Entretien avec Dieter Sadowski (Professeur à l’Université de Trèves - Allemagne) invité au CSO pour deux mois (avril- juin 2008), en anglais.

Édité le 8 Juin 2008

Dieter Sadowski est professeur (économie des entreprises – administration publique) à l’université de Trèves. Il est également directeur de l'IAAEG(Institut für Arbeitsrecht und Arbeitsbeziehungen in der Europäische Gemeinschaft ou Institut du droit du travail et des relations industrielles dans la Communauté européenne).

Durant son séjour en France, le travail de Dieter Sadowski consistera essentiellement à théoriser les résultats empiriques d’un projet comparatif portant sur la formation doctorale. En 2007-2008, son équipe de recherche a mené une étude comparative sur les programmes doctoraux en économie en Grande-Bretagne et aux Etats-Unis. Cette recherche est financée par la German Science Foundation. "En France", explique-t-il, "les programmes doctoraux fonctionnent différemment, c’est-à-dire que les Départements (UFR) et les laboratoires les plus prestigieux en économie sont à Paris et à Toulouse avec des programmes doctoraux communs". En rencontrant Christine Musselin au CSO, il souhaite mieux comprendre les spécificités de la formation doctorale en France. D. Sadowski est membre de l’Association Recherche et Régulation et de l’Association des lecteurs d’Alternatives économiques. Il a travaillé précédemment en collaboration avec l’économiste Robert Boyer au CEPREMAP (Centre pour la recherche économique et ses applications).

ENTRETIEN | Plowing New Ground in Phd Programs
(en anglais uniquement)

What makes a successful Phd Program in Economics? And how may it best be fostered? What are the academic barriers to change? Former dean and currently research director and professor of economics at the University of Trier, Dieter Sadowski, visiting scholar for two months at the CSO talks about his current research which he is conducting with Peter Sneider and Nicole Thaller.

===)Your study focuses on learning process, conditions and outcomes with an emphasis on faculty grad student occupational status and careers in the academy in 7 countries (including France) and 14 university departments in economics. Can you explain?

In the early nineties, doctoral education in economics was essentially the same across Europe. It was a master-apprenticeship relationship. Since that time PhD programs in quite a few countries have changed from that master-apprentice relationship to a team of faculty members supervising Phd dissertations, basically the model of American research universities. My main interests are in the differences in programs and organization. For instance, how did some countries radically transform doctoral programs while others, in particular Germany and France have been slow and half-hearted in their reform efforts. One of the main criteria for me in this study is successfully launching students in academic careers. I am confident that I can learn a great deal from Christine Musselin and other members of the CSO given their rich experience and expertise in the organizational theory of universities –and their willingness to take the time to discuss their projects!

===) What is the relationship between traditional classic PhD programs in economics and socio-economics?

All serious economics programs today have courses in micro and macro economics as well as statistics and econometrics including micro-econometrics. In micro theory at least, where small numbers of actors are presently of greater interest than markets with infinitely many agents, game theory plays a dominant role. Decision theory involves cognitive psychological issues including judgement biases and framing. In the same vein, enriched versions of the normative side of homo-oeconomicus, endogeneous and social preferences such as reciprocity, altruism, etc., are to be found.

In the long run, PhD students in socio-economics should be introduced to the various skills required in modelling and measuring techniques. When they use a qualitative research design, it should be from choice – and not using soft models for lack of training in the alternatives.

===) Can you tell us about the current results of your research project ?

For a non-random sample of 14 European economics departments we analyzed the impact of six organizational conditions – roughly coded – on the placement of PhD graduates in academe. Of course, departments may differ in their goals. A few factors explain placement success, while multiple factors explain failure. Departments that excessively overburden their grads with everyday tasks do not obtain good jobs for their students. According to our interviews, the three departments with scientific excellence in scholarship as a major goal are not directly financially compensated for the number of PhD graduates. In fact, it seems that financial concerns are not a major motivation for faculty who work closely with grad students. Incentives for each faculty member in any of these three departments to supervise dissertations perhaps lies in improving their career opportunities, including higher remunerations. The prestige gained by successfully placing Phd in top departments has high value for competitive academics. The spirit of competition can also be part of the self-identity of supervisors, creating constant comparisons with departmental colleagues and the scientific community at large –doctoral student also compete – for jobs.

A second group of departments pursued the goal of raising the intellectual skills of their PhD students to only a "good" level. As our interview partners indicate, placement success in universities or private enterprises or public services is of equal value to supervisors and serves as a measure of success for the supervisor. This group consists of departments successfully placing PhD students in universities and, not altogether surprisingly, along this criterion unsuccessful departments. They all conducted some form of structured education although they did not necessarily have separate graduate schools. (A third group of universities felt forced to "use" their grad students as "maintenance workers" for everyday routines to a degree where serious thesis writing became of minor, if not miniscule importance – for the supervisor, at least.)

While only a small set of two organizational configurations enhances PhD education in our case studies, the picture for failure was more complex. Four single conditions explained unsuccessful PhD education, which means that an improvement in one condition does not necessarily lead to an improved situation for the departments if either one of the three resources remains in a poor condition. One main element certainly is lack of motivation by a critical mass of potential supervisors to engage in voluntary efforts in PhD education. But even if this focus changes, one still has to face the next challenge, notably small research output, or heavy workloads.

Propos recueillis par Martha Zuber

Pour toute information, vous pouvez contacter Dieter Sadowski