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Project - German Research Foundation (DFG)

Academics 'in motion'

A mixed-methods study on the link between social and spatial mobility of researchers.

The project explores the link between social and spatial mobility of researchers in Germany over the course of time, especially in the biographical retrospective. Against the background of diagnoses of contemporary advanced modern societies assuming an increasing spatial mobility in recent years, we ask whether these growing mobility requirements are likewise virulent in academics – or whether spatial flexibility is rather a congenial feature of academic work.

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Beyond the current state of research, we take a systematic look at various academic career stages (PhD candidates, post-doctoral fellows and senior scientists) and analyze the dynamics of the interplay between social and spatial mobility in the form of different process types and trajectories. Taking into account subjective interpretations of different forms of mobility contributes to a profound understanding of cause-and-effect relationships, e.g. by distinguishing between ‘opportunity-’ and ‘survival-driven’-mobility, and transcends the analysis of superficial correlations.

Moreover, the question arises as to which extent and in which ways explanatory factors impact on the interaction of social and spatial mobility in different career stages. In order to tackle this question, we distinguish between three main dimensions: 1) individual characteristics and resources, e.g. in accordance with the concept of ‘motility’; 2) personal attitudes and preferences (which may well change in the course of academic careers); 3) structural conditions, e.g. density of higher education institutions or transport infrastructure.

On this basis, a sociological perspective on social inequality, which considers typical characteristics of academic careers as well as changing societal framework conditions, aims to analyze the importance of spatial mobility for upward social mobility in the academic field.

Our empirical approach involves three forms of research methods: a quantitative secondary analysis of data from various surveys and two additional studies: a quantitative online survey with researchers in selected disciplines and qualitative in-depth interviews with researchers with different mobility experiences. By drawing on existing data sets from the DZHW and the DIW/GSOEP, the target of the secondary analysis is to achieve a high range of the findings, whereas some of our research questions demand a deeper and more differentiated view. Therefore, own quantitative and qualitative complementary data collections are required particularly with regard to subjective attitudes in different career phases. We thus combine approved research methods in a productive way: 1) for our quantitative research agenda: sequence pattern analysis, causal analysis and network analysis; 2) for our qualitative research agenda: analytical strategies following the grounded theory approach.

Project management

Prof. Dr. Nicole Burzan, TU Dort­mund University

Prof. Dr. Nadine Schöneck-Voss, HS Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences/ click here for: further information


Benjamin Neumann PhD, TU Dort­mund University

Silke Kohrs PhD, TU Dort­mund University

Sören Nonnengart, M.A., HS Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences (Contact)


Adina Korte, B.A., TU Dort­mund University (Student Assistant)

Paulus Alexandros, Gkegkas, TU Dort­mund University (Student Assistant)

Johanna Marx, B.A., HS Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences (Student Assistant) (Contact)




Kohrs, Silke; Schöneck, Nadine M. (2019): Akademische Karrierewege, in: Burzan, N. (ed.): Komplexe Dynamiken globaler und lokaler Entwicklungen, Verhandlungsband des 39. Kongresses der Deutschen Gesellschaft für So­zio­lo­gie in Göttingen 2018   Volltext

Kohrs, Silke (2018): Kategorienbildung in der Anfangsphase – Reflexionen zur quantitativen Erforschung des Zusammenhangs von sozialer und räumlicher Mobilität, in: Burzan, N./Hitzler, R. (eds.): Typologische Konstruktionen. Prinzipien und Forschungspraxis. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. S. 327-344  Volltext

Oral presentations

„Erforschung von sozialer und räumlicher Mobilität im Kontext akademischer Karrierewege: Konzeptionelle Ansätze und methodischer Zugriff“ (Silke Kohrs), Vortrag im Rahmen des Workshops Transnationales Sampling und die quantitative Forschung zu Mobilitätsprozessen, Hamburg, January 2020

„The link between spatial and social mobility of higher education staff: Approaches for identifying causal effects“ (Silke Kohrs), Oral presentation within „RS16 - Sociology of Spatial Mobilities“, at the 14th Conference of the European Sociological Association (ESA), Manchester, August 2019

Organization of the Ad Hoc Group „Akademische Wege auf dem Prüfstand. Zum Nexus von sozialer und räumlicher Mobilität in der Wissenschaft“ (Silke Kohrs und Nadine Schöneck-Voß) at the 39th Congress of the German Sociological Association (DGS), Göttingen, September 2018

„Karriere(wege) und Hochschulstandorte: Umzugs- und Pendelmobilität in der Wissenschaft“ (Silke Kohrs und Nadine Schöneck-Voß), Vortrag in der Ad Hoc Gruppe Akademische Wege auf dem Prüfstand. Zum Nexus von sozialer und räumlicher Mobilität in der Wissenschaft at the 39th Congress of the German Sociological Association (DGS), Göttingen, September 2018

„Karrieremobilität in der Wissenschaft: Ohne räumliche Flexibilität auch kein ‚Erfolg’?“ (Silke Kohrs), Vortrag in dem Panel der ÖGS Sektion ‚Soziale Un­gleich­heit‘ at the Congress of the Austrian Sociological Association (ÖGS),  „So­zio­lo­gie zwischen Theorie und Praxis“, Graz, December 2017

„Kategorienbildung in der Anfangsphase – Reflexionen zur quantitativen Erforschung des Zusammenhangs von sozialer und räumlicher Mobilität“ (Silke Kohrs), Vortrag im Rahmen des Workshops Typologische Konstruktionen und/oder kategoriale Klassifikationen, TU Dort­mund University, December 2016

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Location & approach

The campus of TU Dort­mund University is located close to interstate junction Dort­mund West, where the Sauerlandlinie A 45 (Frankfurt-Dort­mund) crosses the Ruhrschnellweg B 1 / A 40. The best interstate exit to take from A 45 is "Dort­mund-Eichlinghofen" (closer to Campus Süd), and from B 1 / A 40 "Dort­mund-Dorstfeld" (closer to Campus Nord). Signs for the uni­ver­si­ty are located at both exits. Also, there is a new exit before you pass over the B 1-bridge leading into Dort­mund.

To get from Campus Nord to Campus Süd by car, there is the connection via Vogelpothsweg/Baroper Straße. We recommend you leave your car on one of the parking lots at Campus Nord and use the H-Bahn (suspended monorail system), which conveniently connects the two campuses.

TU Dort­mund University has its own train station ("Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät"). From there, suburban trains (S-Bahn) leave for Dort­mund main station ("Dort­mund Hauptbahnhof") and Düsseldorf main station via the "Düsseldorf Airport Train Station" (take S-Bahn number 1, which leaves every 20 or 30 minutes). The uni­ver­si­ty is easily reached from Bochum, Essen, Mülheim an der Ruhr and Duisburg.

You can also take the bus or subway train from Dort­mund city to the uni­ver­si­ty: From Dort­mund main station, you can take any train bound for the Station "Stadtgarten", usually lines U41, U45, U 47 and U49. At "Stadtgarten" you switch trains and get on line U42 towards "Hombruch". Look out for the Station "An der Palmweide". From the bus stop just across the road, busses bound for TU Dort­mund University leave every ten minutes (445, 447 and 462). Another option is to take the subway routes U41, U45, U47 and U49 from Dort­mund main station to the stop "Dort­mund Kampstraße". From there, take U43 or U44 to the stop "Dort­mund Wittener Straße". Switch to bus line 447 and get off at "Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S".

The AirportExpress is a fast and convenient means of transport from Dort­mund Airport (DTM) to Dort­mund Central Station, taking you there in little more than 20 minutes. From Dort­mund Central Station, you can continue to the university campus by interurban railway (S-Bahn). A larger range of international flight connections is offered at Düsseldorf Airport (DUS), which is about 60 kilometres away and can be directly reached by S-Bahn from the university station.

The H-Bahn is one of the hallmarks of TU Dort­mund University. There are two stations on Campus Nord. One ("Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S") is directly located at the suburban train stop, which connects the uni­ver­si­ty directly with the city of Dort­mund and the rest of the Ruhr Area. Also from this station, there are connections to the "Technologiepark" and (via Campus Süd) Eichlinghofen. The other station is located at the dining hall at Campus Nord and offers a direct connection to Campus Süd every five minutes.

The facilities of TU Dort­mund University are spread over two campuses, the larger Campus North and the smaller Campus South. Additionally, some areas of the university are located in the adjacent "Technologiepark".

Site Map of TU Dort­mund University (Second Page in English).