Jacob Christensen

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Archive for February 29th, 2008

So, You Want to Get a Ph.D. in PolSci?

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My personal advice: Don’t!*

But Lee Siegelman relays some results from a US study into completion rates among Ph.D.-students in Political Science and asks:

For example, what is it about political science as a field of study that slows our students down relative to the performance of students in some other social science disciplines? (The fact that many of our students do extensive fieldwork obviously enters in, but there must be more to it than that.) What, for that matter, is there about the social sciences that slows our students down relative to the performance of students in most other fields (the obvious exception being the humanities)? And what can political science programs legitimately do to move our students along at a less glacial speed, especially given that most programs provide funding for no more than five or six years?

I don’t have any Scandinavian numbers (at least not at hand) but my hunch is that this doesn’t necessarily apply to Scandinavian universities. The Swedish problem generally used to be that post-graduate education wasn’t linked with financing so departments would take on applicants beyond their – and the applicants’ – capacity. In Denmark, organised post-graduate programmes (i.e. beyond the 5-6 year kandidat-degree) is a relatively new phenomenon – I actually belong to some of the first cohorts of Ph.D.s.

And in case you wonder, I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation in a little over two years – due to (lack of) financing of the programme I was involved in. This was definitively not an experience I would recommend to anybody, but fortunately things have been straightened up somewhat since the early 1990s.

*Why not? 1) I have no indications that holding a Ph.D. in Political Science will be an advantage over holding an PolSci M.A. on the general labour market (a Ph.D. in economics or statistics may be useful, though) in Scandinavia, 2) the academic labour market is limited and pretty bumpy. So you’re turning away from the high road and into a pretty much unchartered field full of the proverbial dragons. If, on the other hand, you are the adventurous type, then a PolSci Ph.D. may be something for you.

Written by Jacob Christensen

February 29th, 2008 at 3:12 pm

links for 2008-02-29

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Written by Jacob Christensen

February 29th, 2008 at 1:27 pm

Posted in delicious.com

Some Song and Dance

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Let’s see: Sweden gave the world ABBA, Cardigans, Europe, Roxette – and a few other acts. And around this time every year, the country goes completely crazy over the national qualifiers for the Eurovision Song Contest. If you didn’t now any better, you might be excused for believing that Melodifestivalen was the Eurovision Song Contest.

Denmark … well, our claim to pop music fame is Aqua which was fronted by a Norwegian singer.

Need we say more?

Why have Denmark and Sweden differed in musical performance? After all, both countries – like all Baltic countries – have a great choral tradition.

The usual explanation for the Swedish success in the world’s recording studios has been political: As part of the cradle-to-grave Welfare State, Swedish local councils created and supported a comprehensive network of afternoon musical schools and at one point the investment – which may have been motivated partly by a desire to keep the kids of the streets, partly by an ideal of artistic participation – paid off. Denmark also had afternoon music schools for children but the Danish system was never developed as comprehensively as the Swedish (the Swedes are nothing if not comprehensive and systematic).

But maybe we need a supplementary explanation. The [insert nation] Idol craze has swept both countries recently and Danish commentators have pointed out that non-conformist churches have been mass-providers of singers. My impression is that non-conformist (often Evangelical) churches are relatively bigger (and definitively much more prominent in the public) in Sweden than in Denmark, and even though Sweden has and has had its share of stern no-fun pietist movements, Sweden in some ways seems closer to American Evangelical than North European Lutheran traditions.

So perhaps what was needed for the big pop bonanza was a fertile combination of a Social Democratic welfare state and American Evangelism?

I should point out, in all fairness, that Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA fame is an out-spoken secularist.

Written by Jacob Christensen

February 29th, 2008 at 12:37 am

Posted in Spare time

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