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“I Knew Heidelberg's Excellent Reputation for Political Science”


Prof. Dr. Giovanni Capoccia, Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Oxford/England

Research Stay at the Institute for Political Science at Heidelberg University from August 1997 to April 1998


Why did you decide to come to Heidelberg University?

I had been in touch with Prof. Dr. Klaus von Beyme, who at the time was Director of the Institute for Political Science (IPW), in the previous years. Our first brief meeting was in Rome in 1991, where he had come for a conference. At the time I was writing my undergraduate thesis. Then we lost touch for a few years, but in 1996 we met again at my home institution at the time, the European University Institute (EUI) in Florenz, where he was visiting for a period, and he kindly invited me to spend some time at his Institute. I knew Heidelberg's excellent reputation for political science and in particular comparative politics, and did not hesitate to accept the invitation.


What were your experiences in Heidelberg?

My nine months in Heidelberg were very interesting and productive, both personally and professionally. Personally, I learned much about German society and culture, while enjoying life in Heidelberg, which was indeed very pleasant. Professionally, thanks to the generous support of the IPW, which gave me an office and full access to University facilities, I managed to get a lot of research and writing done, both on my doctoral thesis and on a couple of journal articles on the German political system. I was invited to join the faculty of the IPW at their Wednesday lunches at a nearby restaurant on the Hauptstraße (at the time the IPW was still in Marstallstraße), where I really enjoyed the discussions around the table.


 How did your career continue after your time in Heidelberg?

After coming back from Heidelberg, I left for another research stay (at University of California,  Berkeley) before coming back to the EUI and finishing my doctoral thesis. I moved to Oxford in 2001, first as a fixed-term university lecturer, then (in 2003) as a tenure-track university lecturer. In 2006 I was promoted to Full Professor.


Do you recommend a research visit to Heidelberg University to your students or to colleagues in your scientific network?

I would certainly recommend a period of research stay in Heidelberg to all my graduate students as well as to my colleagues who want to have a full immersion in the German University system, while living in a town that at the same time is very pleasant to live in and has a very international atmosphere. In these respects, Heidelberg is not very different from Oxford. In political science Heidelberg maintains an excellent reputation, and its marked international projection makes it an ideal place to spend some time for research or writing in a very congenial environment.


How do you rate the opportunities offered by Heidelberg Alumni International (HAI) and the Research Alumni Network?

HAI does an excellent job in keeping in touch with international alumni. When I was in Heidelberg the initiative of building up an alumni network was just about starting, and it is truly impressive to see how far this has got in less than two decades. I haven't made direct use of the resources of the HAI network as yet, but don't exclude to do so in the future, as the study of German politics remains one of my main academic interests.

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Latest Revision: 2014-07-25
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