Spokesperson Thomas Saalfeld, his deputy Cornelia Kristen and speaker Walter Müller (from left to right; photographer: Monica Fröhlich)

    Influencing International Research

    Graduates and supervisors of the Graduate School of Social Sciences (BAGSS) had plenty of reasons to celebrate.

    The festive inaugural event on July 1, 2013, was opened by Professor Dr. Thomas Saalfeld. Professor Saalfeld is convenor of the graduate school, which was established in 2010, and presently consists of 40 young scientists, among them ten fully funded doctoral students, as well as 26 professors as supervisors.

    In his welcoming speech, President Professor Dr. Dr. habil. Godehard Ruppert reminded the audience that the Humanities were the original focus of the university, which, following restructuring in the 1970s, had been expanded to include behavioural, social and economic sciences. Apart from BAGSS he highlighted the National Educational Panel (NEPS), the “ERC Advanced Grant” a scientific grant of the European Union, and the Graduate Programme “Markets and Social Systems in Europe” as examples of beacon projects with substantial external funding. “As a result, the University of Bamberg has become a quality label within social science research, especially in the areas education and empirical social research.”

    Structured Graduate Schools and PhD Programmes

    Professor Dr. Astrid Schütz, Vice President with responsibility for research, took up this thought and explained that the Research Map of the German Rector’s Conference (HRK) identifies two research areas for which Bamberg has achieved a national profile of outstanding achievement: “Empirical Social Research, especially Educational Research” and “Medieval Studies and Cultural Heritage”. Not only does the success of BAGSS in the Excellence Initiative reinforce the first research area, it is also in line with the University of Bamberg’s is commitment to expanding  its graduate school system as a way of promoting structured PhD programmes. An important link to all these programmes is the Trimberg Research Academy, which supports young scientist with advice and a variety of courses.

    BAGSS is organised around four substantial pillars, as its convenor, Thomas Saalfeld, explained. “Two are related to learning and education, one to the labour market and one to governance in a globalised world”. Thus, the profile is largely shaped by educational research and its direct links to other areas of social science research – and thereby benefits tremendously from the strategic partnership with NEPS, which is currently on the way to become a member of the “Wissensgemeinschaft Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (WGL). Professor Dr. Walter Müller, emeritus professor at the Mannheim University and currently project leader at the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES) stayed true to this motto with his keynote lecture “Do we really need more education?”

    By and large, Germany does need it, so his answer, which is based on extensive empirical evidence. “However, in order to reveal all causal links between economy, the labour market and education, even more research is necessary.” But Müller did not just give objective reasons for the completion of dissertation projects: “Doctorate holders live longer than less qualified persons. A good reason to finish your dissertation”, is how he closed his speech.