Political Science in Italian Universities: Demand, Supply, and Vitality
Political Science is widely considered to be an established academic discipline, even in a country like Italy, where the penetration of empirical social science has been deeply constrained historically and culturally, and where there has been a clear predominance of other academic disciplines, including history and constitutional law. Twenty years after the introduction of the so-called ‘Bologna Process’, and a few years after the implementation of the 2010 reform of the public higher education system, it is worth looking for a comprehensive description of the state of our academic discipline. This can be done by exploring some data about the role of Political Science within the Italian university system. More in detail, three aspects of the current state of Italian Political Science will be explored. Firstly, the dynamics of the educational ‘demand’ for Political Science is here explored through an analysis of its presence in relevant Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. This is even more interesting given the two dangers in the academic presence of Political Science: reiterated criticisms against the uselessness of social sciences, and the effects of at least two decades of anti-political sentiment, particularly diffused among younger cohorts of students. The second aspect tackled here is the capability of Political Science practitioners to respond to these challenges by presenting a credible set of academic subjects and increasing its visibility among students. Third, we will discuss the overall reaction of the community of political scientists to these decisive challenges by looking at the magnitude and variance of academic recruitment in the Political Science academic community currently active in Italy. The evidence presented in the article will offer some reasons for optimism, namely, the stability of the student population and the crystallisation of Political Science in the overall teaching supply. However, some critical elements are also evident: a persistent geographical imbalance in the spread of Political Science and difficulty in adapting to some new professional and inter-disciplinary courses. This will lead us to discuss, in the final part of the article, a grid of more specific and fine-tuned research questions on the future of Political Science in Italy.