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Vincent Bakker wins Thesis Prize 2017 Research Master Political Science and Public Administration

Vincent Bakker has won the 2017 Thesis Prize of the research master’s programme Political Science and Public Administration. His study of labour market effects of social investment policies is the crowning achievement of Bakker’s work as a MSc student. It also marks the start of his academic career. ‘Without doubt, this study can and should be published in a highly-ranked international scientific journal’, according to the jury. And we can look forward to more scholarly work from Bakker, given his new position as a PhD candidate at Leiden University’s Department of Economics.

‘Thorough empirical analysis’

Bakker’s thesis, Social Investment in European Welfare States: Towards More Jobs and Higher Labour Market Participation, fills a gap in the literature. The past few years have seen a number of publications by influential economists on social investment. And in the European Commission and some think tanks there is a lively debate on policy in this sphere. Yet, a systematic assessment of the impact of these policies on the labour market was lacking. The jury report states that ‘Bakker’s innovative thesis contributes to these conceptual, theoretical and normative debates by providing a thorough empirical analysis.’ As it turns out, some of the key arguments in the literature on social investment do not hold up against Bakker’s findings. ‘Here, Bakker paves the way for future research.’

‘Masterful command of the literature’

The jury, consisting of Petr Kopecký and Maria Spirova, is thrilled by both the theoretical and the empiral aptitude of research master graduate Bakker. In his review of existing research, Bakker shows a ‘masterful command of the literature’. ‘Concepts are carefully defined, mechanisms are well described and explained, and the hypotheses are clear and grounded in the literature.’ Bakker, supervised by Olaf van Vliet, displays a firm grip of, and even introduces innovations in, the methodology of comparative political economy: ‘The execution of the empirical analysis is impressive. It combines extensive, robust analysis with careful interpretation of the results.’

Potential for publication

Social Investment in European Welfare States ticks all three of the Thesis Prize boxes: originality, a high level of scientific enquiry and the potential for publication. Furthermore, ‘the writing is excellent’. Bakker’s style is ‘clear and elegant’; his presentation is ‘extremely professional’. In that light, it is remarkable that Bakker was surprised when he was officially awarded the Prize during the Political Science master’s graduation ceremony in the Academy Building on 26 October 2017.

Vincent Bakker and Petr Kopecký
Petr Kopecký (L) and Vincent Bakker

The well deserved praise for Bakker’s achievements as a student are likely to be a portent of more scholarly quality to come. Bakker is now a PhD candidate at Leiden University’s Department of Economics, where he contributes to the research programme Reform of Social Legislation.

See also

Profile Vincent Bakker

› Research programme Reform of Social Legislation