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Department of Political and Social Sciences

SPS theses of the month: February

The Department of Political and Social Sciences is delighted to announce that during the month of February three PhD researchers successfully defended their dissertation.

26 February 2024 | Research


Congratulations to Diana Rafailova, Wolfgang Minatti, and Johanna Breuer from the EUI Department of Political and Social Sciences for receiving their doctorates in February 2024, after unanimous decisions from the jury.

Diana Rafailova defended her thesis entitled, The Effects of Political Regimes on School Quality and Learning Outcomes, on 2 February 2024. The dissertation asked whether students schooled in democracies have better learning outcomes, as one may expect, based on the literature showing that democracies invest more in expanding education and other public goods. The dissertation consisted of three studies, in which Rafailova concluded that the effects of democracy on learning outcomes are more contingent than what could straightforwardly be expected. Secondary school students in democracies do not on average perform better than students in autocracies, but the former learn better critical thinking skills. They also have better skills when reaching adulthood, suggesting that the difference in schooling quality between political regimes appears at the upper secondary and tertiary levels, rather than during earlier years of schooling. The committee praised the dissertation's systematic contributions to our understanding of how political regimes shape citizens' skills and provide investments in human capital.

Read Rafailova's thesis in Cadmus.

Wolfgang Minatti defended his thesis entitled, A Theory of Legitimation in Civil War. The Justification of Power and Governance in the Colombian Conflict, on 20 February 2024. The thesis jury, comprised of EUI Professors Jeffrey Checkel and Stephanie Hofmann, Kristin Bakke (University College London), and Michael Zuern (WZB Berlin Social Science Center), unanimously agreed that the thesis makes important contributions to the literatures on civil war (governance) and IR theory (legitimacy).

Read Minatti's thesis in Cadmus.

Johanna Breuer defended her thesis entitled, Constructing the European Union's Budget. Origins, Continuities, and Consequences, on 23 February 2024. The EU budget is the object of much criticism. Complaints about its alleged inefficiency, inflexibility, and wastefulness abound. A constant stream of reform proposals calls for fundamental change. But little ever happens. Why? Because, argues Johanna Breuer, the budget is locked-in to a logic of juste retour that makes it change-resistant and impervious to efficiency-enhancing reform. The thesis reconstructs in fascinating historical detail how this lock-in came about during the founding years of the Community. The committee, comprised of Miriam Hartlapp (FU Berlin), Lucia Quaglia (University of Bologna), Erik Jones (EUI, Robert Schuman Centre), and Philipp Genschel (EUI, Robert Schuman Centre), was full of praise of both the thesis and Johanna's performance during the defence.

Read Breuer's thesis in Cadmus.

Last update: 27 February 2024

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