Our understanding of political science

In Bamberg, we understand political science as an empirical social science: We conceive politics as a dynamic process on the micro and macro level and try to understand these processes by testing well-founded theories with the help of appropriate empirical methods.

The program of Bamberg

Our Master's program is research- and internationally oriented. You will gain a broad understanding of political processes and institutions as well as central political science theories. Additionally, you will be able to independently grasp and explain complex political contexts using appropriate social science theories and analytical approaches.

Our Master's program offers you generous scope to become acquainted with political science in its entire breadth and to discover new, exciting subject areas. You also have the option of studying abroad or gaining insight into other disciplines.

At the same time, with a total of six areas of focus, you have the opportunity to deepen your interests and skills in the best possible way. The focus area will be explicitly indicated on your degree certificate - so give your Master's degree your own personal profile in terms of content and methodology.

An overview of our focus areas

Comparative politics

The Comparative Politics focus primarily on

  • Government systems and their structures (for example, parliaments and governments)
  • collective political actors (for example, parties and associations)
  • political processes of convergence and divergence (such as diffusion and learning processes within federal states or the European Union)

Geographically, the focus of the courses is on the member states of the European Unionand the liberal democracies of the English-speaking world. The courses will initially focus on the development of instruments for a precise description of the observed political phenomena as well as typologies for their empirical classification and on a critical reflection of the methods used. In the foreground, however, are then two key questions:

  • What are the political causes of the similarities and differences between states, regions or actors?
  • What are the consequences of particular forms of government and institutions for governance practices and the quality of the political process?

Methodologically, comparative politics is decidedly empirical and guided by medium-range institutional theories. In teaching and research, both advanced quantitative methods and detailed qualitative individual case studies (for example, in the form of process analyses) or procedures for analyzing medium numbers of cases (such as "Qualitative Configurative Analysis" - QCA) are used.


The broad range of courses offered in the field of comparative politics primarily includes research-oriented courses on the following topics:

  • Theory and empirics of political institutions
  • Legislation and organization of parliaments (parliamentary groups, committees)
  • Behavior of parliamentarians in plenary and in committees
  • Governing in coalitions
  • Political representation and integration, especially of citizens with a migration and minority background
  • Political diffusion and learning processes

Students have the opportunity to work with researchers who publish their research in international journals and are leaders in externally funded national and international research projects. This has two advantages: First, the results of this research flow into teaching. Second, students gain early access to primary data for their own theses.

International and European Politics

The focus area of International and European Politics focuses primarily on the three following topics:

  • International institutions and global governance, including how international institutions function and operate, the state and non-state actors involved in them, and the problems and consequences of governance beyond the nation-state.
  • Foreign and security policy issues, including crisis policy.
  • Issues of European integration, especially the policy-making processes at the supranational level and the functioning of the European Union and its bodies and institutions, as a well as issues related to the emergence and impact of European policies;

The study focus is characterized by the theory-guided treatment of empirical problems. Therefore, great importance is attributed to the combination of theory and empiricism. From a methodological point of view, qualitative methods of analysis dominate (e.g. hypothesis-guided investigation of a case, case comparison).

Involved are the Chair of International Relations (Prof. Dr. Thomas Gehring) as well as the professorship for international and European politics (Prof. Dr. Monika Heupel).


Courses in the area of International and European Politics are taught in English. In the past semesters, there have been courses on the following topics, among others.

  • The Role of International Organizations in World Politics; Theories of International Institutions;
  • Norms in International Relations
  • US Foreign Policy
  • External Relations of the European Union; Policy-making in the European Union;
  • International Politics of the Middle East;.

The research profile of International and European Politics in Bamberg is focused on the development of medium-range theories on current problems of international and European politics as well as on the theory-based and methodologically reflected analysis of current empirical questions of international and European politics.

Relevant publications

Heupel, Monika/Heaphy, Caiden/Heaphy, Janina (2021): Seeing Reason or Seeing Costs? The United States, Counterterrorism, and the Human Rights of Foreigners, European Journal of International Relations, 28:1, 131-157.*

Heupel, Monika (2018): How Do States Perceive Extraterritorial Human Rights Obligations? Insights from the Universal Periodic Review, Human Rights Quarterly 40, 521-546.*

Heupel, Monika/Zürn, Michael, eds. (2017): Protecting the Individual from International Authority. Human Rights in International Organizations, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.*

Binder, Martin/Heupel, Monika (2015): The Legitimacy of the UN Security Council: Evidence from Recent General Assembly Debates, International Studies Quarterly59:2, 238-250.*

Becker, Manuel/Gehring Thomas (2023): Explaining EU Integration Dynamics in the Wake of COVID-19: A Domain of Application Approach; in: Journal of European Public Policy 30(2), 334-353.

Gehring, Thomas/ Dorsch, Christian/ Dörfler, Thomas (2019): Precedent and Doctrine in Organisational Decision-making: The Power of Informal Institutional Rules in the United Nations Security Council’s Activities on Terrorism; in: Journal of International Relations and Development 22:1, 107-135.

Gehring, Thomas /Urbanski, Kevin/ Oberthür, Sebastian (2017): The European Union as an Inadvertent Great Power. EU Actorness and the Ukraine Crisis; in: Journal of Common Market Studies 55:4, 727-743.

Gehring, Thomas / Faude, Benjamin (2014): A theory of emerging order within institutional complexes: How competition among regulatory international institutions leads to institutional adaptation and division of labor;: Review of International Organizations 9:4, 471-498.

Explaining EU integration dynamics in the wake of COVID-19: a domain of application approach; in: Journal of European Public Policy

Modern Political Theory

This field of study is characterized by an orientation towards current problems in modern political theory. It thus takes into account recent developments and fundamental changes in the methodological orientation that political theory has undergone in recent decades.

These changes in the discipline are, on the one hand, of a substantive nature. Political theory opened up to currents of analytical philosophy and philosophy of science. On the other hand, they are also methodological in nature. These changes are characterized by an increasing recourse to formal models and theories, such as those applied in the use of game-theoretical models or economic theories of politics.

In addition, a systematic examination of the foundations of normative theory formation takes place: Within the framework of analytic political philosophy, greater emphasis is placed on systematic, comprehensible argumentation and reflection on methodological foundations. Here, too, abstract arguments are used, for example in the form of thought experiments.

Teaching Profile

The Modern Political Theory major introduces students to current research debates and provides them with the methodological and theoretical tools for formulating independent contributions to these debates. Modules on the following topics are regularly included in the course offerings of the major:

  • economic theories of politics
  • analytical political philosophy and analytical ethics
  • formal tools such as game theory or computer simulations
  • Philosophy of Science
  • political-philosophical classics, as far as they are relevant for Modern Political Theory

The fundamental perspective of this course is thus to prepare and use these theories for a contemporary social analysis. On the one hand, students learn the methodological tools of an empirically-analytically oriented political science and, on the other hand, are introduced to selected discussions of the content of Modern Political Theory.

Political sociology

The focus of study in Political Sociology is primarily on the dispositions, attitudes, and behavior of individuals and collective actors such as political parties. The focus is on the causes and consequences of political attitudes/positions, behavior/activities, and the connection between individual and structural levels. Why do individuals not vote? How are experiences of discrimination and political perceptions related? What influence do social identities have on political attitudes and behavior?

Such and similar questions are considered in a national and comparative perspective. Western countries in particular are compared, but regional or local differences are also examined. In addition to general topics from political sociology, a substantive focus is placed on the topics of integration, migration, intergroup conflicts and right-wing populism.

Teaching Profile

In research and teaching, the chair links political science attitude and behavior research with questions and perspectives of political psychology. There are also close links with the major field of study Comparative Political Science, which deals, among other things, with the topics of political parties and political representation of citizens with migration and minority biographies.

Work on substantive issues in political sociology is combined with research on the empirical methods of political science. The main focus is on various advanced quantitative methods. A special focus is placed on survey, laboratory, and field experiments. However, qualitative methods and theoretical work are also covered in the substantive courses.

Classes are closely related to current research in international political sociology, as well as to the chair's national and international research projects. Students are encouraged to use accessible data sets for their seminar papers and theses.

Relevant publications

Mayer, Sabrina J., Christoph G. Nguyen, Jörg Dollmann & Susanne Veit (forthcoming): The hidden majority/minority consensus: Minorities show similar preference patterns of immigrant support as the majority population. The British Journal of Sociology.

Spies, Dennis, Sabrina J Mayer, Jonas Elis & Achim Goerres (2023): Why do Immigrants Support an Anti-immigrant Party? Russian-Germans and the Alternative for Germany. West European Politics.  46(2), 275-299, DOI: 10.1080/01402382.2022.2047544 (Open Access)

Goerres, Achim, Sabrina J Mayer & Dennis C Spies (2022): A New Electorate? Explaining the Party Preferences of Immigrant-Origin Voters at the 2017 Bundestag Election. British Journal of Political Science. 52(3), 1032-1054. DOI10.1017/S0007123421000302 (Open Access)

Hamidou-Schmidt, Hayfat & Sabrina J Mayer (2021): The Relation Between Social Identities and Outgroup Hostility Among German Immigrant-origin Citizens. Political Psychology. Vol 42(2): 311-331. DOI: 10.1111/pops.12700 (Open Access)

Mayer, Sabrina J, Carl C Berning & David Johann (2020): The Two Dimensions of Narcissistic Personality and Support for the Radical Right: The Role of Right-wing Authoritarianism, Social Dominance Orientation and Anti-immigrant Sentiment. European Journal of Personality. Vol 34(1): 60-76. DOI: 10.1002/per.2228 (Open Access)

Policy Analysis

Policy analysis is the theory-based empirical analysis of policies. How can policy content be described and how can its emergence be explained? In the Bamberg program, the international comparative analysis of economic and social policies of developed democracies as well as countries of the Global South are considered. On the one hand, these policy fields are examined in a national comparative way, but on the other hand, the international expansion of governance is also taken into account. Thus, the focus of this course is on comparative policy analysis and political economy, with particular emphasis on explaining policies in the age of diverse interstate linkages such as global trade and production chains and migration flows.


Our goal is to teach students the central theories, concepts, and methods of policy analysis and political economy, to motivate them to engage in critical debate, and to support them in applying what they have learned independently. In recent semesters, courses have included the following topics:

  • Seminars on policy diffusion and the influence of intergovernmental linkages on politics
  • Research Seminars on International Comparative Social Policy Research in the Global North and Global South
  • Seminars on political mobilization and policy making

The research profile of international policy analysis in Bamberg is mainly focused on the theory-based and methodologically reflected analysis of current economic and social policies in developed democracies as well as countries of the Global South.

Relevant literature

  • Becker, Bastian, Schmitt, Carina. 2023. License to Educate: The Role of National Networks in Colonial Empires, World Development, i.E.
  • Petersen; Klaus; Schmitt; Carina; Obinger, Herbert (2023). World War and the Establishment of Welfare Ministries, Social Science History, i.E.
  • Schmitt, Carina, Shriwise, Amanda (2023). The Great War and the Warfare-Welfare Nexus in British and French West African Colonies, Social Science History, i.E.
  • Obinger, Herbert, Carina Schmitt (2022). Unemployment insurance in the Global South since 1950: Drivers of policy adoption, Global Social Policy 23(1), 67-83
  • Schmitt, Carina (2020) (Ed.). From Colonialism to International Aid: Understanding the Role of External Actors in Social Protection in the Global South. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Obinger, Herbert, Schmitt, Carina and Traub, Stefan (2016). The Political Economy of Privatization in Rich Democracies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Computational Social Science

The Computational Social Science major fills a gap in the German university landscape. For some years now, computer-based methods have been increasingly used in social science research for the analysis of social science processes: On the one hand, new data sources have been opened up through the use of computers (Big Data, Web Scraping, Data Mining) and made systematically accessible. On the other hand, computers, with their ability to process complex social systems, make it possible to look at phenomena in a new way that can only be analyzed inadequately using classical methods. The focus is thus shifting to dynamic social processes (such as the emergence of social movements), developments in large social networks (for example, through information cascades), or the impact assessment of interventions in ecosystems or habitats (construction of power lines, urban development plans, port expansions).

The major is intended to convey the breadth of possible areas of application of computer-based methods in social science research and to enable students to use these methods independently and in a research-oriented manner. Overall, it is characterized by a strong methodological orientation and is interdisciplinary: To this end, subject representatives from Political Science (Prof. Dr. Andreas Jungherr, Prof. Dr. Johannes Marx) and Business Informatics/Informatics (Prof. Dr. Oliver Posegga) work together intensively and optimally coordinate the modules of the individual departments.

The research profile

This program presents a cross-section of selected content areas and methods of Computational Social Science. It is interdisciplinary in its structure, which is also reflected in the composition of the teaching staff. The research profile of the program covers a wide range of different application areas.

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