The Department of Sociology and Social Research was set up in January 1999, following the creation of the Faculty of Sociology at the new University of Milano-Bicocca. Its aim was to promote excellence in scientific investigation into contemporary society and in the study of social theory.
In Italy’s first national research assessment (CIVR 2006), the Department was the highest-ranked medium/large research institution in the field of Political and Social Sciences, with a rating of 0.91 and 55% of research output rated as excellent. Over the years, the Department has been able to maintain an impressively high standard of teaching and research, showcasing excellent consistency, as shown by the results of the latest Research Quality Assessment (VQR; 2011-2014).
Recent Censis rankings (latest edition released in July 2017) confirm the Department’s position at the forefront of the Italian research panorama. Moreover, the European Union’s U-Multirank 2016 assessment highlighted the Department’s achievement of excellence across a range of performance indicators linked to teaching, research, international focus and local engagement.
In 2018, the Department of Sociology and Social Research was officially recognised by the MIUR as a Department of Excellence.
The wide teaching programme pursued by the Department of Sociology and Social Research has three core characteristics:
- the first is the aim of producing professional figures capable of interpreting social changes on all levels, using both qualitative and quantitative research methods and employing appropriate theoretical and technical tools to support various figures operating within society. This aim is reflected by the strong presence in Courses of Study of internships and traineeships, which allow students to tackle the real-world problems involved in various professional fields during their education. Other Courses of Study offer students workshops organised by external professionals as a way of supplementing the skills students graduate with;
- the second characteristic is the cross-discipline nature of the various courses, something that provides graduates with the full range of skills needed to enter a fragmented, constantly evolving work market. All Courses of Study – first, second and third level (PhDs), and particularly Postgraduate Programmes – touch on a range of other fields, in addition to sociology, to varying degrees: economics and business, law, maths and statistics, demographics, anthropology, philosophy, psychology, pedagogy, history and geography. The fact that many of the lecturers in these fields are part of the Department further strengthens the cross-discipline nature of our educational programme and thus represents one of our key assets;
- the third is the highly international feel to our programme, something reflected by ongoing relationships with other European and non-European countries around student, lecturer and researcher exchange programmes. The Department has around 70 bilateral agreements with European countries alone within the context of the Erasmus exchange programme. It is also part of international centres such as the University of Michigan’s Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research and the University of Essex’s European Consortium for Political Research. These international relations have enabled students to benefit from educational exchange programmes, co-tutoring schemes and double degrees, particularly within Master’s and PhD Programmes.
In the field of research, the Department of Sociology and Social Research has two main objectives:
- to identify changes underway in modern societies, contextualising them within broader, globalised processes of social transformation, with a specific focus on Italy and Europe;
- to develop methods of interpretation capable of reading, analysing and tackling with such changes, as part of a highly cross-discipline approach.
The Department’s research activities involved a balanced mix of different expertise:
- theoretical expertise, thanks to the close integration of many different fields of human and social sciences (economics, law, anthropology, history, geography, demographics, philosophy, statistics and political science, in addition to sociology), in terms of both research hypotheses and the tools applicable to analyses of complex societies as a whole;
- expertise based on knowledge of the scenarios and issues associated with current changes, particularly as regards the organisation of complex systems and the job market, demographic and family dynamics, cultural and communication processes, issues affecting local areas, tourism and local development, social policies and the transformation of representative democracy and the management of welfare services and systems;
- technical expertise designed to provide tools for gathering and processing qualitative and quantitative information, with strong backing in empirical evidence;
- practical expertise with theoretical foundations, offering a mix of reflective, logical and methodological tools (maths, statistics, philosophy) in order to tackle complex, changing decision-making processes with flexible and innovative solutions.
In recent years, the validity and vitality of this scientific mix have seen the Department involved as an operational site and/or as leading voice in a large number of Italian and European research projects and many research projects carried out on behalf of third parties, particularly public bodies.
The Department of Sociology and Social Research’s research activities have a highly cross-discipline, international nature, as shown by the many projects that have received funding from the European Commission and European Union, including:
- FGM-PREV – Towards a Better Estimation of Prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation in the European Union;
- GEMM – Growth, Equal Opportunities, Migration, Markets;
- MARGIN – Tackle Insecurity in Marginalized Areas;
- Ps2SHARE – Participation, Privacy and Power in the Sharing Economy;
- CESSDA-SaW – Strengthening and Widening the European Infrastructure for Social Science Data Archives;
- IMPRESSIONS – Impact and Risks from Higher-end Scenarios: Strategies for Innovative Solutions;
- SAHWA – Empowering the Young Generation: Towards a New Social Contract in South and East Mediterranean Countries.
Various lecturers have held – or currently hold – key positions within national and international scientific associations and institutions (such as the presidency of the European Sociological Association (ESA) and the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW)).
In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of students visiting from other European Union countries. Thanks to various exchange programmes (Erasmus+, double degrees, co-tutoring), these students are able to spend a period of study with our Department.
Our focus on the international panorama is reflected by our participation in inter-university networks such as:
- European Consortium for Political and Social Research of the University of Michigan (USA);
- European Consortium for Political Research of the University of Essex (UK);
- European Consortium for Sociological Research;
- EQUALSOC Network of Excellence – Economic change, Quality of life and Social Cohesion;
- European Sociological Association (ESA).
Reflecting the strong international focus of the Department, we have an educational research and action area concentrating on the issue of international cooperation and sustainable human development, organised into three sub-areas: intercultural skills, conflict mediation and global health. An international, transcultural network has been developed around this project (led by the Department and the University) featuring European and Latin American universities. The network is open to collaborations with Universities of other geographical areas too.
Thanks to a visiting fellow scheme, which has been running for several years, we have been able to host foreign colleagues at the University for entire academic years. These visitors have actively collaborated with members of the Department in the form of research, projects, seminars and lessons. There are also a number of globally minded inter-university, inter-departmental and research centres operating within the Department, featuring specific groups of lecturers and researchers working on specific projects.