This degree combines the previously distinct interdisciplinary masters (International Affairs and Development Studies) into one. Why this change and why now?
The reform is not a revolution; it is an update of the excellent work of my predecessors: Gopalan Balachandran, Damien Neven and Liliana Andonova. The reform is the result of a collective effort. The initial input came from Director Marie-Laure Salles.
I do have very distinctive memories of the exchanges we had online during the first lockdown in 2020. From the outset I was supported by the formidable MINT team: Antonella Ghio; Silke Olsen, our Academic Coordinator; and James Sellaro, our Programme Manager.
Since September 2020, the existing MINT academic committee helped me identify what needed to be changed and how to do it. At that time both interdisciplinary programmes, the Master in International Affairs and the Master in Development Studies, were successful. I heard so many times: “don’t fix it unless it is broken”, a saying that did not address a different, deeper need certainly accelerated by the pandemic.
COVID-19 – among many other issues, from climate change to the crisis of democracy – clearly indicated that the separation of international affairs and development studies was outdated. Times were ripe to move beyond the two programmes that were still, tangibly, the legacy of the merger of the hautes études internationales institute (HEI) with the Development Studies Institute.
We decided to intertwine international affairs and development issues, combining inter- and trans-disciplinarity, as well as critical thinking. We worked on the intellectual coherence of the programme, on its academic consistency, and consolidated all the good things about the existing programmes, such as the capstones, which we renamed “applied research projects”.
Our ambition is to offer tools to understand the world we live and will be living in to the next generations of world professionals and decision makers coming to the Graduate Institute.
Speaking about the collective effort, before launching all the necessary benchmarking exercises, we thought long and hard about ourselves, our identity, our strengths and our weaknesses. This reflection took place alongside, and symbiotically, with a broader reflection on the Institute’s identity.
We set up ad hoc working groups and held, despite the pandemic, more than 80 meetings. We met current and previous MINT students, disciplinary master and PhD students, and teaching assistants. We exchanged with the Library’s personnel and the administrative staff, from IT to Career Services. All of our work was carried out in close cooperation with the Direction of Studies. All faculty from all departments, the research centres and the Research Office were involved in this process.
Subsequently, we tested the project of the reform with employers; the working group included representatives of the private and public sectors, research institutions, the United Nations and other international organisations, NGOs and Swiss diplomats.
What makes this master’s degree unique and what are its objectives?
The main difference with the past is the merging of the two master programmes, the Master in International Affairs and the Master in Development Studies, into a single one.
The Master in International and Development Studies, to our knowledge, is a unique programme. One might think that “Interdisciplinary Master in International and Development Studies” is not the most creative name for a new programme, but it genuinely reflects the unique history of the Geneva Graduate Institute and the equally unique disciplinary pillars of the Institute: Anthropology and Sociology, International Economics, International History and Politics, International Law, and International Relations and Political Science.
The programme is founded upon a critical analysis of alternative paradigms, methodological competences and substantive core knowledge; it offers seven thematic specialisations, which should not be imagined as silos.
Together with professional skills workshops, an applied research project, and a master’s thesis, students will gain the conceptual and practical tools they need to pursue successful careers in government, international organisations, the non-profit sector, as well as the private sector.
This master programme includes seven specialisations and an Applied Research Seminar (ARS) within each specialisation. What is the added value of these elements for students?
The seven thematic specialisations are: Conflict, Peace and Security; Environment and Sustainability; Gender, Race and Diversity; Global Health; Human rights and Humanitarianism; Mobilities, Migrations and Boundaries; Sustainable Trade and Finance.
They are both the expression of key domains of expertise of our faculty and of what the Institute considers as fundamental issues to be taught and researched.
These specialisations are embedded in a set of transversal themes that – together with interdisciplinary and multi-methods dialogues – frame the common core of the programme. They include sustainability, global governance, technology, democracy, justice and education.
I hope the reformed MINT programme will confirm the Institute’s long-standing global academic reputation, will anchor the Institute as strongly as ever within International Geneva, and will offer our students the competencies, confidence and sense of responsibility necessary to drive positive transformation.
Learn more about the Interdisciplinary Master in International and Development Studies.
This article was published in Globe #29, the Graduate Institute Review.