Doctoral Research Group Social Pedagogy / Social Work

At first glance, "Social Work" seems to be a "practical" objective. However, the notion of Social Work is highly theory-driven. "Social Pedagogy", a term which is commonly used in the Scandinavian, Spanish, Portuguese and German context, offers a good example of this. “Social Pedagogy” took its historical starting point in a phase which today, looking back, is generally associated with the modern emergence of "industrial societies" framed by the concept of “nation states”. Alongside these developments, the "social" was variously addressed and hereby constituted as an idea.

The first appearance of the concepts and thoughts of social work and social pedagogy around the middle of the 19th century thus occurred at a time when modern “societies” developed a special awareness of the importance of their own social order. This process of awareness has connected (self-)observations in social work and social pedagogy closely with sociological and socio-political (self-)observations until today.

Especially perspectives in social work, social pedagogy and social policy do not only objectify "the social". They problematize it at the same time. These problematizations have several implications. First, "the social" is thus generally understood as a conflictual relationship between the individual and society. In this context, the formula of the "social question", which has been discussed far beyond this disciplinary circle to this day, also emerged. Secondly, perspectives in social work, social pedagogy and social policy regularly generate "the social" as an object that, beyond analytical description, stands for some sort of utopia of a "better society", from which the present in turn appears as something that needs to be changed. Thirdly, "the social" comes to the fore as something that has to be politically designed. This in turn includes the call to develop compensatory measures which respond to the living conditions of present and future generations that are usually considered as problematic.

Areas of Research

Research on social pedagogy and social work uses empirical, logical-systematic and historical perspectives from various reference disciplines to examine the practices, discourses, modes of subjectivation and artefacts that can be attributed to the developmental context outlined above.

The doctoral research group is dedicated to the following research fields. Basic and applied research perspectives are equally important:

- Research into age-, gender-, class- and culture-related adressings of social work/social pedagogy
- Evaluation research for various fields of action and intervention in social work/social pedagogy
- Research on human service organizations (diachronic and synchronous perspective)
- Research related to higher education and study programmes/vocational training course research
- Research on institutions and institutionalisation including welfare associations and welfare state research in regional, national and international comparative dimensions
- Child and youth welfare research in a regional, national and internationally comparative dimension
- Research on education, vocational training, qualifications, professionalisation and and careers in social pedagogy

In addition to the joint work in the doctoral research group, the doctoral students are encouraged to actively participate in events of the GERA division "Social Pedagogy and Early Childhood Education" and to attend other national and international events on the above-mentioned topics.

Doctoral Degree

The re­spec­tive fa­cul­ty con­fers the doc­to­ral de­gree Dr. phil.


  • Prof. Dr. Philipp Sandermann

Deputy Spokesperson

  • Prof. Dr. Anke Karber

Doctoral Supervisors

  • Prof. Dr. Lars Alberth
  • Prof. Dr. Claudia Equit
  • Prof. Dr. Angelika Henschel
  • Prof. Dr. Anke Karber
  • Prof. Dr. Philipp Sandermann
  • Prof. Dr. Birte Siem
  • Prof. Dr. Waldemar Stange

Doctoral Courses


If you wish to pursue your doctorate at Leuphana, you must be enrolled as doctoral student. Information about admission to the doctorate at Leuphana and the application procedure can be found here.

Leuphana Graduate School offers advice and coaching to academics in the qualification phase. The Graduate School's advisor will be happy to support you in questions of decision-making, challenges in the course of your doctorate, and career planning and development. You can find more information about the counselling and coaching services here.