The faculty of Political, Economic and Social Sciences of the University of Milan is an educational institution which offers a complete academic training across the entire range of social science subject areas. It is placed in the heart of the city centre, at walking distance from two metro lines : it is thus very well connected with the whole of the town and of the region. It resides in an ancient palace, recently restored and fully equipped with the latest technology (for instance, a wi-fi connection is available in the whole building). Also our center in Sesto San Giovanni, where some courses in the Communication and Foreign Languages areas are taught, is very close to a metro station connecting it directly to the center of the town.
During recent years, the faculty has extended and diversified the study programmes on offer, both its three year undergraduate degrees and, especially, its post-graduate master courses. These innovations on one side have adapted the courses towards a better match with the demand of society (in its twofold dimension of the family and the productive system), on the other a more thorough selection of candidates has been introduced, together with more specific orientation to help future students in their choices.
This has resulted in a significant increase of the number of students, despite the creation on the part of other universities of the Milan area of many new faculties directly competing with our own.
The programmes on offer for the next year are : 7 three year undergraduate courses , and 10 post-graduate courses (including 1 interfaculty degree with the Medical School, and 1 inter-university degree with 3 foreign universities). All courses are multi-disciplinary and offer a broad education, including all the disciplines taught in the faculty. However, one could divide them into three groups. A first group is oriented towards the study of society, and it builds on disciplines such as sociology, political economy, history, foreign languages and civilization, cognitive and communication sciences. A second one is oriented towards the study of firms, building on disciplines such as business management, marketing, organization science, labour law.
A third group is oriented towards the study of institutions, and it is based on disciplines such as political science, public law, international relations.
Since 2008, the Faculty of Political, Economic and Social Sciences has introduced an assessment test.
This test is not selective but offers students an additional tool in order to evaluate their skills and level of academic preparation, whatever their high school diploma results. The aim of this measure is make students more conscious about their possibilities. In this way, drop-out from university can be diminished, as in many cases they depend on a lack of awareness concerning their interests and attitudes, or also on wrong expectations concerning what a university-level education requires. This measure adds to other measures concerning teaching (shorter courses, mid-term exams, more accurate workloads) recently introduced, and the final outcome has been a significant reduction in the time required to complete an undergraduate degree.
For those who go on after a BA degree, the Faculty has developed a wide range of post-graduate courses ranging from political, economic, international and social studies to cognitive sciences and labour studies. Two of theses courses are completely taught in English and French, and a third course has a program entirely taught in English.
The common feature that they all share, however, is a thorough selection procedure in order to ensure that aspiring candidates will be able to fully benefit from the highest level teaching standards these courses offer. Often courses include interactive teaching, groupwork and seminars held by professionals from the industries the course is oriented towards. Moreover, keeping student numbers down is also fundamental to guarantee the best level of supervision for the research projects which students are required to undertake to complete their final thesis. The study programmes on offer are completed by many doctoral courses. Our center in via Pace, five minutes walk from the main location of our school, hosts two doctoral schools : the Graduate School in Social and Political Sciences, and the Lombard Advanced School in Economic Research include 5 programmes entirely taught in English. There are also other doctoral courses, some of them based in our school, someothers in cooperation with other universities, one second level master course and many specialization courses for graduate students.
Data on the occupational outcomes of our graduates give a conforting picture. The most recent informations come from the Stella survey on graduates of 2008. One year after graduation, about 40% of our BA graduates have a job, while about 47% is still proceeding at MA level. The unemployment rate is 11.1%. Looking at the master graduates, about 47% have a job, 13% is still studying (in a second level master or in a PhD course), while the unemployed are around 20%.
The Faculty of Political, Economic and Social Sciences is able to offer such a wide range of courses as a result of two key factors. Firstly, we are the largest Political Science faculty in Italy with the highest number of teaching. To get an idea of the scale, the number of permanent professors is almost equivalent to the combined numbers of the Faculties of Economics, Sociology and Statistical Sciences of the University of Milan-Bicocca. Secondly, in the last years the faculty’s professors have collectively and independently decided to increase their teaching workload in order to improve the opportunities on offer to the students. The teaching staff is the core asset of the Faculty. Their 200-strong number includes not just internationally well-known scholars, but also many opinion-makers whose columns can be frequently read on the main Italian newspapers (such as Il Sole 24 Ore or Il corriere della sera). Thanks to the increase of the number of students, the faculty has been able to recruit many young researchers and professors : this is why our teaching staff is on average younger (and thus more up-to-date and motivated) than it is normal in Italian universities. Professors are flanked by a skillful and dynamic administrative, technical and support staff, also comparatively young : together, we make possible the intense teaching and research activity that takes place daily in our Faculty.
During this process of deep innovation, the Faculty has however kept its consistency and its tradition, that is almost 40 year old by now. The renewed course structure has also aimed at developing the synergies between subject areas, exploiting the opportunities offered by the collaboration of experts in different fields in order to avoid the excessive compartmentalisation of knowledge.
The faculty is also at the forefront in its use of computer technology. All the students’ workplaces are connected to a group of servers run in-house by a single Datacentre which hosts high powered Blade systems (the BladeR project) and all rooms, as stated above, offer access to a wireless connection. The content of all first year courses are available in podcast form which can be freely downloaded from the faculty website. Moreover, the faculty website is kept constantly updated using a dynamic database which allows for the simultaneous management of teaching staff, classrooms, timetables and course content. Our Faculty is not just a centre for teaching and research, but it is also a lively cultural centre. Each week it is host of many seminars and meetings programme on contemporary issues of political, social and economic interest (the calendar of the meetings is kept fully up to date on the Home Page of the faculty website.), ranging from geopolitical problems to the analysis of individual behaviour. Hence students find themselves immersed in a stimulating environment, not only for their studies, but also for a greater understanding of the crucial issues facing today’s world. The day-to-day life of the Faculty is made more sprightly by a number of student groups, including political groups of all colours, groups related to various institutions (from UN to the European Parliament), and also a faculty Students’ Union (SUSP) which organizes both cultural and recreational activities.
So, why should a young woman or man choose our faculty, when entering university ? Because a person who wants to understand the problems facing the contemporary world in their political, economic and social dimensions will find in this school the right place to complete his or her education. An undergraduate degree based on a multi-disciplinary approach, essential to an understanding of complex issues, is then be followed by more specialised studies which reflect the research interests of the teaching staff as well as the importance of particular issues which are emerging in modern society. What we offer to our students is the opportunity to experience different approaches, each with its own subject core and methodology, in subjects as diverse as Law, Economics, Sociology, History, Politics, Psychology, Languages and Statistics.
As it has been seen above, employment opportunities for our students are good. But employment opportunities should not be the only criterion by which to judge the education offered by a university faculty. Civicness and solidarity, the ability to affirm and defend civil rights, as well as a full participation to the political life of the country are among the goals of our teaching, and we can proudly affirm that we deliver such goals. Considering the wealth of opportunities that this faculty offers, a more suitable name might be the School of Political, Economic and Social Sciences. Yet, because of the speed with which knowledge is continually evolving, even this name would not fully capture its full meaning. Perhaps the only way a student can truly understand what studying at the School of Political Science really means is by experiencing it.