Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences

Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences

BGSS serves as a PhD-platform for HU's Department of Social Sciences

A magnificent historic building stands in Berlin's Luisenstrasse no. 56. It was originally Prussia's first veterinary school and was built in 1840. It's now the address of the graduate schools of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and therefore home to the Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences (BGSS), part of the university's Institute of Social Sciences, one of the university's first structured postgraduate programs. It was formed even before funding from the Excellence Initiative started coming in.

Young scientists come to the BGSS to engage in research on such wide-ranging subjects as the trafficking of women in different European countries, the security discourse in Polish foreign policy, or income differences in Chile. One research area looks at the ability of modern societies to handle such problems as inclusion and exclusion, discrimination and diversity, heterogeneity and individualization. A second, closely related area of research focuses on democracy. Here, the PhD students take a comparative look at conditions that are important for the establishment, stability and development of democratic structures, and at problems currently faced by democracies.

Just as HU's Institute of Social Sciences has an unusual profile, combining sociology with political science, the BGSS's profile also differs from that of other graduate schools. The BGSS's spokesperson, Prof. Klaus Eder, highlights the school's theoretical component:

"The European social sciences have traditionally been strong on theory construction and empirical research. We want to flesh out this tradition, and this makes us different from non-European graduate schools in particular."

Another important aim is to form networks with non-university research institutions and international partner universities. The PhD students at the BGSS are given individual support in their work, with joint seminars, courses on methodology and lectures.

The BGSS takes on up to 15 candidates from all over the world, choosing from the approximately 300 students who apply every year. Since academic traditions and training standards differ in various countries, graduates have an opportunity to fill any gaps in their knowledge quickly by making use of the “Introductory Year“. Gifted students on the various master's degree programs at the Institute of Social Sciences also benefit from the one-plus-three model: in their second year of study they can simultaneously be accepted into the graduate school's Introductory Year – using what is known as the 'Research Track' – and write their master's dissertation as a pilot project for their doctoral thesis.

Alongside their PhD research, which is continuously supported by their main supervisor and a supervisory commission, the postgraduates attend seminars on theory and courses on methodology, submit conference papers and essays, and present interim results of their work during the three-year PhD program. The credit points they collect during the scientific training program are later shown on a supplementary certificate to the doctoral certificate. Women and men studying for a doctorate are prepared for a scientific or other career of their choice with an additional voluntary mentoring program. Graduating from the BGSS opens many doors to the freshly qualified doctors, ranging from scientific careers to jobs in political consulting, the media and political parties, associations, public administration or business.

One of the BGSS's advantages is its close cooperation with non-university research institutions. Joint workshops and lectures are organized with such renowned institutions as the Social Science Research Centre Berlin, the German Institute for Economic Research and the Centre Marc Bloch. The PhD students at BGSS can participate in extramural research projects and thus gain practical experience. Young scientists from the non-university partner institutions can attend the BGSS training courses and also take on university teaching duties.

Furthermore, the BGSS maintains networks with international partner universities. This enables the PhD students to go to these universities to engage in research. The network includes the European University Institute and the Istituto Italiano di Scienze Umane in Florence, the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and Kings College London.


  • Social Science Research Centre Berlin (WZB)
  • German Institute for Economic Research (DIW)
  • Centre Marc Bloch (CMB)
  • Hertie School of Governance (HSoG)
  • Institute for Educational Progress (IQB)

Additional Information


Prof. Dr. Silvia von Steinsdorff