Merve Sancak is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at SPERI. She completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge, where her thesis was titled ‘Finding skills in middle-income countries: the case of local auto parts in Mexico and Turkey’.  She holds an MSc in Comparative Social Policy from the University of Oxford (2012), and BAs in Economics and International Relations from Koç University, Turkey (2010). 

Merve leads SPERI’s Corporate Power & the Global Economy research theme with Michael Jacobs.

Merve’s research broadly focuses on globalisation, capitalist models and development in middle-income countries, the political economy of skill formation systems, and how variations in state involvement shape skill formation systems, capitalist growth models and participation in global value chains. She has won the Award for Outstanding Research on Development by the Global Development Network (2018) and Early Career Workshop Award from the Society for the Advancement of Socioeconomics (SASE) (2017). She also has professional experience policy research and implementation and has worked with the UNDP and World Bank. 

Research Interests

Merve studies the political economy of skills formation systems in middle-income countries, particularly in Mexico and Turkey. Her research brings together the discussions in the fields of political economy and economic sociology to understand the determinants and outcomes of skill formation systems. More specifically, her research analyses the state involvement in the economy and how this impacts national institutions and local firms’ links with global value chains; how these dynamics affect firm-level training and recruitment practices; and how different skill formation systems can influence workers’ career development opportunities and firms’ growth prospects. Her more recent work focuses on the political economic dynamics that shape the skill formation systems in middle-income countries. In this regard, she analyses national and supranational dynamics leading to different skill formation systems with different inclusive growth outcomes in middle-income countries.

Key Publications


  • Sancak, M. (2018) “When politics gets in the way: domestic coalitions and the making of skill systems”, Review of International Political Economy, 25:3, 340-363, DOI: 10.1080/09692290.2018.1455062, with Isik D. Özel.
  • Sancak, M. (2018) Review of “Ulrich Jürgens, Martin Krzywdzinski, The new worlds of work: Varieties of work in car factories in the BRIC countries, Oxford University Press.” Competition & Change 22(3).

Book chapters and other publications