Peter Munk Christiansen is new department head

The new head of the Department of Political Science is Peter Munk Christiansen, who is taking over from Thomas Pallesen, who has been appointed dean of Aarhus BSS. In the following, the head of department gives his view on the department's strengths, challenges and visions.

2015.11.13 | Ingrid Marie Fossum

Peter Munk Christiansen is looking forward to contributing to the development of the department in several dimensions in collaboration with the department's many talented employees.

Peter Munk Christiansen has been appointed new department head at the Department of Political Science. He is currently a professor and head of the PhD programme at the department and chair of the Danish Council for Independent Research. He has also been serving as acting department head since 1 July 2015, so the new department head is already a familiar face at Political Science, which has about 180 employees and includes the Danish Centre for Studies in Research and Research Policy. 

What is your vision for the department?

It’s not an easy department to take over, because it’s a department that scores high on all relevant parameters: The department offers a range of successful degree programmes which are in broad demand. In terms of research, there aren’t many European political science departments whose production is comparable to the Aarhus department in terms of volume and quality, and we’re seeing a strong, positive development in both productivity and quality. The department’s staff has a strong position in the media, and through CFA, the department also delivers high-level public sector consultancy. What’s more, the department also has a good social environment.

What do you see as the department's strengths and challenges?

The department has grown strongly in recent years. This is partly due to great success in attracting external funding, and partly to increased student intake. The department will soon reach its physical limits at the current location in the University Park. Naturally, this leads to a discussion of how big the department should be, and how much it should continue to grow in the future. In connection with this, there have been discussions regarding how best to ensure dialogue between management and staff at what has become a pretty sizable department. Such dialogue is important to ensure that the department continues to maintain a high international academic standard  while at the same time remaining a cohesive and positive social environment. 

The department has increased external funding very sharply over the course of just a few years. While it is hardly to be expected that this growth will continue, even maintaining the level of recent years will be a challenge, among other reasons because the government is making major cuts to non-targeted research funding. For this reason, the department has to work on attracting external funding from more sources, including foundations and EU funding. 

In terms of education, the department’s core products are the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes in political science.  While we mustn’t disregard the other degree programmes, this wouldn’t be a large department without the political science programmes. Political Science is a great success because its graduates have an easy time of find positions in public administration in Denmark. And our graduates do well career-wise. And we need to ensure that they continue to do so. For this reason, we must continue to prioritise the study of Danish politics and administration, and we must ensure that our students master written Danish at a high level of proficiency, because this is something their future employers demand. At the same time, the department is undergoing an internationalisation process. This is healthy and positive in every way, but at the same time, the department must continue to ensure that we can deliver graduates to the Danish public administration system in particular and Danish society in general who communicate precisely and clearly in Danish. 

What can you say about future cooperation with the employees of the department and the faculty's senior management?

I am looking forward to contributing to the development of the department in several dimensions in collaboration with the department's many talented employees. I am also looking forward to joining the faculty’s management team. There are many opportunities for collaboration that we aren’t exploiting at present. These must sprout from below, and I would like to help encourage that process. Courses for PhD students are one possibility, and expanding our FMOL programme (the flexible Master’s degree programme in public governance) is another. It’s also important that we strike the right balance between the competencies of the departments and the faculty – and after all, it doesn’t have to be the same for all departments in all areas. 

What about your research?

I certainly hope that I will get a chance to join the game once in a while.