About us

Bielefeld Center for Education and Capability Research

A network for interdisciplinary research

The Bielefeld Center for Education and Capability Research initiates interdisciplinary research projects that complement the perspective of educational research on children and youths by means of social analysis. For that purpose, the Center has established a broad network of international researchers in the fields of education science, social work, sociology, philosophy, psychology and theology.

The Capabilities Approach as conceptual frame for empirical research

The Center links research on opportunities for agency and participation of children and youths with the Capabilities Approach (CA), the justice-based approach that was developed by Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen.

This approach allows to conceptualize agency and social well-being of individuals as well as to evaluate the options provided by educational institutions, welfare and public services. Thus, the approach negotiates common frictions of research.

The CA goes beyond the question whether young persons receive good educational services or a sufficient amount of resources (in material, cognitive and personal terms). In addition, it accounts for inter-individual differences in people’s abilities to convert resources and services into states, actions and affiliations these people consider as valuable for their well-being. The notion of Capabilities points to the scale and scope of the real, actual possibilities and positive freedoms of young persons to choose and enjoy different worthwhile activities and to pursue different meaningful life paths he or she has reason to value. In using and developing the CA, the Center applies a new auspicious approach which is more inclusive and scientifically more appropriate and continuative than previous concepts and metrics of educational or social research. The Center, therefore, focuses on the question: What do young persons need to choose a life they have reason to value and what do they need to be capable to lead this life in terms of obligations, rights and entitlements?

A forum for international debates

Since its foundation in 2006, the Center holds annual international conferences with eminent researchers and professional experts from all over Europe and beyond. It provides opportunities for German and international members of the Center and the Virtual Faculty as well as for the PhD-students associated to the Center to take part in recent discussions on education and capabilities and, furthermore, to elaborate the concept of human development, one of the core research areas of Bielefeld University. The conference papers are published in renowned publishing companies.

An excellent place for international and interdisciplinary research and PhD-training projects

The Center promotes international scientific cooperation and the training of young international researchers through its Europeanwide research and training projects. The Center is home to the Collaborative Research Project “Workable – Making Capabilities Work” funded by the EU and the Marie Curie Initial Training Network “Education as Welfare. Enhancing Opportunities for Socially Vulnerable Youth in Europe”, an excellent PhD-programme also funded by the EU. Furthermore, it provides an outstanding PhD-program for 40 German and international PhD-students within the international Research School “Education and Capabilities” (together with Technische Universität Dortmund) funded by the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia.