The Department of Political Science and Public Administration conducts high-quality research that is both relevant for academia and for society. Within the department, the research is organized in three research groups: two groups work from a public administration angle and one from a political science perspective. Both the theoretical and the methodological basis for the public administration and political science research are highly diverse. This diversity of ideas and the confrontation of insights of different origins make it interesting and offer grounds for developing innovative ideas and to contribute to a large variety of bodies of knowledge in the different fields of our research.
The central theme of the public administration research is New Public Governance. This concerns the organisation and quality of public administrations, with special attention to sectors such as security and the welfare state. With this central theme we connect with relevant developments in society, economics, government and politics and the new control mechanisms of the government, society and market arising from this. This research is conducted within two research groups:
- Governance of Quality focuses on several pressing social problems, which are crucial for the quality of living together in society, and at the question of how governance structures and arrangements (could) influence this.
- Quality of Governance focuses on the quality of governance and the government itself. Specifically, research is conducted into which characteristics of governance structure and policy are determining the quality of governance. Accordingly, it identifies which consequences this has for the process of achieving better governance.
In 2014, an international research evaluation committee assessed the program's relevance to be excellent (4.5 out of 5) and its quality, productivity & viability very good (4 out of 5).
National and international politics have become increasingly intertwined into so-called multi-layered or multi-level governance systems. A central starting point in political science research is therefore that politics should not be studied at a national or international level, but in mutual coherence. Covering all three main subdisciplines of political science, Multi-Layered Governance in Europe and Beyond (MLG) examines the scope, institutions and agency of multilevel governance. The program's three main research questions are:
- Scope: To what extent does the emergence of multi-layered governance actually overtake or transform political structures above (e.g. inter-regional and global institutions) and below (traditional, hard-wired institutions of domestic and local government) European integration?
- Institutions: Which institutional arrangements can ensure policy effectiveness and democratic legitimacy in multi-layered settings?
- Agency: How does multi-layered governance affect the motivations and capacity of elites to adopt decisions and steer society?
All (senior) researchers in the MLG program work on at least two of these questions. This research group brings together researchers from different sub-disciplinary backgrounds: experts in comparative political science, international relations and political theory. This diversity is also highly visible in the different cross-cutting topics that political scientists focus on, such as European integration, political parties, elite networks and environmental, social and foreign policy. In 2013, an international research evaluation committee assessed all aspects of the program - quality, productivity, relevance & viability - to be excellent (4.5 out of 5).
Many researchers of the department also participate actively in the following initiatives:
- The Talma Institute combines knowledge and conducts research in the field of work, care and welfare.
- VU Interdisciplinary Centre for European Studies (VICES) is a platform for researchers at VU to share their research, work together, and develop new ideas new ideas regarding Europe and European integration.
- Our department takes an active role in developing the research institute of the Faculty of Social Sciences, the Institute for Societal Resilience (ISR). The ISR aim is to understand, explain and offer solutions for the manifold current societal challenges, such as international conflicts, financial crises and concerns about the viability of the welfare state. Researchers of Political Science and Public Administration participate in, amongst others, the Knowledge Hub Security and Social Resilience. In its portfolio of research projects, this expertise lab collaborates with Dutch government on the national level, as well as with security regions, municipalities and the police force on the local level in their approach to security problems.
- The China in Europe Research Network (CHERN) is a Europe-wide a platform for knowledge exchange about China’s increasing presence in Europe. It aims to bring a more interdisciplinary, integrated and over-arching conception of China’s deepening engagements. Led by its Chair Nana de Graaff (Associate Professor in International Relations at VU Amsterdam), CHERN now consists of around 120 researchers from different countries and disciplines.