Ettore Recchi

"A Phd is a life choice"
Interview with the Director of Doctoral Studies in Sociology
  • Ettore Recchi, Professor of Sociology at Sciences PoEttore Recchi, Professor of Sociology at Sciences Po

Are you interested in pursuing a PhD in sociology? A key discipline taught at the college level, sociology is also one of the pillars of research at Sciences Po. What kind of research in sociology does Sciences Po do? How does one select a PhD topic in this discipline? Ettore Recchi, a sociologist and director of studies in sociology at the Doctoral School, offers some advice and answers.   

Could you tell us about your career path and your research focuses?

As a sociologist, I have always been drawn to strategic categories of individuals – somewhat obscure minorities who are in fact key actors in social reproduction and social change. During my PhD, I studied young political activists in Italy, and then turned to mobile EU citizens in Europe. At the time of my study (the 1990s), young Italian politicians were enmeshed in a context of apparent turbulence; however, I found out that they were predominantly a product and a vector of continuity and social reproduction. In the new millennium, I started focusing on EU movers – European citizens resettled in other EU member states – because they struck me as an uncommon population of transnational people quietly eroding the century-long solidity of nation-centered ways of living and thinking. With the free movement regime, the EU has created a unique status of immigrants enjoying full citizenship rights that can bypass – on paper – the traditional assimilation mechanism of the nation state. So, are EU movers bringing about change? Yes, but not so much in the sense of sustaining the empowerment of supranational institutions. Rather, they have triggered a huge backlash – its tipping point was the rejection of the European constitution because of “Polish plumbers”, and its culmination was Brexit because of “Romanian welfare tourists”. In our societies mobile people, and particularly the EU movers who epitomize them, are outsiders who exacerbate the increasingly salient “locals vs cosmopolitans” divide. 

Currently, I have a persisting interest in human mobilities and migrations –from both a macro and micro perspective – at a global scale. My sense is that transnational social practices and international population movements are a powerful force of change. The direction of this change remains to be fully assessed, and it may well be paradoxical and counterintuitive.
In retrospect, I see that these research interests intersect with my personal biography in a non-linear way. A large number of migration scholars are migrants themselves. In my case, I’ve actually lived a largely immobile life, having been academically trained at the European University Institute, which is incidentally located in my hometown, and having been a professor at the University of Florence for almost twenty years. Ironically, my move to Sciences Po was a kind of ex post endorsement of the trajectory of the people I used to study.

At the beginning of the academic year you were appointed director of doctoral studies in sociology. What do you find interesting about supporting the studies of PhD and Masters students?

A not-so-hidden secret of Sciences Po – a cause and a consequence of its success, in a virtuous circle – is the quality of its students. Both PhD and MA students are most stimulating, and a pleasure to be with. They speak out and listen. And the variety of backgrounds – in terms of intellectual training, disciplines, and origins – amplifies all this. What I like most is when students elaborate on your teaching contents and show you angles that you never would have considered. Recently an Indian student taking my course on free movement in Europe asked himself (and myself) “how freedom of movement could be introduced in South-East Asia”. I had never thought about it, and I knew too little about the context to be able to answer. I ended up learning a lot from the essay he wrote about it.

What do you believe are the keys to successfully completing a PhD?

PhD students enjoy a freedom of exploration and focus that rarely reoccurs in an academic career. I wish I had their time to read, peruse, go to seminars, play with data, linger… At the end of the day, they face a trade-off between nailing down their work on a specific research topic, which may speed up their writing, and intellectually wandering, which may strengthen their ability to ask better research questions and develop more fine-grained answers. A critical point is exactly this last one: what are your research questions? Curiously enough, such a straightforward point is elusive and slippery for many otherwise brilliant young (and not so young) scholars. This is one of the reasons why I started offering a course this academic year in the MA in sociology on “Sociological research questions”. Students can listen to and discuss issues with a number of established faculty researchers, who are asked to illustrate the research questions that drive their work. Then students are challenged to sharpen their broad research interests into theoretically meaningful questions – less easily done than said! To articulate sensitivity to a topic into questions, relate them to a theoretical debate and – last but not least – find the data and methods that lead to possible answers: these are the nuts and bolts of doing research.

What advice would you give to students seeking to pursue a PhD in sociology at Sciences Po?

Embarking on a PhD is a bit of a life choice. Not one as committing as taking vows, but still… Like it or not (and I personally don’t), investing years in the pursuit of a PhD ultimately precludes a number of career paths outside of academia. Are you ready to discard these paths? Then comes the issue of sociology. Which sociology? After their MA, young scholars in the field should be aware that sociology is an epistemologically plural discipline. What kind of sociology is for you? And is it represented at Sciences Po? Of the great variety of research interests and approaches, most of Sciences Po’s sociologists are inclined towards empirical research. They also share a theoretical independence of sorts from “schools” and “grand theories”. Does this intellectual freedom and propensity for evidence-based analysis fit with your understanding of sociological inquiry? As a cherry on the cake, I would also invite prospective PhD students to remain open to expanding and deepening their knowledge of research tools and methods far beyond their comfort zone. “Methods” comes from the Greek meta hodos, “the way through”, and getting a PhD should be just that: a somewhat long but certainly fascinating walk.


More information 

=> On Ettore Recchi and the Observatory Sociology of Change (OSC)

=> On the Master in Sociology

=> On the Doctorate in Sociology

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Higher Education Funding Reforms and their Outcomes

Séminaire Politiques éducatives, 28 mars 2018 16h00 - 18h00
  • © ITTIGallery/Shutterstock© ITTIGallery/Shutterstock

L'axe Politiques éducatives a le plaisir de vous inviter à la prochaine séance du cycle de séminaires organisé par Denis Fougère et Agnès van Zanten:

Higher Education Funding Reforms and their Outcomes

[langue: anglais]

 Mercredi 28 mars 2018, 16h00 - 18h00
salle de séminaire du LIEPP
254 bd Saint-Germain, 75007 Paris




Ghazala AZMAT

Professeure au Département d'économie, Sciences Po 
Chercheure affiliée au LIEPP

Higher Education Funding Reforms: A Comprehensive Analysis of Educational and Labour Market Outcomes in England


Résumé [Anglais]: 
This paper (co-authored with Stefania Simion, University of Edinburgh and CEP-LSE) investigates the impact of changes in the funding of higher education in England on students’ choices and outcomes. Over the last two decades – through three major reforms in 1998, 2006 and 2012 – undergraduate university education in public universities moved from being free to students and state funded to charging substantial tuition fees to all students. This was done in conjunction with the government offering generous means-tested maintenance grants and loans. Using detailed longitudinal micro-data that follows all students attending state schools in England (more than 90 percent of all school-aged children) from lower education to higher education, we document the socio-economic distributional effects of the 2006 and 2012 policy reforms on a comprehensive set of outcomes, including enrolment, relocation decisions, selection of institution, program of study, and performance within university. For a subset of students, we track them after completing higher education, allowing us to study the labour market effects of the policy reforms. Despite the substantial higher education funding reforms, we do not find large aggregate effect on student enrolment or on other margins. Moreover, the small negative impacts found on enrolment were largely borne on those in higher parts of the wealth distribution – reducing the enrolment gap across socioeconomic groups.


Gabrielle Fack
Professeure des Universités, Université Paris Dauphine, et Professeure affiliée à PSE

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Laurie Servières

reçoit le Prix de la Documentation Française 2018 du Meilleur Mémoire de Master en science politique, mention relations internationales
  • Laurie Servières Prix Documentation Française 2018 du Meilleur Mémoire de MasterLaurie Servières Prix Documentation Française 2018 du Meilleur Mémoire de Master

Nous lui adressons toutes nos félicitations.

COLOMBIE : LA PAIX COMME LEVIER DE POLITIQUE INTERNATIONALE - Laurie ServièresLaurie Servières reçoit ce prix pour son mémoire de master « Colombie : la paix comme levier de politique internationale » mené sous la direction de Guillaume Devin, professeur à Sciences Po et publié aux éditions l’Harmattan.

Laurie est actuellement doctorante en science politique au Centre de Recherches Internationales (CERI) de Sciences Po et à l’Institut d’Études Sociales et Politiques (IESP) de l’Université d’État de Rio de Janeiro. Ses recherches portent sur les processus d’internationalisation des politiques publiques en Amérique latine. Sa thèse «L'internationalisation des politiques publiques en direction des bidonvilles, les cas du Brésil et de la Colombie» est dirigée par Guillaume Devin et Carlos Milani, professeur à l'Institut d'études sociales et politiques de l'université de l'Etat de Rio de Janeiro (IESP-UERJ).



Grenoble Ecole de Management, avec le soutien de la Documentation Française, organise tous les ans, un concours auprès des étudiants qui suivent une formation de Master portant plus spécifiquement sur les affaires internationales. Peuvent participer à ce concours les mémoires qui traitent d’un sujet relatif aux relations internationales d’une manière générale, et en particulier : sciences politiques (option international), géopolitique, géographie, économie politique internationale, intelligence économique, international business, stratégie internationale, … que les acteurs en soient les états, les entreprises ou les ONG. Outre le niveau de connaissance, seront pris en compte la qualité de la rédaction, le caractère personnel et la pertinence de la réflexion.
En savoir plus… 


[ Mars 2018 ]

Enquête sur le site web de la bibliothèque

Réponse avant le 10 avril 2018
  • Enquête sur le site web de la bibliothèqueEnquête sur le site web de la bibliothèque

Afin d'évaluer l'intérêt que vous portez à son site web, la bibliothèque lance une enquête dont l’objectif est de mieux connaître vos usages et attentes.

Les questions portent notamment sur la page d'accueil du nouveau site lancé en septembre 2016, qui vous permet d'accéder non seulement aux ressources offertes mais aussi à une multitude d'informations sur le fonctionnement et la vie de la bibliothèque.

6 minutes suffisent pour répondre à l'enquête. Si vous laissez votre adresse (email), votre nom pourra être tiré au sort et vous pourrez gagner un des dix lots (dont 3 bons d'achat de 25 € à la librairie de Sciences Po).

Répondre à l'enquête avant le 10 avril.

Merci de votre participation !

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Governing diversity in Milan

An appraisal of the last twenty years of immigrant and diversity policies - Séminaire joint OSC-LIEPP 16 mars 2018 - 11h30 à 13h
  • ureau de l'immigration, Milan centre - Photo Alexandre Rotenberg / Shutterstock ureau de l'immigration, Milan centre - Photo Alexandre Rotenberg / Shutterstock

Le LIEPP a le plaisir de vous inviter au séminaire joint OSC-LIEPP avec le professeur invité Fabio Quassoli:

Governing diversity in Milan: An appraisal of the last twenty years of immigrant and diversity policies

[langue: anglais]

vendredi 16 mars 2018
11h30 - 13h00
Salle Annick Percheron
98, rue de l'Université 75007 Paris 

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     Fabio Quassoli     

     Associate Professor, Université de Milan Bicocca
     Professeur invité au LIEPP du 5/03 au 27/04




Milan is the first immigrants’ destination in Italy and the cosmopolitan city by excellence in the country. Yet for almost two decades the local government has not demonstrated to be particularly prone to the promotion of urban diversity and recognition of the value brought about by immigrants’ communities; safety policies, rather than integration or multicultural policies have been implemented. An apparent radical change started in 2011 when the left-wing coalition led by Giuliano Pisapia won the local elections. In my presentation I analyse the recent evolution of the administration political discourse on diversity and international immigrants’ presence in the city, with the aim to highlight:
- the extent to which the discourse about diversity has been evolving and whether and how any of such changes translate into actual initiatives and/or in policy implementation; 
- the prevailing narratives (interculturalism, multiculturalism, integration, etc.) and the related representations of immigrants and the city itself. 

Particular attention will be devoted to the initiative called “Forum della Città Mondo”, a permanent assembly gathering representatives from migrant and ethnic associations created along the selection of Milan as the site of the 2015 Universal Exposition. 

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