27 August 2015

Department of Political Science celebrates its 50 year anniversary


The Department of Political Science is publishing an anniversary book to celebrate that on 1 September 50 years ago, the first students were admitted to the Department. Associate Professor Emeritus Lars Bille has been part of the Department from the very beginning and in this book he gives an account of the Department's history and of life at what has been described by the media as the "politician factory in Copenhagen".

The Department of Political Science is currently enjoying success in every area, which makes Lars Bille, associate professor emeritus, very proud of the Department. As former Head of Department, Lars Bille has been involved from the very beginning, since the first students were admitted in 1965, and now shares his knowledge in this anniversary book, together with accounts of life at the Department given by a number of current and former students and researchers.

Number one in Scandinavia

Lars Bille has seen the Department grow from the very beginning, and from when, back in the 1960s, the degree programme was called an "advanced newspaper reading exam", to the significant research position it holds today.

The Department of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen currently ranks as number one in Scandinavia, number eight in Europe and number 30 in the world for politics and international studies in the "QS University Rankings", which is an annual list ranking the world's top universities.

The Department has also achieved a prominent position in the public domain and in central government. This position has led the media to coin the term "politician factory in Copenhagen" to describe the Department, although Lars Bille considers this to be misleading:

"You can't study to be a politician, but a political science degree can give you a better idea of political life and some fundamental knowledge of how the engine rooms of power actually function. Politics is an art that requires talent, and this talent isn’t something that students can be taught," says Lars Bille.

Politics in their blood and social engagement

A large number of students bring this talent with them, along with their laptops, when they start their studies. Lars Bille has seen how many of the Department's students have had politics in their blood long before they started at the University:

"Our students share in common that they are deeply engaged in society, which they are also eager to influence. If political science wasn't open to them, they would probably study economics or law instead, and still end up in Parliament," says Lars Bille.

Before the political science programmes at Aarhus University and the University of Copenhagen were established, economics and law were politicians' preferred higher education programmes. Today's situation is different, since a survey in the spring showed that 22 members of Parliament held a political science degree from the University of Copenhagen.

Focus on communication as from the 1990s

Lars Bille believes that part of the reason that political science graduates have been so successful at pursuing careers in either politics or central government is that since the 1990s, the focus has been on ensuring the quality of the Department's programmes and research. In the same period, there was also focus on developing the students' communication skills.

"I've always heard from civil servants that political science graduates were good writers and orators, enabling them to both engage with and understand law and economics graduates in central government. This was viewed as a big advantage, and there must have been a great need for this," says Lars Bille.

Stories about life at the Department

“Political Science 1965-2015, University of Copenhagen” is published (in Danish) on 1 September. Besides Lars Bille's own account, the book includes a large number of contributions on topics ranging from Marxist students in the 1970s to the status of the subject today. The contributors include Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Brian Mikkelsen, Sofie Carsten Nielsen and other graduates from the Department, besides researchers from different periods.

In this anniversary book, Lars Bille presents insights into the various decades' external and internal impacts on a Department that, thanks to its dedicated students, researchers and administrative staff, has grown strongly and steadily during its first 50 years.   

Associate Professor Emeritus Lars Bille
Mobile: (+45) 53 70 33 84