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Selected Ph.D. theses defended recently

Every year, about 30 Ph.D. theses are defended in the SPS Department. In order to illustrate the range of topics, the department presents a selection of theses chosen among those that are both of very high quality (as certified by the examiners’ reports) and whose findings may be of interest to a wider public. 


Daniel Schulz on Too Little, Too Late? How Central Bankers' Beliefs Influence What They Do

Daniel SchulzHow do policymakers take decisions in the face of extreme uncertainty? What guides their policies when past evidence does not apply to the conditions they confront in the present? In his PhD thesis, Daniel Schulz argues that policymakers turn to their beliefs of ‘what works’ when designing policies in such situations. Empirically, the thesis examines central banks’ decisions during the Great Recession with a particular emphasis on the monetary policies of the European Central Bank.... View more

Daniel Schulz is currently a Research Associate at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the EUI and works for Sven Steinmo’s ERC-funded project on citizens’ willingness to pay taxes . His research interests focus on the field of comparative political economy, particularly on issues of monetary policy, financial regulation, and the politics of taxation... View more

Marco Valbruzzi on Government Alternation in Western Europe: A Comparative Explanation

Marco ValbruzziAlternation in government has been usually regarded as a hallmark of liberal democracy. But what determines how often and when parties in government alternate? What are the conditions that make alternation possible, probable and real? These are some of the questions at the centre of this thesis, which investigates the determinants of governmental alternation in Western Europe since the end of WW II... View more

Marco Valbruzzi is currently a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Bologna (Department of Political and Social Sciences) where he works on a project investigating the political consequences of the economic crisis in Europe. He is also Adjunct Instructor at Gonzaga University (Florence campus), where he teaches a seminar on the Italian political system... View more 

Jan Karremans on State interests vs citizens’ preferences: On which side do (Labour) parties stand?

Jan KarremansWhat matters more for public policy today: electoral programs or technical competence? This question is being raised from different angles in the political science literature, often in relation to the growing impact of processes such as globalization and Europeanization on national policy-making... View more

Johannes (Jan) Karremans is currently a research assistant at the European University Institute, working at Hanspeter Kriesi’s POLCON project. From June 2017 Jan will be a Post-doctoral research fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon, working for Dr Marina Costa Lobo’s MAPLE Project... View more

Martín Portos García on the Mobilisation in Spain under the Great Recession

Martín Portos Garcia

What motivates citizens in countries hit by an economic crisis to join protest movements or support new challenger parties? In his PhD thesis Martín Portos argues that it was not their economic grievances but their political dissatisfaction. Protesters were not the most deprived people, but those more angry with the political status quo and the policies being implemented... View more


Martín Portos G. is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre on Social Movements (COSMOS), Scuola Normale Superiore (Florence). He completed a PhD in Political and Social Sciences at the European University Institute in February 2017, with a thesis focused on anti-austerity protests in Southern Europe. His research interests include political participation, social movements, democratic attitudes, institutions and nationalism...  View more


Davide Morisi on the influence of information in political campaigns

Davide MorisiFrom Britain’s decision to leave the EU to Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S., recent political events in 2016 have shown how voters’ decisions in election and referendum campaigns can lead to unpredictable and sometimes troubling outcomes. Among the many factors influencing these outcomes, information plays a crucial role. How do voters react to campaign arguments when they need to make political decisions, such as voting for a candidate, a political party, or a particular issue presented in a referendum? How does availability of information sources influence these decisions?... View more

Davide Morisi is currently a postdoctoral research assistant at the European University Institute. He defended his thesis and was awarded a Ph.D. in Political and Social Sciences on 4 November 2016. Davide’s research focuses on political behaviour and public opinion, with a specific emphasis on political psychology. In particular, he studies how citizens process information and how campaign messages affect voting behaviour in election and referendum campaigns. View more



Katharina Meissner on Competing for Economic Power: South America, Southeast Asia, and Commercial Realism in European Union Foreign Policy


The European Union (EU) is at the forefront of engaging in external economic relations with economic powerhouses and entire regions. Much of this happens outside of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Yet, current negotiations with Canada (CETA) and the United States (TTIP) face strong opposition from civil society groups and the election of Donald Trump deals a de facto deathblow to TTIP, reinvigorating economic nationalism. By pursing bilateral economic relations, has the EU already in the past developed a strategy of ‘commercial realism’ that can endure during an age of protectionism?... View more

Katharina Meissner is currently Assistant Professor at the Institute for European Integration Research (EIF) at the University of Vienna. She obtained her Ph.D. in Political and Social Sciences from the European University Institute in June 2016. Katharina Meissner works at the intersection of European Union studies, International Political Economy and International Relations. More specifically, she studies European Union external relations towards world regions in the context of trade negotiations. View more


Chiara Comolli on Fertility in Times of Economic Crisis

Chiara Comolli

The recent recession has been the longest and strongest downturn that western economies have faced since the Great Depression of the 1930s. When individuals are uncertain about present or future earnings or occupation, they tend to postpone life-changing decisions. Empirical evidence confirms conventional wisdom and shows that the Great Recession had a paralyzing effect on childbearing in most western economies. After a period of positive trends, these countries saw their fertility rates plummeting after 2008... View more

Chiara Ludovica Comolli is post-doctoral researcher at SUDA, the Demography unit in the Sociology Department at Stockholm University. She defended her thesis and was awarded a Ph.D. in Political and Social Sciences at the European University Institute in Florence on 27 April 2016. Chiara’s main research focus is fertility behavior in developed countries. In particular, she studies how childbearing responds to various sources of economic and financial uncertainty in the United States and in Europe. View more


Enrique Hernández on Europeans’ Democratic Aspirations and Evaluations

Enrique Hernandez

Are ordinary citizens capable of forming coherent opinions on how democracies should ideally work? In contrast with the assumption that mass publics are ill informed about politics, Enrique Hernández’ PhD thesis reveals that most Europeans have a coherent idea about how democracies ought to work ideally. When thinking about their ideal model of democracy, a majority of individuals attribute higher importance to essential democratic features, such as free and fair elections, than to other features that apply also to not fully democratic political systems, such as the fact that governments explain their decisions to citizens... View more


Enrique Hernández is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Political Science Department of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. He defended his thesis and was awarded a Ph.D in Political and Social Sciences of the European University Institute in Florence on 21 October 2016. Enrique Hernández’s research interests include electoral behavior, political attitudes, public opinion and political participation. View more


Jerome Roos on the structural power of finance in sovereign debt crises

Jerome Roos

Why do heavily indebted countries not default on their external debts more often? The question may seem simple but the answer has eluded economists for decades. We generally take it for granted that governments will honour their financial obligations under all circumstances — yet historical experience belies the notion that this is somehow a natural condition. During the Great Depression, virtually all European and Latin American borrowers unilaterally suspended payments on their foreign debts. Today, by contrast, the declaration of such outright moratoriums is exceedingly rare. Even as the European debt crisis reached a climax in 2011-2015, the total share of world public debt in a state of default fell to a historic low of 0.2 percent. How do we explain this extraordinary degree of debtor compliance in the contemporary period?... View more


Jerome Roos is a postdoctoral researcher in political economy at the Department of Sociology of the University of Cambridge. He obtained his Ph.D. in Political and Social Sciences from the European University Institute in May 2016, and is currently working on the book version of his thesis, to be published by a leading American university press. View more


Céline Colombo on citizens’ competence in direct democracy

Céline Colombo

How competent are citizens in direct democracy? While the popularity and use of direct democratic instruments is growing throughout the democratic world, criticism persists that ordinary voters lack the necessary competence to make complex policy decisions. The Brexit referendum and the Italian constitutional referendum are only the two most recent examples of controversial policy decisions taken by citizens directly at the ballot box. In times of increasing polarization, where the talk is of post-truth politics, fake news, and echo chambers, it is particularly important to asses to what extent citizens base their decisions in direct democracy on the consideration of different, polity-related facts and arguments... View more


Céline Colombo is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Political Science Department, University of Zurich, with a focus on Political Psychology and Behaviour. She defended her thesis and was awarded a Ph.D. in Political and Social Sciences of the European University Institute in Florence on 3 May 2016. Céline Colombo studies citizen competence and political decision-making, mainly in direct democratic settings. More specifically, she is interested in citizens’ political knowledge, motivated reasoning, the functioning of elite-cues versus policy-arguments and deliberation in decision-making, integrative complexity of political thinking, as well as the link between deliberative and direct democracy. View more


List of Ph.D. theses defences in 2017

List of Ph.D. theses defended in 2016  


Page last updated on 13 July 2017