About the Swiss Summer School

Established in 1997,  the Swiss Summer School is open to all who need to use Social Science methods, both quantitative and qualitative, for their work. It has been conceived for those who feel the need to refresh, deepen and widen their methodological knowledge and skills, whatever their professional situation: student, researcher or practitioner. Organized jointly by FORS, the Swiss Foundation for social science research and the Università della Svizzera Italiana (USI),  it offers every year several full-time workshops in two weekly sessions (second half of August).

Instructors are renowned specialists and experienced and enthousiastic teachers in their respective fields. Depending upon the number of participants in a workshop, they will bring a teaching assistant or co-teacher, in order to optimize opportunities for help and advice during the workshops.

All workshops are oriented towards practical applications and spend roughly half of their time on applied work and exercises (many workshops will make heavy use of computer software). There is ample time to discuss and try to solve problems related to the work and research projects of the participants with instructors and fellow participants. Whenever possible participants are strongly encouraged to work on their own data and research problems to get the most out of the Summer School experience.

Most workshop topics are repeated regularly (every year or less frequently) and new workshop topics are added.

More than 3000 participants have attended the Swiss Summer School since 1997. Participants are Ph.D. students (75-80%), junior and senior researchers and practitioners, from Switzerland (70-80%) and more than 40 different countries working in a wide range of scientific disciplines: Psychology, Educational, Business Studies, Communication, Political Science, Sociology, Health Sciences, and many others.

History of the Swiss Summer School

The first three Summer Schools (Geneva 1997, Lugano 1998 and Neuchâtel 1999) were experimental; i.e. they were planned and financed as a National Science Foundation project within the framework of the Switzerland towards the Future (Demain la Suisse) programme, as a key component of their post-graduate training programme scheme (“doctoral schools”) for Switzerland. From the start, it was clear that after the three year trial period and after careful evaluation, the Summer School needed a more permanent basis, both financial and organizational. (Demain la Suisse, until the end of the programme (December 2003), guaranteed the deficit of the Summer School.

Since 2008, the Summer School is institutionally hosted by FORS, the Swiss Foundation for social science research. (between 2000-2007 it was administered by SIDOS, the Swiss Data Archive, Neuchâtel) and established in Lugano at USI (Università della Svizzera Italiana). Both institutions offer generous support to the Summer School; FORS administers the Summer School and USI offers the teaching and computing facilities, takes care of the local administration (administrative support during the Summer School) at no cost. The Summer School is now funded by participants’ fees only; these fees cover expenses for instructors (honorarium, accommodation and travel expenses); material distributed to the students and social events for participants.

Since 2015 we started a close collaboration with USI with respect to the Summer School course offerings. Initially, there were six workshops (3 per week), later the workshop offer was somewhat increased.

Why attend the Summer School?

Why should you attend the Swiss Summer School?

Methodology is the corner stone of good scientific practice and a sound training in methodology will be essential for your professional future. There are however many different philosophies, approaches and techniques, many of them highly specialized; new approaches are proposed and practice evolves over time.

The various workshops offered answer different needs you encounter during your studies and career:

  • You need to acquire new or other tools and approaches, that where not covered during your formal training. New techniques are becoming popular, or your research requires additional or more advanced skills. In addition and depending upon your study curriculum you had some topics were not covered at all.
  • After having completed your initial degrees (bachelor, master) you start working on a PhD project or get a job as (research) assistant or collaborator within academia or outside. You feel that your methodological skills are somewhat shaky, too theoretical and many practical problems were not really covered. It is also quite common that the methodological training during the normal course of studies is somewhat sketchy or you did not yet (or were not motivated to) understand the central place of methodology in whatever scientific endeavour.
  • Today’s careers require flexibility and even experienced researchers need to acquire new techniques and additional skills (life-long learning). [In the last years several professors have attended courses in the Summer School!]

Reasons to attend the Summer School:

  • Intensive one-week courses (Monday to Friday). Even if your work load is very heavy, you should be able to spare 5 days in late summer to learn something new.
  • Oriented towards real practical applications, not only abstract theory and trivial technical exercises (you will be able to apply what you have learned when back home)
  • Highly qualified instructors, experts in their field and open to discuss your research problems (Instructors are asked to spend at least 50% of the teaching time to applied work and discussions of problems, including problems you encounter within your research projects.)
  • Small groups of highly motivated participants: Meet and exchange with fellow participants working in many different scientific disciplines and from many institutions in Switzerland and abroad
  • Last but not least: the location (Lugano)

According to the evaluations sent-in by the participants, the Summer School experience is highly appreciated: the quality of the courses, the exchange between participants and instructors and among fellow participants, the possibility to meet new colleagues (and often new friends), as well as the location.

What former participants say about the Summer School

On the evaluation form filled-in after earlier Summer Schools, the following question was asked:

  • How do you describe your Summer School experience to a friend or colleague to motivate her or him to attend the Summer School in Lugano next year?

Here’s a selection of their comments….

  • A very work intensive week with complex tasks and with nice colleagues in the most beautiful town of Switzerland.
  • Competent teachers, well organized, useful and easy to transfer to your work
  • Excellent instructor, both competent and enthusiastic. Good group size. Friendly atmosphere.
  • For someone using qualitative case studies, I would for sure advise this workshop. I can’t tell for the rest of the courses..
  • Good courses in which you learn a lot in one week on a beautiful location.
  • Good opportunity for a Ph.D. student starting out in the social sciences
  • Good opportunity to refresh statistics knowledge within one week
  • Good resources that can be applied in everyday research
  • Good teachers, nice surrounding, a lot of information in one week, sometimes to much information…
  • Good teaching, good team spirit and nice location
  • Great courses and lean organisation.
  • Having a full immersion in a new method is very helpful to focus on the content. By attending the summerschool one also have the possibility to meet new People and so increase the Networking. A great Chance of this summer School was also that we had a Major expert of the method teaching it, so that he could answer question about our own Research.
  • Having already had some background in SEM, I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t advance sufficiently. But this concern was needless. I found the week extremely useful
  • I’d say that my experience is rather positive and encourage my friends and colleagues to attend the summer school in Lugano next year.
  • If you already have your own data set, this Summer school offers very good courses in which you learn how to manage / analyse… Your data. furthermore it’s a Great opportunity for networking and getting to know highly competent and interesting teachers
  • Instructive, competent and helpful teachers, good infrastructure
  • Interesting classes, good mixture between theory and practice.
  • It i very useful but so exhausting.
  • It is useful to attend and get inputs for further self-learning.
  • it was very helpful
  • It was very useful and helpful for my resarch. I would like to attend this school the next year and I will recomment it to my colleagues.
  • It’s worth the time. Intense and useful
  • Meeting nice poeple
  • Nice opportunity to meet collegues from other universities, to learn in detail specific subjects, to challenge your own research, and to be inspire!
  • Strengthening essential research skills in a pleasant atmosphere
  • Summer School experience is a great opportunity to extend your research network, to exchange your research ideas and to get better knowledge of the research methods you can use in your research project.
  • The course I took was very good, I learned an incredible lot.
  • The city of Lugano is a beautiful spot and makes the learning experience even better.”
  • The methods taught are very useful for the PhD and the atmosphere is great.
  • The quality of the teaching is pretty good!
  • There is a good trade-off between theroy and practice.
  • Thanks to the small size of the group, there are many interactions between PhD students and the supervisor.
  • The supervisor is really listening the students to answer their questions and thoughts.”
  • To deal with some topics in depth
  • To open our mind to others research approaches or methods
  • Very good quality of courses. I learned a lot and I would like to attend again next year.
  • Very good Workshops, nice to meet other people
  • Very helpful and useful
  • Very high quality, recent references, adapted to participants’ needs, many examples to understand the method
  • Very interesting, but quite exhausting ;)
  • Very useful for the work we do
  • Very usefull because every single work is counting as unique; no preparation before but a lot during the week so we are in a good working process; good professional exchanges and good readings!
  • You have a great variety of different courses. The location is really nice and it’s a good opportunity to acquire new skills in a different environment.
  • You learn a lot, have fun and meet new friends!
  • You should really attend it, helps a lot to learn new skills and meet other interesting researchers

The overall aim of the Summer School is to answer the needs for training in social science methods for the scientific community; comments, ideas, suggestions …. for future Summer Schools are welcome at any time. Please send your comments to the Summer School director by email or use this form.

If you wish to be informed when the next Summer School programme is published please register your email (Mailing List).