Home>Nicolas Bau, Class of 2022


Nicolas Bau, Class of 2022

Can you tell us about your academic background?

I joined Sciences Po as a Master's student, after a B/L preparatory class, completed by a bachelor's degree at the Nouveau Collège d'Etudes Politiques, a joint program of the universities of Paris VIII and Paris Nanterre.
I had the chance to pursue a very rich and stimulating undergraduate training, which allowed me to quickly develop an interest in public policy. The NCEP offered a comprehensive, critical and actionable training for public action.
During this period, I was very marked by the reading of Michel Foucault, especially on neoliberalism, and by the uses of his thought in political science. This episode constituted an important moment in my reflection on my desire to pursue research. This interest was confirmed after a positive experience in a research laboratory.
At the end of my bachelor's degree, I had a clear idea of my desire to do a research Master’s, and from this perspective I applied for the Master's degree in Political Science at Sciences Po.

Why did you choose the master's degree in Public Policy?

By a happy coincidence, three new tracks, including one in public policy, were opening up in the Political Science master's program for the year I wanted to join it.
I wanted a solid education in public policy and Sciences Po is a reference university in France and abroad in this field. Furthermore, I had never been taught methods in preparatory classes or in my bachelor’s, and I wanted to benefit from methodological support, which is at the heart of research training.
During the first year of training, the master's degree in public policy offers comprehensive and advanced teaching in qualitative and quantitative methods. Plus, compared to the other majors, the Public Policy track offers teaching in methods applied to the analysis and evaluation of public policies. Finally, the pluralism of the program, both in the courses offered and the approaches taught, convinced me to apply in the Public Policy track.

Why did you choose to pursue a PhD? How is your daily life organized?

The Master's degree raised more questions in me than it resolved.
My Master's thesis, which focused on the influence of neo-managerial ideas on French foreign aid policy, raised a broader question about the effects of changing ideologies on foreign aid policies. It is in this perspective that I applied to the University of Geneva to work under the advice of Simone Dietrich, who is developing a research agenda on foreign aid bureaucracies.
I also wanted to teach, and the PhD offers the opportunity to do so. I am funded by a teaching assistant contract. I dedicate half of my working time to teaching, and the other half to do research for my thesis, to co-organize scientific events, and to participate in the academic life in Geneva and elsewhere. The schedule is busy, but the tasks are diversified. No two days are alike!

What does the Public Policy major bring to your PhD program?

I realized the quality of the training I received in the Public Policy major when I started my thesis.
The diversity of the courses, which allow you to learn about the main debates in the discipline, and the quality of the texts given to read in the framework of the master's program help you to build up a broad and specialized knowledge of political science and the field of public policy. This is a huge time saver at the beginning of the PhD.
Beyond the thesis, all the courses I took during the two years of the master's program are useful to me today.
During a PhD, there are multiple activities that require you to go outside your field of specialization. For example, teaching and discussing the work of one's colleagues require a broader knowledge of political science than just the expertise one builds around one's subject. Finally, methodological training is very useful. In this context, courses in quantitative methods are a real advantage of the training, since they are often a mandatory prerequisite for doing a doctorate abroad.

Why would you recommend this master?

It is an excellent program for pursuing a PhD, but not only.
From the beginning of the first year, the emphasis is on learning the plurality of methods for collecting and analyzing data and on building a solid, coherent and feasible research design for the dissertation in the second year.
Many professions other than that of researcher that can be accessed after this master's degree require the ability to work with data, i.e. to identify their availability, select them according to objective criteria, and develop relevant indicators to analyze them and give them meaning.
The conditions of study at Sciences Po are excellent.
The resources are vast and immediately available thanks to the work of the librarians. Also, the supervision of the public policy major is provided by a team of professors involved in the Master's program. Their benevolence and availability help to build one's research subject and one's academic career.
The teachers are open to discussion. Most of them are affiliated to the Centre for European Studies and Comparative Politics, a laboratory that is very much part of the academic fabric and where students are encouraged to attend scientific events.
Finally, the atmosphere with the other students was very good and friendly. We regularly discussed our respective work and often went out together!

Would you have any advice for a student who wants to go for a PhD?

Having only recently started my PhD, I certainly do not have the necessary hindsight to give the best advice, but I think it is essential to be really passionate about your topic and your field of study. You must be passionate enough about your subject to be able to devote yourself to it (almost) every day for several years.
I think that one should also be careful not to constantly take refuge in activities related to the thesis (teaching, administrative activities, ...) to keep enough time for research. Also, contrary to common belief, doing a PhD does not necessarily mean spending your days alone.
Finally, I think it is important to find out about doctoral programs that do not lock students into their subject. It is also important to make sure of the quality of PhD candidates’ supervision, the support after PhD defense, or the opportunities of insertion in research projects for example, which are modalities that vary according to the universities. For this, I would advise to discuss with a possible future supervisor and possible future colleagues.

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