「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 educational processes in early childhood, kindergarten, elementary school and progression to secondary school, researchers in Pillar 2 deal with inequalities in educational achievements and choices across the entire life course. The major focus is on the extent and origins of such inequalities. Why do gender- and class-specific differences in competence development and educational decisions persist? How do they develop over the educational career? Which processes contribute to a decreasing or an increasing impact of social background over the life course? Why do we observe variation in these matters across educational systems? In addition, Pillar 2 takes up questions of ethnic inequalities in education. Why do immigrants and their children in many cases face difficulties in school? How do social and ethnic inequalities interact? In a third stream of research, Pillar 2 addresses the returns on education over the life.

Doctoral students within Pillar 2 employ a range of innovative approaches to disentangle processes of educational convergence and divergence. They move beyond the cross-sectional design of many traditional analyses by

  • taking an explicit and innovative life-course perspective, examining the accumulation of educational advantages and disadvantages throughout the educational career;
  • comparing educational choices and achievements 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, including the structural integration of immigrants and their descendants into educational systems.


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 Impact on Social Inequality in Modern Societies



Most industrial societies have witnessed an increase in social inequality during the past three decades. Yet, this trend and its social mechanisms are still not sufficiently understood by social scientists. Researchers in Pillar 3 address questions such as the following: To what extent do changes in the labour markets (e.g. through increasing international competition or flexibilisation) increase social inequality? In what way are social risks accumulating over life courses under different labour market regimes? To what extent do imbalances of supply and demand of human capital across generations explain rising levels of social inequality? Do demographic changes such as declining fertility and increasing life expectancy increase or decrease social inequality? To what extent are specific forms of social inequality mitigated or exacerbated in different welfare state regimes? What are the consequences of migration for social inequality in modern societies?

Doctoral students in Pillar 3 receive an excellent grounding in state-of-the-art of 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;
  • a cross-national perspective that goes beyond already well-researched cases;
  • a multi-level approach that considers developments at the firm, regional, national, European and global level;
  • an emphasis on the complex interplay of various factors such as changing labour market structures, changes in the supply and demand of human capital and demographic changes.

Pillar 4: Governance, Institutional Change and Political Behaviour



The major focus of Pillar 4 is on the pressure that economic and political transnationalisation generates on political institutions and societies still organised around traditional territorial principles. Typical questions asked by researchers in Pillar 4 include the following: How can elected democratic politicians be held accountable for developments they have little control over? 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?

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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