Higher Education and Research

Social Sciences and the Challenge of Transition

Following the Recommendation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Social sciences and the challenge of transition the Higher Education and Research Committee (CC-HER, predecessor of the CDESR) launched a project aiming to collect information on the current state of the social science in Central and Eastern Europe.

In 1997 work was focused on gathering information on the state of the art in the countries in transition. Fifteen national reports have been drafted by experts appointed by the national delegations of the new member states according to guidelines prepared by the Secretariat and finalized by the Working Party. A General Report summing up the national contributions on the current situation of the social sciences in Central and Eastern Europe has been prepared by Professor Paul Dembinski (Switzerland) with the assistance of Ms. Aigul Jarmatova (Kirghizistan). The report has been discussed in a workshop jointly organized in July 1998 in Bled by the Council of Europe and the Slovenian Ministry of Education and Sport. The Bled Workshop participants were from Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Switzerland, “ the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia “, Turkey, Ukraine. The general and national reports have been discussed by participants with members of the Working Party and with experts from the European Science Foundation (ESF), the Central European University (CEU), and the Institute for Human Sciences (HIS).

The participants in the Workshop were called upon:

  • To analyse the main trends and problems faced by social sciences and social scientists in the period of transition, with a special emphasis on Central and Eastern Europe.
  • To identify and compare specific problems faced by social sciences and social scientists in Europe.
  • To identify examples of good practice and key elements for policy recommendations to decision- makers at government and institutional level.

The Workshop has produced:

  • A thorough analysis of the situation of the social sciences and social scientists in the period of transition with special emphasis on Central and Eastern Europe
  • Identification of policy measures, for the development of social sciences, as key elements for a preliminary draft recommendation, to be submitted to the Committee of Ministers of member states on social sciences and the challenge of transition.

National reports and the Bled Workshop have produced many suggestions, proposals, accurate analyses, rich and acute description of national cases. Our knowledge of social sciences situations in Eastern Europe’s former socialist countries has been enriched by new insights and additional information. Nevertheless, the main results of the joint efforts of both national analysts and Workshop experts consists in adopting a comprehensive approach adequate to analyse, to intervene and to implement, the complex and delicate issue of social sciences and the challenge of transition in the former European communist countries.

The logics underlying the Council of Europe’s Project are evident in the Project title itself. “ Social sciences and the challenge of transition,” clearly indicates that the issue of transformation and modernization of social sciences in the former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe is not a simple matter of educational engineering, scientific upgrading or epistemological modification. Social sciences’ role and destiny in Eastern Europe’s epochal transformation is such an important and multifaceted issue that it cannot be handled as an academic or scientific matter and in consequence it cannot be assigned as a specialized theme to the international scientific community or to the networks of foundations and higher education institutions.

The problems addressed by the Project are greater and they touch many contemporary crucial social and political issues starting with the relationship between social sciences and the process of democratisation / modernization through which Eastern European countries are going.

Full project report