In 2003 a Graduate School in Social, Economic and Political Sciences was established at the University of Milan with the aim of overcoming the traditional legacy of separatism within the social sciences and to promote interdisciplinary research and teaching as the most promising way to address new and increasingly complex social, political and economic problems. This initiative, indeed, was guided by the idea that an interdisciplinary dialogue is the best way to address the increasing demand for high and versatile skills in the “knowledge economy” – a demand which often stresses the value of multi-skilling to employers. More importantly, however, it was guided by the idea that such a dialogue generates added value for both research training and research advancement, as it is the very advancement of scientific research that requires the breaking of the traditional boundaries between disciplinary paradigms and perspectives which have too often served to ensure academic conformism, discouraging creativity and innovation.
In 2011 the School has changed its denomination in Graduate School in Social and Political Sciences (GSSPS) and today it includes the three NASP Ph.D. programmes - Economic Sociology and Labour Studies (ESLS), Political Studies (POLS) and Sociology and Methodology of Social Research (SOMET) - that offer a core curriculum of disciplinary training, complemented by common courses and seminars which provide opportunities for cross-disciplinary debates. The rationale is to encourage students to combine the rigorous study and use of the specific tool-kit of their discipline with curiosity and attention towards the tool-kits and research agendas of other disciplines, thus becoming aware that scientific innovation often stems from “contamination”.
In NASP approach, “excellence” in teaching and research cannot exclusively rest on disciplinary specialization, nor on the cultivation of increasingly narrow disciplinary and sub-disciplinary fields, often disconnected from each other. Excellence must also rest on the promotion of an open-minded intellectual attitude, diffident of disciplinary fortresses and pre-defined research agendas. NASP/GSSPS wants to encourage its students not to be afraid of cognitive dissonance or disciplinary “cross-fertilization”, because it is often through such tensions that they may find insights and spurs for arriving at original scientific results.