「The Graduate School」

The Bamberg Graduate School of Social Sciences was established in 2010 to create an innovative working and learning environment for exceptionally qualified doctoral and postdoctoral researchers.


The Graduate School’s ambition is to stimulate and guide cutting-edge research on some of the most crucial challenges faced by modern knowledge-based societies.

These include:

  • individual, socio-structural and institutional conditions for life-long learning;
  • the societal, economic and institutional sources of variability (and inequality) in cognitive development and educational attainment;
  • the ability, opportunity and incentives to constantly update knowledge and skills in an increasingly uncertain economic environment and labour market;
  • the design of suitable social and political institutions promoting the development of key production factors such as human capital in a globalising economy; and
  • democratic political institutions promoting the effective production of collective goods and democratic accountability in complex multi-level systems.

Modern economies compete for the most creative minds domestically and internationally. Schools and universities help people to develop the skills necessary for them to compete in the labour market. But people’s choices about education and their opportunities in the labour market are influenced by a large number of social, economic and political factors. Problems of this nature cross the traditional boundaries of academic disciplines. The Graduate School therefore brings together sociologists, psychologists, educational scientists, political scientists, economists, demographers and statisticians from across two faculties of the University of Bamberg (Social Sciences, Economics and Business Administration and Human Sciences and Education).

The Graduate School is organized around four Pillars:


Pillar 1: Education, Personal Development and Learning from Early Childhood to Adulthood


Research in Pillar 1 deals with the psychological and pedagogic conditions of learning and personal development, focusing on all stages from early childhood to adulthood. How are competencies developing at the kindergarten and school ages? What do children and young adults learn, and when do they learn it? In addition to such typical research questions at the individual (micro) level, principal investigators and doctoral researchers in Pillar 1 also investigate the role of institutions and their impact over time (meso level). For example, how do formal institutions such as kindergartens and schools influence the development of competencies amongst children and young adults? What factors do parents consider when choosing a particular kindergarten, elementary or secondary school for their children to attend, and with what effect? How do families, non-formal and informal environments shape the development of children?

Research in Pillar 1 concentrates on three broader areas that have been under-researched hitherto:

  • the way educational systems and their institutions shape cognitive and personal development from early education to adult and further education;
  • processes of education and competence development within families;
  • dimensions of non-formal and informal learning outside families and schools, such as learning through participation in youth organisations, sport clubs and political and religious associations.

Researchers in Pillar 1 also engage in more explicit cross-national comparisons of educational processes and learning trajectories to establish the generality of findings and to study the impact of historically grown and country-specific, institutional settings.

Research Projects

Externally funded research projects associated with Pillar 1 include, among others,

Pillar 2: Education and Social Inequality Across the Entire Life Course


While Pillar 1 has a focus on individual preconditions and learning processes, Pillar 2 is concerned with collective aspects of the social structure and their relationship with education. On the one hand, researchers in Pillar 2 are interested in social inequalities in educational outcomes across the whole life course. This comprises the relationships between social characteristics, such as social origin, gender, or ethnicity, and educational outcomes, such as educational participation, attainment, decisions, or performance. On the other hand, Pillar 2 comprises research on the returns to education. Returns to education comprise a variety of different aspects, such as monetary rewards or the placement in the social structure, but also influences on political behavior and attitudes, individual well-being, or collective welfare outcomes. Researchers in Pillar 2 not only seek to determine the extent to which these regularities exist or vary between contemporary societies, but also provide explanations and disentangle the social mechanisms that bring about these phenomena.

Researchers in Pillar 2 employ a range of innovative approaches to disentangle processes of educational inequality or the influences of education on individual life outcomes or its contributions for society. They contribute to an advancement of the state of research by

  • taking an explicit and innovative life-course perspective, examining the accumulation of educational advantages and disadvantages throughout the educational career;
  • comparing educational inequalities and returns across countries;

combining cross-sectional, cross-country and longitudinal perspectives.

In substantive terms, researchers in Pillar 2 are concerned with a variety of pressing questions concerning the interplay between education and the social structure.

Externally funded research projects associated with Pillar 2 include, among others,

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students’ transition from high school to post-secondary education”, funded by DFG


Research Projects

Externally funded research projects associated with Pillar 2 include, among others,

Pillar 3: Changes in Human Capital, Labour Markets and Demographic Structures and their Relation to Social Inequalities in Modern Societies


Most industrial societies have witnessed an increase in social inequality during the past four decades. Yet, this trend and its mechanisms are still not sufficiently understood. Researchers in Pillar 3 address questions such as the following:

To what extent do changes in labour markets (e.g. through increasing international competition, flexibilisation or deregulation) increase social inequality? To what extent do imbalances of supply and demand of human capital across generations explain rising levels of social inequality? How do demographic changes such as declining fertility, increasing life expectancy or migration relate to the development of social inequalities? This perspective includes mechanisms on the micro- and meso-level that contribute to the (re)production of social inequalities over the life course, e.g. causes and consequences of intra-generational mobility. What is the role of gender and family inequality for the development of social inequality? What are the causes and consequences of health inequalities, e.g. how do social factors such as working conditions affect health and to what extent does health affect processes of social mobility or labour market opportunities throughout the life course? To what extent do different organisations and welfare states mitigate or exacerbate specific forms of social inequality?

Doctoral students in Pillar 3 receive an excellent grounding in state-of-the-art research on human capital, labour markets and demography and their relationship to social inequality. At the same time, they find themselves part of a stimulating research community that helps them produce new insights into these issues. Research on social inequality at the Bamberg Graduate School of Social Sciences is characterised by:

  • the use of longitudinal data to examine the ways in which social status and resources increase or decrease over the life course, and the causes and consequences of these fluctuations;
  • a cross-national perspective that goes beyond already well-researched cases;
  • a multi-level approach that considers developments at the individual, firm, regional, national, European and global level;
  • the development of advanced statistical methods for  complex socio-demographic data

Pillar 4: Governance, Institutional Change and Political Behaviour


The major focus of Pillar 4 is on the evolution and impact of national and international institutions on  politics and society still organised around traditional territorial principles. Typical questions asked by researchers in Pillar 4 include the following: How does internationalisation and globalisation influence policy-making processes ? How do citizens respond to the perceived loss of democratic control in a globalising world? To what extent do political parties embrace ‘new citizens’ of immigrant-origin as voters and members? How can national governments be successful in recapturing the capacity to meet the demands of citizens through international institutions? What are the conditions for successful policy coordination in trans- and supranational governance structures? Do the impacts of international interdependencies vary across different regions of the world?

Doctoral researchers in Pillar 4 approach questions of democracy and governance from a variety of perspectives. They study them:

  • at the level of individual citizens, organisations (such as churches, political parties and interest groups) and nation-states, as well as at the sub-, trans- and international level;
  • as complex interactions of these tiers;
  • empirically as well as from the point of view of analytical and normative political theory.

Research Projects

Externally funded research projects associated with Pillar 4 include, among others,


While each of these Pillars has its own substantive focus, they are also interdisciplinary and linked:

  • substantively, by an interest in the challenges facing open knowledge-based societies;
  • theoretically, by approaches focusing on the interaction of structures and human agency, with an emphasis on institutions;
  • methodologically, by a shared commitment to theory-driven and empirically rigorous approaches;
  • educationally, by a shared experience of the benefits of a structured yet flexible programme.



The Graduate School offers a highly attractive place for doctoral and postdoctoral researchers wishing to pursue research, and receive tailored training, on these and related issues.

Our members benefit from:

  • the pooled expertise of a number of nationally and internationally recognised sociologists, psychologists, educational scientists, political scientists, economists, demographers and statisticians;
  • a highly research-active environment with an outstanding track record of interdisciplinary projects;
  • a well-established network of high-quality national and international collaborations;
  • a structured yet flexible qualification programme;
  • close and comprehensive supervision and mentoring







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