Introduction to the Master's degree


The University of Liège, in association with the University of Maastricht, offers a master's degree in Political Science with a special focus on Science, Technology and Society. The courses are mainly given in French in Liege in the first year and entirely in English in Maastricht in the second year, the master thesis being done with a supervisor from Liege. At the end of the two years, the student receives two degrees: a master's degree in Political Science with a specialised purpose in Science, Technology and Society from ULiège and a master's degree in European Studies of Society, Science and Technology from UM.




Environmental controversies, the disputed development of technological innovations and health risks show us how dependent our modern societies are today on science and technology. What are the social and political issues associated with their development? On issues as burning as those of the development of biotechnology, electromagnetic waves, climate change, drones, nuclear energy, nanotechnologies, 3D printing or even cloning, it is frequent to face diversified or even contradictory positions even within scientific and political circles. How can political and social sciences contribute to understanding and influencing scientific and industrial practices? How do science and technology transform lifestyles, power relations, identities and imaginations? In terms of governance, what is the role and exercise of scientific expertise in public authorities' decision-making? Are technical issues also democratic issues? Can we imagine extending a democratic and participatory approach to technological development? Here are some questions that are at the heart of this master's degree.


Aims and objectives



The proposed master's degree is open to students who wish - starting from their own training (political science, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, communication, history, science and technology, life sciences, civil and industrial engineering, etc.) - to develop a critical approach to the functioning and consequences of contemporary scientific, technological and industrial activity. Anchored in a Department of Political Science, this Master's degree has an interdisciplinary focus and mobilizes teaching from various disciplines such as philosophy, anthropology, political science, innovation and risk studies, sociology, history or political economy. This interdisciplinary approach is justified insofar as technological change is not only a technical and engineering matter, but is also the result of political, economic and cultural choices that reflect societal choices.

The skills acquired at the end of the training will allow the student to:

- Acquire tools for critical understanding of interactions between political decision-makers, scientists, companies and societal actors (civil society, citizens);

- Monitor and describe the trajectories of scientific discoveries and innovations and related public policies;

- Identify and anticipate the conditions of their implementation, but also the effects and consequences they have in society;

- Provide the theoretical and methodological means to study the functioning of scientific or industry laboratories, as well as their products;

- Analyze and monitor the evolution of scientific and technical controversies as well as identify possible technological alternatives;

- Think laterally and across traditional disciplinary boundaries to become "specialized generalists";

- Develop the ability to adapt to an international environment.

Professional opportunities


In addition to the scientific and academic careers associated with the completion of a doctorate or contractual research, this master prepares the future candidate to apply in Ministries (Environment, Transport, Economy and Innovation, New Technologies, Health, Territorial Planning, etc.), Government Agencies (Agence wallonne de l’Entreprise et l’Innovation, KCE, ONDRAF, Agence wallonne de l’Air et du Climat, Société Wallonne des Eaux, Institut Wallon pour l’Evaluation, la Prospective et la Statistique, etc.), Economic Development Agencies (SPI, etc.), companies (Google, Microsoft, Electrabel, Lampiris, Materialize, Elia, Tecteo, Proximus, Mithra, etc.), federations of companies and industries ( Agoria, Essenscia, etc.), consulting firms (Technopolis Group, etc.) or even nongovernmental organizations (Inter-Environnement Wallonie, Test-Achat, Natagora, WWF, Greenpeace, etc.).


What is STS?



Science and Technology Studies (STS) is a relatively new academic field. Its roots lie in the interwar period and continue into the start of the Cold War, when historians and sociologists of science, and scientists themselves, became interested in the relationship between scientific knowledge, technological systems, and society. The best known product of this interest was Thomas Kuhn’s classic 1962 study, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. This influential work helped crystallize a new approach to historical and social studies of science, in which scientific facts were seen as products of scientists’ socially conditioned investigations rather than as objective representations of nature. Among the many ramifications of Kuhn’s work was a systematic effort by social scientists to probe how scientific discovery and its technological applications link up with other social developments, in law, politics, public policy, ethics, and culture. STS, as practiced in academia today, merges two broad streams of scholarship.

The first consists of research on the nature and practices of science and technology (S&T). Studies in this genre approach S&T as social institutions possessing distinctive structures, commitments, practices, and discourses that vary across cultures and change over time. This line of work addresses questions like the following: is there ascientific method; what makes scientific facts credible; how do new disciplines emerge; and how does science relate to religion?

The second stream concerns itself more with the impacts and control of science and technology, with particular focus on the risks that S&T may pose to peace, security, community, democracy, environmental sustainability, and human values. Driving this body of research are questions like the following: how should states set priorities for research funding; who should participate, and how, in technological decision-making; should life forms be patented; how should societies measure risks and set safety standards; and how should experts communicate the reasons for their judgments to the public?

The rise of STS as a teaching field reflects a dawning recognition that specialization in today’s research universities does not fully prepare future citizens to respond knowledgeably and reflectively to the most important challenges of the contemporary world. Increasingly, the dilemmas that confront people, whether in government, industry, politics or daily life, cut across the conventional lines of academic training and thought. STS seeks to overcome the divisions, particularly between the two cultures of humanities (interpretive inquiry) and natural sciences (rational analysis).

STS teaching seeks to promote cross-disciplinary integration, civic engagement, and critical thinking. Undergraduate STS courses are especially popular with engineering and pre-professional students, including premeds. They help to illuminate issues of professional responsibility and ethics. Such courses also build bridges between disciplines that do not ordinarily meet each other in the undergraduate curriculum, such as sociology and science, law and science, anthropology and technology, environmental science and political theory, or technology and philosophy.

Graduate STS courses offer ways of integrating knowledge in areas that are impossible to grasp through any single discipline; examples include security studies, environmental studies, globalization, the human sciences, and biology and society. STS courses in these areas enable students to form more robust understandings of the nature of controversy, the causes of scientific and technological change, the relationship of culture and reason, and the limits of rational analytic methods in characterizing complex problems.

In sum, STS explores in rich and compelling ways what difference it makes to human societies that we, collectively, are producers and users of science and technology. STS research, teaching, and outreach offer citizens of modern, high-tech societies the resources with which to evaluate—analytically, aesthetically, and ethically—the benefits and the risks, the perils and the promises, of notable advances in science and technology.



Practical advice for the first year in Liege


Admission requirements

In order to enroll to the STS master's degree, a student ust first meet Pierre Delvenne (, academic coordinator of the STS master at ULiège, for a brief interview. An application form (CV and cover letter written in English), must then be submitted to him. In order to be able to register for the Master's degree, the application form must be accepted by the academic coordinators of Liège and Maastricht.

As for each master's degree, students must pay a fee of €835 (in the case of a full fee) to the University of Liège.


Proposed, mandatory and optional courses


The following link gives details of the different courses offered as part of the STS Master's degree (in french):



English proficiency (IELTS – TOEFL)


In order to be able to enrol in the second year of the STS Master's degree, which takes place at Maastricht University, it is necessary to provide proof of proficiency in English. Indeed, courses are given exclusively in this language, and it is essential to be comfortable both orally and in writing in order to be able to take part in classroom discussions and to write the essays that serve as assessments. In addition to the language courses given at the University of Liège, it is recommended to become actively familiar with English, for example by reading books or listening to movies and series in this language.

In order to demonstrate English proficiency, it is necessary to pass either the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) with a score equal to or higher than 90 points, or the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) with a score equal to or higher than 6.5/10. These two tests include a wide range of questions that assess both oral and written comprehension and the ability to express and write correctly in English. They are internationally recognized and paid for (235€ for IELTS, 227€ for TOEFL), and you must register well in advance because the tests take place on specific dates. If you fail, you can retake the test, but test dates are limited, so don't waste time: registration for the second year in Maastricht is impossible without an IELTS or TOEFL certificate. From a practical point of view, it is necessary to provide proof of successful completion of one of these two tests by 1 July of the year of registration in Maastricht.


IELTS' website:


TOEFL's website:





In order to be able to enrol in the second year of the STS Master's degree, Maastricht University also requires the student to provide a short essay of one to two pages maximum, in English, on a theme related to STS, in which he/she will propose an analysis or commentary on a phenomenon related to socio-technical issues. The list below contains a few essays sent in previous years, as examples.


Doom-and-Gloom Technofuturists - Jean-Baptiste Fanouillère



Practical advice for the second year in Maastricht


The first year of the Master's degree in Liege will have allowed you to familiarize yourself with the STS and to train you to understand the issues that will be studied in depth in Maastricht during the second year. All information about the second year of the STS Master's degree (called ESST in Maastricht, for European Studies on Society, Science and Technology) is available on the website of the University of Maastricht:


This section provides a summary of the different elements to be taken into account for students who wish to enrol at Maastricht University after having successfully completed their first year in Liege.



Admission requirements


Students wishing to enroll in the second year of the STS Master, which takes place at the University of Maastricht, must provide:

  •      A bachelor's or master's degree
  •      A curriculum vitae (already submitted with the application form)
  •      A letter of motivation (already submitted with the application form)
  •      A short essay (see previous section)
  •      A certificate attesting to the proficiency of English (see previous section)


Students must also pay a half-tution fee of € 417.5 to the University of Liège, and tution fees of € 2060 to the University of Maastricht, part of which - corresponding to the costs of supervision of the master thesis by a supervisor of the ULiège - will be reimbursed directly on the bank account of the studend-t around the month of April. These amounts are subject to change (possible increase in the price of studies) or adaptation (when renewing the contract with the University of Maastricht).




The university premises of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASoS), in which the STS master's courses are taught, are located at Grote Gracht 90-92, in the city center of Maastricht, the Netherlands.

By car, take the E25 highway to Maastricht.

By train from Liège-Guillemins railway station (destination Visé-Maastricht), it takes about forty minutes. Leaving at the terminus station Maastricht, it takes about a quarter of an hour to reach Grote Gracht premises, the route follows a straight line to the University, passing the bridge to cross the Meuse river.



If you are attracted by the atmosphere of a university city where students from all over the world gather, you should know that many rental solutions are available. The city has a large number of apartments and other student kots. Here are some websites offering rental solutions:


If the price of rentals in Maastricht within the city walls does not correspond to your budget, you can still rent in a Belgian village bordering Maastricht. The prices are generally more attractive. To do so, you can contact the Riemst municipal administration directly at


Grote Gracht 90-92


Courses and teaching approaches



The approach applied in the framework of the ESST Master's degree in Maastricht differs quite widely from the methods generally in force at the University of Liège. Indeed, professors at Maastricht University favour highly interactive courses, with a small number of students (between 10 and 15 maximum) in small classrooms. Each student often has to read and prepare several texts at home, and must then be able to actively participate in the conversation. The French-speaking professors of the STS master's degree at the University of Liège adopt the same methods. Below is a summary of the different types of courses offered at Maastricht University, depending on the role of the professor and students.


Seminar/Tutorial session : These sessions provide a platform to reflect and clarify key literature and session topics. The coordinator acts as tutor and chairs the meetings in order to achieve the learning objectives of the tutorial sessions.

Lecture : In a lecture central perspectives and their possible applications are presented and discussed. Besides a FASoS staff member, academic and professionals from outside are involved. The Course Coordinator introduces the lecture by putting it in the overall context of the module. Students are expected to actively participate in the discussion after the lecture.

Discussion session : These sessions are focused on discussing a topic which is mostly session introduced with the help of a documentary (usually explicitly produced for teaching purposes). The videos provide (historical and topical) overviews and critical reflections in another format (visual) of the key issues of the module. Class discussions of these documentaries not only provide a learning context, but also an opportunity for the tutor to elaborate on issues and check the level of understanding of the students.

Student presetation : Students present (in a team/ individually) their work (literature overview presentation and analysis, results of empirical data collection and analysis) in front of an audience (fellow students, teacher(s) and guests (scholars and professionals). Students are encouraged to use visual aids (hand outs, 23Handbook ESST Fieldwork Project work Skills training Power point) and receive feedback on the form and content of the presentation from the tutor, their fellow students, and guests. The presentation should also provide a basis for discussion. Presenters are expected to act as discussion leader.

Fieldwork : A team of two or three students is engaged in a one-day session in a laboratory in order to study ‘science-in-action’. By undertaking participant observation and conducting interviews with researchers on the spot, students can mentally adjust and increase their knowledge and understanding of the dynamics of science, technology and society in a real-time science context. Due to the limited time-frame, students must formulate a precise research question before entering the lab.

Project work : Students are assigned and carry out a small-scale project individually or in teams. A project can involve e.g. the design of a table regarding the differences and similarities of theoretical and methodological approaches in STS or a fieldwork project.

Skill training : These training sessions are based on the idea of learning-by-doing.

Modules and courses


ESST is divided in two semesters of 30 ECTS each. The first semester of the ESST study programme has a general and introductory character and acts as a solid preparation for the second semester where you will specialise. The first semester is divided in five modules of each four weeks (September – January). Although all five modules are based on an inter-disciplinary approach, each module stresses particular theories and disciplines (see overview 2.1). Upon successful completion of the 1st semester you will be familiar with key STS literature, issues, debates, conceptual perspectives and methodological approaches, all of which will provide a basis on which to develop the research project in the 2nd semester.




Very important: students who enrol in the ESST master's degree do not have to choose a specialization in the second semester, since they must take the one done in Maastricht. Indeed, the year in Maastricht is considered in itself as a specialization, so students from Liège must remain in Maastricht during the second semester. In addition, the only module of the second semester ends around April, so students are then free to focus on writing their thesis until the submission date, towards the end of June.

The student's progress is assessed at the end of each module, through the writing of an essay related to the theories and themes addressed during the module. The score goes up to 10, and meets the following criteria:

Critères mémoires

In the event of a fail, you get a second chance to rewrite the essay. In the event of a further fail, it is possible to take the next module, but it is essential to pass both the next and previous module tests, otherwise it is impossible to move on to the next module. The coordinators of each module are nevertheless very present, and follow the students throughout the module. In the event of a fail, they are always willing to devote time and provide lots of advice to ensure success in the next test.

Master Thesis



In order to obtain the STS diploma, the student must write a master's thesis. It must be written in English, and must meet the following criteria:

Students must submit a thesis of 18,000 to 22,000 words. Its main objective is to enable the student to demonstrate his or her intellectual understanding of a relevant field and ability to research and present a complex set of ideas. In addition to the academic content, the thesis will be evaluated according to the following skills:

  • Clear specification of objectives
  • Efficient work planning
  • Effective literature search
  • Critical use of data
  • Selection and application of appropriate analytical methods
  • Interpretation of the results and comparison with existing knowledge
  • Ability to criticize the results and suggest further developments
  • Presentation of the work in a scientific and professional manner

It is important to note that students from Liège must have a supervisor from the University of Liège, and that they will be evaluated on the basis of a written procedure (no oral defence) by a jury composed of their supervisor and an academic expert from the ESST network.





Below you will find a list of books, works and documents that can be consulted to learn more about the field of study of STS. Several of the references in this list will also be studied and analysed as part of the STS Master's courses.



Introduction to STS




Christophe Bonneuil, Pierre-Benoît Joly, Sciences, techniques et société, Paris, La Découverte, coll. « Repères Sociologie », 2013, 125 p., ISBN : 978-2-7071-5097-4.




General public magazine:

VolTA magazine:


STS scientific journals:

Science, Technology and Human Values

Social Studies of Science

Revue d’anthropologie des connaissances

Science as Culture

Science and Public Policy

Technological Forecasting and Social Change 

Public Understanding of Science

Science Communication






Black Mirror: The episodes are linked by the common theme of the implementation of dystopic technology, with the title's "Black Mirror" referring to the omnipresent screens that reflect our reflection. From a black and often satirical angle, the series envisages a near or even immediate future. It questions the unintended consequences that new technologies could have, and how they affect the human nature of its users and vice versa.

Real Humans: The series takes place in an alternative contemporary Sweden, where the use of androids is becoming more and more prevalent. These androids - called "hubots" in the series - have invested homes and businesses to help with domestic and industrial tasks. The hubots, a suitcase word made up of human and robot, have: a USB port at the level of their neck, so that they can be programmed, an electrical plug that can be retracted under the left armpit, and a micro SD port slot near it. They are used as domestic servants, workers, companions and even as sexual partners (but the country's legislation prohibits this). While some people are adopting this new technology, others are afraid and fearful of what could happen when humans are gradually replaced as workers, companions, parents and even lovers.

Osmosis: In the near future, it is now possible to break the code of true love. Thanks to the data of its users obtained via micro robots implanted in their brains, the new "OSMOSIS" application guarantees with certainty to find the ideal partner, and transforms the ultimate dream of finding the soul mate into reality. But is there a price to pay when we let an algorithm choose the man or woman of our life?

Manhattan: The action takes place in 1943 in the middle of World War II in the New Mexico desert in Los Alamos. The authorities have created an isolated laboratory city there to work on a top secret project, the Manhattan project to produce an atomic weapon.




Welcome to Gattaca: In a futuristic world, you can choose the genotype of children. In this highly technological society that practices eugenics on a large scale, the parents' gametes are sorted and selected in order to conceive in vitro children with the fewest defects and the greatest possible benefits. Although officially prohibited, companies and employers use discrete DNA tests to select their employees; people who are naturally designed find themselves de facto relegated to subordinate tasks. Gattaca is a centre for spatial studies and research for people with an impeccable genetic heritage. Jérôme, a genetically ideal candidate, sees his life destroyed by an accident while Vincent, a naturally conceived child, therefore with an "imperfect" genetic capital, dreams of going to space. Each of the two will allow the other to get what he wants by thwarting Gattaca's laws.

Manhattan Project: Following a visit to a plant where his mother's lover, Paul, a teenager from Ithaca, New York, works, suspects that the plant is being used to enrich fissile material. He finds a way to break into the building to steal plutonium and uses it to build a nuclear bomb that he will present at the science fair.














Pierre Delvenne, coordinator of the STS master's degree at the University of Liège, qualified researcher at the FNRS, director of the UR Cité, deputy director of the Spiral:




Jean-Baptiste Fanouillère, former student of the STS master's degree and doctoral student at the Spiral:




Colin Glesner, former student of the STS master's degree and doctoral student at the Spiral:

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