Our MPS Programme: A Success Story

Dr. Patricia Schneider

MPS excursion to the international organisations in Vienna

The year 2021 marks both the 50th anniversary of the IFSH and, in October, the 20th anniversary of the Master's programme in Peace and Security Studies (or MPS for short) as well! 
In 2002, the IFSH became the first scientific institute nationwide to introduce a course of study in the field of peace and conflict studies. The MPS represents an expression of the conviction that security policy challenges necessitate global and interdisciplinary thinking, and that targeted support of young academics is needed to achieve this.

Postgraduate course for students from all over the world

Over the course of two semesters, 20 to 25 young people who have already completed an academic degree acquire theoretical and practical knowledge about peace research and security policy. While the MPS is part of the programme of studies offered by the University of Hamburg, the IFSH co-ordinates the content of the 45 to 70 courses offered per year as well as the organisation of the programme. The fact that there are usually about three times more applicants than there are places available in the MPS is evidence of the programme’s popularity. The MPS programme’s unique selling point is its interdisciplinary and international orientation.

Combining theory and practice

The students also take three   field trips to visit the Bundestag, the Federal Chancellery and the Centre for International Peace Operations in Berlin, the OSCE and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, and NATO and the EU Parliament in Brussels. Memorable annual excursions funded by the Federal Foreign Office's “Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe” programme have been organised  with partner universities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Croatia and Macedonia for several years in a row. The topics covered have included reconciliation and security sector reform.
More than 400 students have completed the MPS successfully. The programme has also been successfully accredited twice. This success story has been made possible by the commitment of many people involved. These include the study directors, who have shown great commitment to the design of the programme, the acquisition of partners and the supervision of students. Thanks to Prof. Dr Dieter S. Lutz, Prof. Dr Dr Hans J. Gießmann, Prof. Dr Götz Neuneck and Prof. Dr Ursula Schröder as successive programme directors and Dr Patricia Schneider, temporarily represented by Naida Mehmedbegovic Dreilich, as study coordinators. We must also mention the tireless efforts of Eckhard Schlopsna as administrator of the programme platform, other staff members from the administrative department, e.g., those who manage the application process, and our librarian, Ute Runge. Above all, however, the commitment of our many lecturers to the degree programme should be emphasised. Numerous Institute staff members have participated in teaching and the supervision of Master's theses on a voluntary basis. The IFSH also takes on teaching, supervision and examination responsibilities related to the University of Hamburg’s participation in the Venice-based European study programme “Human Rights and Democratization”.

Teaching has become an integral part of the Institute's work

The MPS programme thus embodies the IFSH’s transition away from its history as a purely practice-oriented research institute and towards an integrated approach involving teaching that is   supplemented by a doctoral programme and supported by sponsors such as the German Foundation for Peace Research and the German Academic Exchange Service. The MPS programme is also supported by the Verein zur Förderung des Instituts für Friedensforschung e.V. (Association for the Promotion of the Institute for Peace Research, VFIF) through the endowment of Deutschlandstipendien  (German scholarships) for students and through the alumni association of former students, for example.

Diversity through close co-operation with partner institutes

The degree programme is supported by the Co-operation Network for Peace Research and Security Policy (KoFrieS), to which several University of Hamburg faculties as well as a large number of research institutes and academic teaching institutions in Germany and abroad belong. This is because the MPS degree makes graduates sought-after professionals for them as well.  
Even the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic could not undermine the degree programme’s success story. Although the integrated practical phases at a wide variety of residency institutes in Germany and abroad as well as the Master's thesis research, supervision and examinations had to be moved online in Spring 2020, the students managed the switch successfully. In addition, both Vienna and Brussels were in lockdown when the study excursions to international organisations located there were to have taken place; this may also prevent trips from happening in 2021. The first days of the winter semester in October 2020 were able to be held in person in accordance with social distancing measures. From November onwards, however, the University of Hamburg switched to digital instruction until further notice. Everyone involved showed great strength and flexibility in adapting to the new situation, and the students have still been able to complete their studies successfully so far.
  Programme reforms are planned for 2022/23 prior to accreditation by the University of Hamburg in order to further optimise the programme, dovetail it even more closely with the University of Hamburg and its partners and make it fit for the future. This also includes turning the two-semester degree programme into one with four semesters. We look forward to more exciting years of engaging in inspiring dialogue with students of all nationalities, disciplines and diverse professional experience, and to collaboratively analysing the connections between peace and security and developing conflict management strategies.