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Prowel: Social Problems and Welfare

Thematic Focus

The four year doctoral program PROWEL aims at furthering knowledge from an interdisciplinary view on key issues regarding the analysis of the production, re-production and change in individual, organizational and social welfare.

Social Problems are issues that (parts of) societies define as problematic or that evolve to be problematic when they are socially and explicitly perceived. The term Welfare is used in a broad understanding: it refers to both material and immaterial aspects of wellbeing, such as (availability and/or access to) economic resources or social services, but also feelings of belonging, happiness or satisfaction or trust, on various societal levels (the micro, meso and macro level). Sources of wellbeing and welfare are the state, markets, households/families, communities and non-profit organizations. Institutions and actors’ actions, omission or negligence of actions, (implicit or explicit) traditions or regulations within specific institutions, or their interplay produce or maintain wellbeing and welfare.

Social inequalities provide a theoretical and analytical framework for the analysis of social problems and welfare and build one common point of departure for the doctoral program. Areas of research broadly are the production, re-production, change and outcomes in individual, organizational and societal wellbeing and welfare and include (i) social problems: their identification, perception and handling by concerned or involved actors within institutions; (ii) actors and institutions as well as their interplay (such as states, markets, communities, organizations and households and families); (iii) social outcomes of dealing with social problems.

Target Group

The doctoral program targets students of various disciplines dealing with the issues of the umbrella theme in different ways: sociology, social policy, social work, political sciences, special education, educational sciences, criminology, economics, science of religions, social anthropology, or contemporary history.
Candidates must have a supervisor for their PhD project before applying to this doctoral program. The doctoral program offers no scholarships or jobs.


Prowel is not a Graduate School, but a doctoral program that offers workshops for participants. To promote the participation of international doctoral students and also bridge the French-German divide, a large part of the program will be offered in English. The dissertations can be written in any language agreed with the supervisor(s). The doctoral program is research-oriented, interdisciplinary and oriented towards learn-processes that qualify graduate researchers academically. Furthermore, the doctoral program aims at enhancing the doctoral students’ networks nationally and internationally by motivating and teaching them to organize and actively participate in scientific conferences.

The methodological and thematic needs of students are continuously evaluated. Students have the opportunity to participate in:

  • Thematic two-day workshops with external experts (Module 1)
  • Methodological one-day workshop with external experts (parallel sessions quantitative/qualitative, students choose one) (Module 2)
  • Two-day workshop with external experts (work methodology) (Module 3)

Workshops organized by PROWEL include:

  • Kick off workshop (Muntelier, 7-8 December 2012)
    Experts: Giuliano Bonoli and Marieke Voorpostel
    Please find the program here.
  • Workshop "Work Methodology" (Ipsach, 22-23 March 2013)
    Experts: Muriel Surdez, Pascale Gazareth, Iris Schaller-Schwaner, Andreas Hadjar
    Please find the program here.
  • Workshop "Methods and Methodology" (Fribourg, 14 June 2013)
    Experts: Elisabeth Bühler, Christoph Maeder
    Please find the program here.
  • Workshop "Integration of Theory and Empirical Data on different levels" (Muntelier, 11-12 October 2013)
    Experts: Sonja Drobnic, Andreas Hadjar
    Please find the program here.
  • Workshop "Institutions in Action" (Schloss Ueberstorf, 29-30 November 2013)
    Experts: Maria Caiata-Zufferey, Frank-Olaf Radtke
    Please find the program here.
  • Workshop "Work Methodology" (21-22 March 2014)
    Expert: Lea Sgier
    Please find the program here.
  • Workshop "Methods and Methodology" (Fribourg, 13 June 2014)
    Experts: Maria Caiata-Zufferey, Andreas Hadjar
    Please find the program here.
  • Workshop "Social Inequality" (Neuchâtel, 23-25 October 2014)
    Experts: Philippe von Kerm, Sylvia Walby; Jenny Chesters, Filomena Maggino, Bjorn Halleröd and Heinz-Herbert Noll
    Please find the program here.
  • Workshop "Producing differences, insecurities and strains" (Schloss Ueberstorf, 28-29 November 2014)
    Experts: Roland Pfefferkorn, Gabriel Nagy, Jerome Bickenbach
    Please find the program here.
  • Workshop "The rich, the poor and the precarious? International perspectives" (Twann, 6-7 March 2015)
    Please find the program here.
    Experts: Joakim Palme, Serge Paugam
  • Workshop "Methods and methodology" (University of Fribourg, 12 June 2015)
    Experts: Christophe Lejeune, Andreas Hadjar
    Please find the program here.
  • Workshop "How to conclude" (Chateau Ueberstorf, 30-31 October 2015)
    Experts: Justin Powell, Otto Kruse
    Please find the program here.
  • Workshop on vulnerability, deprivation, poverty and inequalities (Hotel Bad Muntelier, 4-5 December 2015)
    Experts: Laura Camfield, David Gordon
    Please find the program here.
  • Workshop "Linking theory and data" (Hotel Fontana, Twann, 29-30 April 2016)
    Experts: Nina Baur, Eva Barlösius
    Please find the program here.
  • Workshop "How to write grant proposals" (University of Fribourg, 11 June 2016)
    Experts: Susanne Matuschek



Scientific direction

Prof. Dr. Monica Budowski (Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work, University of Fribourg)
Prof. Dr. Winfried Kronig (Specialized Pedagogy, University of Fribourg)
Prof. Dr. Christian Suter (Sociology, University of Neuchâtel)

Participants and alumni

Tugce Beycan,
University of Neuchâtel, abstract
Cindy Diacquenod, University of Fribourg, Link,  abstract
Martin Gasser, University of Fribourg alumni, Link
Marilyn Grell-Brisk, University of Neuchâtel, abstract
Daniel Hofstetter, University of Fribourg/Goethe University Frankfurt alumni
Sonja Imoberdorf, University of Fribourg/Bern University of Applied Sciences, Link
Anna Isenhardt, University of Fribourg, Link
Cédric Jacot, University of Neuchâtel alumni
Jacqueline Kalbermatter, University of Fribourg, Link
Sarah Kersten, University of Fribourg alumni, Link
Florence Lebert, University of Fribourg, Link
Lena Liechti, University of Fribourg alumni, Link
Stefan Niedermann, University of Fribourg, abstract
Laura Ravazzini, University of Neuchâtel, abstract
Carla Ribeiro, University of Neuchâtel, Link, abstract
Stephan Rösselet, University of Fribourg, Link, abstract
Matthias Schulz, University of Fribourg, Link
Yvan Schulz, University of Neuchâtel, Link, abstract
Rebekka Sieber, University of Neuchâtel, University of Fribourg, Link
Jehane Simona
, University of Neuchâtel, Link, abstract
Tenzin Sherab, University of Fribourg, University of Neuchâtel, Abstract
Aurianne Stroude, University of Fribourg, Link
Raphael Zahnd, University of Zurich, Link, abstract
Carmen Zurbriggen, University of Fribourg alumni, Link, abstract

Information and application

Doctoral students can join the program any time and finish their thesis according to their individual progress. They are expected to present an input in one workshop every year and to comment on other inputs. Furthermore, every doctoral student has the possibility to present his/her work in progress once a year to a selective group of experts.

A flyer of the doctoral program including the dates of the next workshops is available here.

Candidates must have a supervisor for their PhD project BEFORE applying to this doctoral program. Prowel will not liaise to potential supervisors and offers no scholarships. To apply for the doctoral program PROWEL, please fill in this application form  and send it with the PhD project outline to prowel(at) or by postal mail to Dr. Daniel Künzler, c/o University of Fribourg, Department of Social Sciences, Route des Bonnesfontaines 11, 1700 Fribourg.

For further questions, please contact the study adviser Dr. Daniel Künzler by mail (prowel(at) or by phone +41 26 300 83 86.