Adrian Heier wins Political Science Master’s Thesis Prize 2023
Graduating from a Political Science master’s programme is an important milestone. The thesis plays an central role: it demonstrates the alumnus’ ability to conduct academic research independently and appropriately. Each year, supervisors within the Institute of Political Science nominate exceptional theses for the annual Thesis Prize. This year, the shortlist contains of seven well-written and thoroughly researched master’s theses. On 13 October 2023, during the master’ graduation ceremony, the winner and the runner-up were announced. Congratulations, Adrian Heier and Haije Dijkstra!
For the academic year 2022-2023, the jury received seven nominations, covering a wide range of fascinating subjects—from digital surveillance in authoritarian societies to conspiratorial populist rhetoric from American politicians. Corinna Jentzsch and Michael Sampson faced the difficult task of picking the winning master’s thesis.
The jurors applied the same criteria as they would to assess work that is submitted for publication. After all, Political Science master’s students are expected to write their thesis in the form of a journal article. In their report, Jentzsch and Sampson note that ‘this is a tall order that, we are glad to say, all nominees filled’. They found that all nominees and their supervisors for delivered ‘outstanding work’.
Honourable mention: Haije Dijkstra
The jury ultimately narrowed the list of potential winners down to two. And decided to include an honourable mention, because ‘both of these theses are worthy of recognition’.
These kudos goe to Haije Dijkstra for the thesis Adviseur of assistent? De rol van PA’s in de Nederlandse politiek (2003-2022) (‘Advisor or assistant? The role of political assistants in Dutch politics (2003-2022)’). Based on original interviews with political assistants to ministers, Haije’s thesis provides a ‘timely and original look at why and how and political assistants—actors often invisible to the public eye—have become so important in Dutch politics.’ The jury particularly valued the ‘independent, and creative manner in which Haije approached the topic’.
Climate disasters and their economic and political consequences
The winner of this year's Thesis Prize, however, is Adrian Heier. His study—Shocked leaders: The influence of environmental shocks on the likelihood of a coup d’état—explores whether economic shocks stemming from natural disasters are more or less likely to generate coup attempts. Merging different datasets on natural disasters and on coups on the African continent, Adrian finds that such disasters make coup attempts less likely in the immediate aftermath and even one year after. He explains this by pointing to the shrunken economic prize coup leaders can expect in the aftermath of disasters.
The thesis, thus, deals with the important topic of climate disasters and their economic and political consequences, contributing to our knowledge on what explains political stability. The thesis, according to the jury, is ‘well-written and places its contribution in the context of existing research really well’. ‘The analysis is executed systematically and with attention to detail.’ A ‘well-deserved award’, conclude the jurors in their report.