Learning about Sociology from a Global Perspective
Master’s programme in Comparative Social Research was launched in 2014 and has been rapidly developing since. Its Academic Supervisor Christian Fröhlich talks about what the programme offers the applicants and what makes it unique.
The programme is about sociology from a global perspective. It’s about global sociology in the sense that we focus on comparative sociology, although one can say that sociology in itself is already comparative. As Emile Durkheim, one of the founding fathers of modern sociology said, sociology in itself is comparative. What we do in our programme is compare cultures, nations, societies, and other groups of people. We look at social issues in the world from a perspective of interconnectedness between social action of individuals on different macro-levels of collectivity, such as, for example, societies and cultures.
Our programme is taught in an international environment firstly because it is delivered entirely in English. There is no need to know any Russian to participate in seminars or attend lectures. Secondly, our whole faculty is international. Most of our lecturers are from abroad, from various countries, which brings an additional dimension to the programme. In general, the programme is geared towards Anglo-American sociology although there are quite a few researchers from Europe as well. There are those who permanently work at HSE, for example Kyungmin Baek from South Korea, Lili Di Puppo from Belgium, Chares Demetriou from Cyprus, and others. We also invite guest lecturers thanks to our close institutional relations with the International Laboratory for Comparative Social Research headed by Eduard Ponarin. Many distinguished scholars are guest fellows or permanent fellows at the laboratory, and the academic supervisor of the lab is Ronald Inglehart, a prominent sociologist and founder of World Values Survey. Our students benefit from direct interaction and many fruitful discussions with lab scholars who often act as supervisors for students’ research projects and master theses. Additionally, the students can participate in all LCSR events – summer schools, research workshops and seminars in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. They also have an opportunity to present their master theses or course works at LCSR annual conferences.
As our faculty is international, the teaching process is organized in a way you find at Anglo-American and West-European elite universities. The demands are quite high. Our seminars are very participatory and challenging. We encourage students to work on their own initiative and to develop independent thinking and research. So, the programme in this respect is in line with similar western programmes. It should be mentioned that here at HSE, student autonomy is greatly promoted and encouraged.
Studies and prospects
Ours is a young programme, it was launched only two years ago and the first cohort will graduate this summer. The programme is heavily research-orientated. Big part of education is dedicated to methods and methodology. We are preparing people to actually handle data from different contexts, institutional backgrounds, and countries. We are often working with big comparative data sets like World Values Survey or European Values Survey. Students graduating from our programme will be able to do applied research focusing on various issues. So, they will be able to work in big international organizations and companies where they will handle data to solve problems and understand issues and problems. We motivate them also to pursue research at PhD level – our students are well-prepared to enter international doctoral programmes.
We not only teach quantitative methods, but also introduce students to qualitative methods. However, due to our close relations to the Laboratory for Comparative Social Research our primary focus is quantitative research. Starting with the first semester, students get a lot of practice working with programmes for statistical analysis, in particular the R, which is a very sophisticated programme unlike SPSS undergraduates typically work with. So, from the very beginning of the programme students are in touch with empirical research.
For our future intakes we plan to add a wider range of elective courses so that students can have a bigger scope of topics apart from methodology to choose from. We are also working on strengthening our contacts with the international research community. We are inviting guest speakers for our seminars and master classes. This will also help expand the range of internship options for our students.
The third semester of our programme is devoted exclusively to research practice, when students conduct their research internship. They do not attend any classes during this semester. Students can do their internship in research institutions, choosing from a wide network of the laboratory´s and the programme´s partners. For instance, students go to our partner the University of Tilburg. Others went to Germany, Poland, Finland, or to some strong research institutions in Moscow or St. Petersburg. There are also opportunities to go to international organizations. Last year our student Miguel Mayol did an internship at UN office in Chile. There he studied the issue of homophobia in Latin America.
Students are urged to come up with their own topic of research for their thesis. Then they discuss it with their academic supervisor and in the research seminar. Already in the first semester they write a research proposal as a ground stone for further work. The internship provides an excellent opportunity to gather material for the thesis. Topics that interest students are quite diverse. The only obligatory element is a comparative approach. It does not necessarily mean that they need to compare many countries – they can compare social groups, or just take two countries. We have students interested in the relation and attitude of the public towards science. There is a student working on how female researchers cope with gender discrimination in Germany and Russia. Another research topic is related to how the concept of culture is used and transformed in the work of consulting agencies in Finland. Questions of nationalism and racism in different countries and how this depends on social characteristics of these countries are also studied.
Who is the programme for?
In general, we are open to political scientists, historians, sociologists. In other words, our programme is for all social scientists. Applicants need a solid knowledge of methodology, qualitative as well as quantitative methods, and a general interest and educational background in how societies work. However, our programme is designed in such a way that students who lack certain methodological knowledge can rapidly catch up and study successfully.
The programme is of particular interest to international applicants because it gives them an opportunity to earn a high-quality Master diploma complying with modern standards of education while living in Russia. This country is an interesting place to experience. Students study in Moscow but can go to Saint Petersburg, where the Laboratory for Comparative Social Research holds many of its events and where students can complete their research internships. This way, students can enjoy a different cultural environment, which is an additional significant benefit.
Abhinav Banerjee, India, 1st year student
I chose the MA CSR program because of its promising blend of Social Science theory. I have certainly not been disappointed! The programme is quite as I hoped it would be, and I look forward to every class as there are so many wonderful insights to gain. In my research project I am modelling the growth and acceptance of the Liberal Arts along with other emerging cross-disciplinary fields vis-a-vis traditional educational disciplines.
Jacqueline Phillips, USA, 2nd year student
I learned about HSE and the Master’s in Comparative Social Research when I read an interview with one of the professors that was posted on the HSE website. This programme has incorporated the best of both worlds. While intense theoretical discussion is popular in US sociology, Russian academia prides itself on research. At HSE, I have already written many theoretical papers, but also worked in the SPSS, Atlas.ti, and R software packages. Right now I am exploring how the concept of culture in social science is translated into practical management applications by business consultants and the implications of this concept transformation.
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The main channel for transmitting the value of volunteerism in Russia is from parents to children, HSE University researchers have found. Younger generations in families begin helping others as they grow up, following the example set by their elders.
The way one thinks, feels and acts in certain circumstances can determine career opportunities in terms of employment and pay. For the first time in Russia, Ksenia Rozhkova has examined the effect of personality characteristics on employment.
Inspired by her exchange experience in Moscow during her undergraduate studies, French student Marion Jacquart decided to do her Master’s at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris because it has a double degree agreement with HSE University. As she finishes her programme in Comparative Social Research in Moscow, where she has been based for the last year doing research for her Master’s thesis on feminism, she shared her experience and impressions with the HSE News Service.
The HSE Centre for Studies of Income and Living Standards studied the dynamics of the middle class and its behaviour with regard to paid services. The study was based on data drawn from the HSE Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (RLMS-HSE) for the years 2000 to 2017, and the results were presented at the 20th April International Academic Conference hosted by HSE.
On March 20, a conference for HSE staff and students will take place at HSE. It will consider the university’s development programme and elect the new Academic Council. The previous conference took place five years ago, in 2014, and the university has changed a lot since then. HSE News Service spoke with some of the university leaders about how their own work at the University has changed over this period.
Anyone moving in a large crowd, absorbed in their phone and yet avoiding collisions, follows certain laws that they themselves create. The movement of individuals as a condition for the movement of masses is the subject of a recent study by Dr. Andrey Korbut.
Researchers from Higher School of Economics analyzed 62 million public posts on the most popular Russian social networking site VK and found that both men and women mention sons more often than daughters. They also found that posts featuring sons receive 1.5 times more likes. The results have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.