • Jeanine Bezuijen (April 2015), Governance above the State: Explaining Variation in International Authority.
  • Nienke Boesveldt (April 2015), Planet Homeless: Governance Arrangements in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Glasgow.


And on 12 May, Anna Schonewille will defend her dissertation entitled What activation practitioners do: An ethnomethodological study about activation as it is accomplished in practice by activation practitioners.

Januari 2015: Toekenning Horizon 2020 subsidie Liesbet Hooghe en Gary Marks

Liesbet Hooghe and Gary Marks, who jointly hold the chair in multilevel governance in the Faculty of Social Sciences, were successful in a Horizon 2020 bid.

EUENGAGE - Bridging the gap between public opinion and European leadership -- brings together leading researchers from Siena University, the VU University Amsterdam, Mannheim University, the London School of Economics, Central European University in Budapest, and Bucharest University. The consortium is led by the Siena partner, with the VU pillar the second-largest in the program. The goals of the project are:

1. To inquire into the current tensions between supranational EU governance and popular mobilisation at the national level, critically questioning EU-driven policies and EU legitimacy;

2. To propose remedial actions based on sound empirical research on the relationship between public opinion, national and supranational political elites.

The VUA participation in Horizon 2020 has also an ACCESS component since two UvA researchers also participate in the research program.

December 2014: Onderzoeksprogramma Politicologie zeer goed tot excellent beoordeeld

Onderzoeksprogramma Politicologie zeer goed tot excellent beoordeeld


‘Multilayered Governance in Europe and beyond’, het onderzoeksprogramma van de afdeling Politicologie (Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen) is zeer goed tot excellent beoordeeld in de onderzoeksvisitatie. Een internationaal samengestelde, onafhankelijke onderzoekscommissie kende het programma op alle vier de kwaliteitscriteria een score van 4.5 van de 5 toe.

Die criteria zijn kwaliteit, productiviteit, relevantie en levensvatbaarheid, en werden beoordeeld in de periode 2007-2012. “Het onderzoeksprogramma is zeer goed gestructureerd en goed geleid,” luidde het oordeel van de onderzoekscommissie. “Tegelijkertijd heeft het onderzoek van individuele onderzoekers duidelijk een eigen gezicht.”

Qua productiviteit scoort ‘Multilayered Governance in Europe and beyond’ bovendien als één van de besten van de onderzochte politicologische onderzoeksprogramma’s. “Publicaties worden extreem vaak geciteerd en, nog belangrijker, publicaties zijn aantoonbaar van hoge kwaliteit.”

Twee grote onderzoeksprojecten die momenteel worden uitgevoerd zijn ‘Causes and Consequences of Multilevel Governance’ en ‘High-Risk Politics’.

Mei 2014: BVPA publicatie prijs voor Caelesta Braun en Jan Beyers

Op 12 mei hebben Caelesta Braun en Jan Beyers de BVPA publicatie prijs (beroepsvereniging voor public affairs) toegekend gekregen voor een gezamenlijke publicatie. Het volledige bericht is hier te lezen. Een blogpost over het stuk is te vinden via deze link