Fundamental Sociology

Fundamental Sociology

Duration: 1 year (Full-time) or 2 years (Part-time)
Language of instruction: Russian
Format: On-campus
Special conditions: tuition fee waivers available
- Master of Arts in Sociology (University of Manchester, UK)
- Certificate of Professional Retraining "Fundamental Sociology"  (MSSES, Russia)
This program is designed primarily for those who plan to engage in social science - to conduct research, publish actively and become part of the international academic community. For those who plan to continue to enter the labor market and work in analytical, consulting and expert centers, it will give them the ability to work with large amounts of information, will allow them to master the modern methodology of data analysis and learn how to write highly demanded texts.

The master's program "Fundamental sociology" allows you to get an education based on the best examples of Russian and British educational traditions. At the moment, this is one of the few master's programs in sociology in Russia that provide fundamental sociological education in the field of social theory and epistemology of social sciences.

The program is extremely text-centric. The main goal of the program is to teach students to read scientific texts and conduct their own research.

Graduates of the program are prepared for analytical work using a wide range of foreign and domestic sources of information and can be involved in research, marketing, consulting and other fields.

Program Manager - Viktor Vakhstain, PhD in sociology, MA in sociology, Dean of the Department of Social Sciences, Dean of the Department of Philosophy and Sociology, Social Sciences Institute of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) under the President of the Russian Federation; Head of the Department of Theoretical Sociology and Epistemology of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration; head of the RANEPA Center for sociological research and of the International Centre of Contemporary Sociological Theory MSSES. Since 2011, he has been the editor-in-chief of the journal "Sociology of power".
I teach to talk to the dead. My task is to make the classics of our science come to talk to us. Not as zombies eating the brains of students, not as dusty stuffed animals, but as dialogue partners. I teach people to write. To write is to commit constant violence against incompetence. First - your own, then - the reader's. Scientists invest in texts. Teachers invest in people. In MSSES, they invest in people who invest in texts.
Victor Vakhstain, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences

Who is this program for?

Graduates of relevant specialties (graduates of the faculties of sociology, philosophy and social sciences) come to start an academic career and change the conceptual school and move from Soviet/Russian sociology to the Western version of sociology and get an education on the Western model. Here they will re-read and rethink the theoretical basics, relearn and see in the texts what they have not seen before. They come to write their own texts on sociology, and not to retell textbooks on it at the oral test.
Graduates of non-core universities come to get optics, language and tools for understanding social and political life. Now they may lack the fundamental knowledge and theory to understand and interpret more deeply what is happening. Such students acquire the highest degree of awareness, overcome dilettantism and uncertainty in their professional activities. Journalists, public figures, political consultants, and analysts often come to do this.
Professionals in applied quantitative research (marketing, political, and sociological research) come to keep up their theoretical reflection and maintain their intellectual tone in order to conduct full-fledged research activities

Features and values of the program

  • Students put together a program for their own interest: only 2 courses are required, and the remaining 80% of courses are optional. You can choose from 17 courses in theoretical sociology, methodology of sociological research, and anthropology. Students are able to make a meaningful choice of courses using the course guide and presentation, and also have the opportunity to change the course after the first lesson.
  • It is important for us that each student can write their own texts on the topic that interests them, focusing on the scientific interest or current agenda. Therefore, the main value of the program is academic freedom.
  • Text-centricity of the program. Students learn to work with texts. They learn different reading modes, approaches, and ways to make sense of the text. Students read a lot, not to make out texts, but to learn to write.
  • There are no oral exams or essays in the program. As reporting papers for each course, students submit an academic essay. The program instructors help students publish the most successful essays in leading scientific journals.
  • At the end of the training, students write a master's thesis. This dissertation can become the basis for a PhD thesis in Russia or open the possibility of applying for a PhD program abroad.
  • MSSES can boast of a rich and democratic educational environment. Teachers are always open for consultations, and graduates and undergraduates act as tutors for first-year students, conduct analytical reading circles and reading clubs.
  • The library contains a rich collection of books and provides access to unique information resources.
  • The faculty is taught by a team of young instructors and active researchers who have experience in education and work abroad. Students have the opportunity to participate in research projects of instructors already during their training.
  • MSSES hosts regular performances and mini-courses of lecturers from different countries of the world.
  • Students study English in depth. All our graduates speak English at a level sufficient for an academic career.

Graduates of the program have the opportunity to obtain a master's degree from the University of Manchester and a Master of Arts in Sociology degree While I was studying, Shaninka set such a level of responsibility and tension that after it, already in the outside world, you feel much calmer and more confident. Knowledge and skills are usually more than enough to quickly and efficiently understand everything that you will have to face after a master's degree - new jobs, new people, new tasks and areas of knowledge. But the main thing about Shaninka is, of course, a sense of academic Gemeinschaft. Introduction to the family of "colleagues" and the common cause of working with theoretical texts. So far, I have not met a place where you can learn the same serious view of theoretical work and share it with others. In general, the main thing is how Shaninka changed my life. It gave me a new view of the world, gave me good tools to succeed in it, and gave me a circle of close friends.
Nikolay Gnisyuk, 2018 graduate, Analyst at the Public Opinion Foundation

How is the training arranged?

The selection of courses

Students study 10 courses in 2 years. 2 of them are required, the remaining 8 they choose from a list of 17 courses in theoretical sociology, methodology of sociological research and anthropology.

Compulsory courses are basic courses that last for 3 half-terms and allow people without a basic sociological education to learn the basics of science, and people with a sociological education to rethink theoretical knowledge in a new paradigm.

History of theoretical sociology. In this course, students master classical and modern theories and get acquainted with the history of the formation of science. The course provides insight into the available description languages and shows how science has at various times answered the question of how society is possible.

The methodology of sociological research. This course consists of two parts. The first is the Epistemology of the Social Sciences. It introduces the students to the basic axioms of sociology: why our knowledge of society and the social can be reliable and scientific. The second part - Methods of Sociological Research - allows us to understand that behind the applied tools (surveys, questionnaires and interviews) there are centuries-old scientific arguments about how these methods can provide reliable knowledge about the social.

These courses show that social theory as an understanding of the social and methods of obtaining reliable knowledge about the world are closely related.

Students are taught a culture of working with data. They know that you can't just go to the field for numbers, assuming that the respondents themselves will tell the truth. The ideal graduate will never simply create a questionnaire. This will be based on reasoning about the object and modeling the object, using the chosen description language, conceptualization and operationalization.

Students choose 8 other courses independently based on their scientific interests. They can take both theoretical and methodological courses. The presentation of each course and consultations with instructors help you make the right choice. In addition, after the first lesson, students have the opportunity to change the course.

Class format

Theoretical courses include text discussions and lectures, and methodological courses include case studies, moderator errors analysis, and problem-solving.

The classical teaching of sociology is built as a relay of ready-made knowledge that does not need to be subjected to reflection. This knowledge is devalued immediately after leaving the Institute. After such training, students cannot get the knowledge to work on their own, they cannot search for the necessary books, sources, data and continue to work with them. If they get into a project, they can only become application specialists, because they only know the tools, but they do not have the theory and conceptualization skills that they could use. Graduates of such programs feel unarmed.

We also teach students how at any time and in various ways to get knowledge about everything that they are interested in. The main goal of the program is to teach reading and writing skills. We teach you how to search for information and work with it. Be critical of everything and be able to pick up arguments.

Residential school

Part of the classes are held in the format of visiting schools - students are intensively engaged in essential sociological topics, and receive training in academic writing.


Students do not take oral or written exams. And the main form of reporting for each course is academic research essays. During the course of study, each student writes eight texts. Six texts with a volume of three thousand words and two texts of five thousand words.

Students choose topics for their essays based on their own scientific interests. Students can choose one topic and explore it from different angles, for example, an urban researcher can study the topic of the city in the courses Urban anthropology, Sociology of space, Sociology of everyday life, etc. Academic freedom allows students to choose any topic from the current contemporary agenda.

Teachers are always open to conversation.  Students can apply for off-line and online consultations with any instructor. The educational environment of the faculty is very democratic.

All essays are reviewed anonymously by two instructors, which ensures that the assessment is objective. For each essay, students receive detailed comments from reviewing instructors.

Most of the texts that have received high ratings can be published in reputable scientific publications. Master's degree instructors assist students in preparing scientific publications based on their written essays, which they pass in the course of their studies.


All students write master's theses. The topic of the dissertation depends on the interests and academic plans of the student.

The research supervisor works with the student on the synopsis project of the research, helps to set a scientific problem that can be solved in the master's research, calibrate it correctly, and make a plan for its solution.

After that, the student passes the defense of the synopsis: submits the draft of his dissertation to the Commission and receives feedback and recommendations. Then he continues to work on the research. The written text of the dissertation is anonymously checked by two instructors and an external examiner.

Training in Shaninka helped to systematize the experience gained before and learn how to disassemble it into details and assemble it in new combinations. MSSES gives you the opportunity to build a dialogue with people who speak the same language with you - this is always very valuable. Self-teaching made me start looking at the projects I do in a different way and try to look beyond the obvious phenomena in them. For the sake of the ability to build my own arguments and projects in a more systematic and logical way, I came to Shaninka and, it seems, I managed to take a step in this direction. My school experience allowed me to translate intuitive things into a list of arguments that I can give to others and within which dialogue is possible. This is important for communication with colleagues and for teaching.
Natalia Volkova, a graduate of the Fundamental Sociology program, 2019, instructor at the Moscow School of Architecture


Training program

Required courses

  • The methodology of sociological research
  • History of theoretical sociology

Optional courses

  • Introduction to data analysis using SPSS
  • Sociology of small communities
  • Field research methodology
  • Sociology of everyday life
  • Sociology of religion
  • Designing a sample study
  • Ethnomethodology and conversational analysis
  • Media theory
  • Sociology of art
  • Focus groups: methodology, teaching techniques, practice
  • Nationalism as a political ideology
  • Revolutions and social changes
  • Theories of action: from modern approaches to classical directions
  • Sociology of space
  • Social anthropology: time, objects, rituals

Graduates’ careers

  • Academic career (PhD or postgraduate): science, teaching, work in higher education institutions.
  • applied research (sociologists, specialists of the department of sociology, sociological services, analytics services, marketing research)
  • expert analytical work (socio-political journalism, political analytics, political technologies, business consulting)

Contact Us

Тел.: 8 (495) 150-80-92

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