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Degree Bachelor of Arts
Application 100%: mandatory
  25%: not required
Course commences winter semesters only
Standard course duration 6 semesters
Focus options 100%; 25%
Language requirements none
Language of instruction German and English


Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences

Course outline

Max Weber defined sociology as a science that attempts interpretive understanding of social action with a view to providing an explanation of its causes and effects. Another founding father of the subject, Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), contended that individuals are confronted by social entities that they regard to a certain extent as external and coercive. In the course of time, they can however internalise them and find them desirable. One of the prime tasks of sociology is to cast light on the impact of these social entities and the inequality deriving from the position of the individual in relation to them, investigating the social formations (classes, estates, etc.) that evolve from that situation and the changes they undergo. Here sociology pursues a line of thought first advanced by Karl Marx (1818-1883), who regard social entities largely in terms of class. Although all highly prominent sociologists, Marx, Durkheim and Weber stand not so much for mutually complementary points of view as for rival research programmes. Their responses to the fundamental issues posed by method (understanding or recognition) and theory (action versus structure) differ widely. These research programmes were outlined some time ago and various schools of thought materialised as a result. In the meantime, new approaches have been advanced. Accordingly, sociology is a subject notable above all for its methodological and theoretical pluralism.

Sociology, then, can be defined as a theoretical, empirical and application-oriented social science investigating social structures and processes and their impact on action. With the natural sciences it shares the claim and ambition to provide explanations, with cultural studies the assumption that such explanations will invariably involve the interpretation of intended meaning, as all action stems from intention and is thus a product not only of nature but also of culture. Accordingly, the methods employed by sociology are both quantitative and qualitative.

In thematic terms, sociology can be divided into various sectors. The systematic-empirical sector focuses on the structure and change of social systems, notably societies (macrosociology) and the relation between the individual person and the social system (microsociology). The historical sector investigates important theoretical approaches that have emerged in the history of the subject. The social inquiry sector examines the social conditions obtaining in selected societies (including the Federal Republic of Germany) from a comparative perspective. Finally, the research-practical sector is concerned mainly with knowledge of the research techniques used in sociology, their theoretical preconditions and their application potential. 

For more information on Sociology in Heidelberg, go to the website of the Max Weber Institute of Sociology.

B.A. Sociology programmes in Heidelberg

At Heidelberg University, Sociology can be studied in a variety of B.A. programmes all taking six semesters.

  • In Sociology as a one-subject course (100%) students must achieve a total of 180 credit points (CP), 36 of them in the Interdisciplinary Elective Module (see below); an orientation examination has to be taken after the second semester (latest).
  • The subsidiary course (25%) enables students with other main subjects to select Sociology as a minor subject. Successful completion of the subsidiary programme involves amassing a total of 35 credit points.

At Heidelberg University, Sociology at Bachelor level cannot be taken as a main subject (75%) or a joint-main subject (50%), nor can it be studied in connection with a Teaching Degree.

Click here for information on the M.A. course in Sociology.

The B.A. programme in Sociology is designed to provide students with a sound theoretical and empirical grounding in the subject. It will impart to them the theoretical and methodological foundations of the subject with due reference to the requirements of the professional sector and the changes taking place within it. Students will learn to gear their work to academic standards and adopt a critical analytic stance vis-à-vis existing social conditions and the measures undertaken to improve them, either by governments or by other bodies. The programme centres around the investigation of the structural conditions of institutional configurations and their impact on individual action.

The B.A. programme is designed to equip students with an initial degree qualifying them for professional activity and enabling them to engage successfully and independently with problems encountered in the line of work they have opted for.

Prerequisites: A good knowledge of English is necessary for students of Sociology. Students whose proficiency in English is not sufficient to enable them to read academic literature on the subject are strongly recommended to attend language classes from the beginning of their studies.

Also desirable for the Sociology course is a sound knowledge of mathematics.

Course structure

The B.A. course in Sociology comprises the following compulsory and compulsory-elective modules. Students receive a confirmation of participation and a grade for each module:

Compulsory modules

  • Fundamentals of sociology
  • Comparative social structure analysis
  • Sociology theory
  • Economic and social statistics
  • Empirical social research methods and statistics
  • Fundamentals of sociological institution analysis
  • Key qualifications, information skills
  • Professional orientation qualifications
  • B.A. thesis (12 CP)

Compulsory-elective modules

  • Elective Sociology Module: freely selected classes accounting for 18 CP from the Sociology curriculum
  • Elective Interdisciplinary Module: freely selected classes accounting for 36 CP

Recommendations on when to do what can be found in the Course Time-Plan (Studienverlaufsplan).

For more information, go to the Institute website, where you will find a Study Guide, a module handbook for the B.A. course and much more.

Main research interests

I. Research on Max Weber – Sociology Theory – Theory of Institutions

Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Thomas Schwinn                                                                                           

Focal topics: The Weber paradigm, diversity of modernity, Max Weber’s sociology of religion, theory of institutions, theory of differentiation, social inequality, social integration, edition of Max Weber’s writings

II. Organisational Sociology, Research on International Management and Careers

Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Markus Pohlmann                                                                             

Focal topics: the dynamics of change in capitalism: an international comparison, organisation and management, industrial relations, organisational research and human resource management, practicalities of organisational and personnel development

III. Third Sector, Internationalisation of Civil Society

Coordinators: Prof. Dr. Helmut Anheier, Dr. Steffen Sigmund                                                           

Focal topics: international civil society: publication series and journal editorships, non-profit institutions in national accounting systems, impact and impact measurement of foundations and non-profit organisations

IV. Political Sociology, Institutions Theory and Sociology of Education

Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Kathia Serrano-Velarde                                                           

Focal topics: discursive forms of political and organisational action, participatory involvement in politics and citizens’ commitment, education and science policy: an international comparison

V. Sociological Studies on Family, Population and Ageing

Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Thomas Klein                                                                                           

Focal topics: studies on partner selection and relationship stability, studies on fertility and childhood, studies on mortality and morbidity and on living conditions in old age

VI. Studies on the Sociology of Crime

Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Dieter Hermann                                                                                         

Focal topics: studies on the explanation of crime, studies on crime prevention, methodological studies, studies on lifestyle research


Special Features

Institute colloquium

Weekly doctoral colloquium

Formal requirements


B.A. 100%: The course is admission-restricted (limited intake). The current Selection Regulations are available here. Online application.

B.A. 25%: Click here for information on how to enrol.

International applicants

There are special regulations for international applicants. For more information, apply to the International Relations Office of Heidelberg University (Seminarstraße 2).

Here you will be given all the information you need on admission criteria, deadlines and procedures.

International applicants can participate in a preparatory course lasting one semester and taking place in the summer term prior to the start of the course proper.

Please address questions on the content of the B.A. course on Sociology to the Academic Advisor for international students (see below).

Subject combinations

Possible subject combinations are listed in the Catalogue of Subjects.

Study and examination regulations

You will find the latest version of the Examination Regulations on the website of the Max Weber Institute of Sociology, together with other useful information for the B.A. course, etc.

Module Handbook

Please click here to find the latest Module Handbook.

Examinations board

Issues arising in connection with examinations, credit transfer and academic credential recognition are dealt with by the relevant examinations board/office. For more information, consult the academic advisor(s) indicated below.

M.A. course

Heidelberg University offers a consecutive M.A. course in Sociology.


Tuition fees at Heidelberg University are payable at the beginning of each semester.


Max Weber Institute of Sociology
Bergheimer Str. 58
D-69115 Heidelberg

Academic advisor

Dr. Stefan Bär
office hours: Tuesdays 10 am – 12 noon; office hours may vary, see,604,0,0,1.html
Bergheimer Straße 58, Office 02.003
phone: +49 (0)6221 543613
Internet: Homepage Stefan Bär

Academic Advisor for (prospective) international students

Lotta Mayer, M.A.
Bergheimer Straße 58, Office 02.001
69115 Heidelberg
phone: +49 6221 543260
Internet: Homepage Lotta Mayer

If you have questions pertaining to admission prerequisites and deadlines, please contact the Heidelberg University International Relations Office (Dezernat Internationale Beziehungen).


Lydia Ponier-Kröhl
examination administration
Max-Weber-Institut für Soziologie | Forschungsstelle CSI
Bergheimer Straße 58, Raum 02.020
69115 Heidelberg
office hours: Mitarbeiterseite im LSF
phone: 06221/54-3614
Internet: Homepage des Instituts


Student representation

Bergheimer Straße 58
3rd floor
69115 Heidelberg
Internet: Homepage Fachschaft


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Latest Revision: 2018-07-10
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