The Institute of Political Science

Fassade des Instituts für Politische Wissenschaft der Universität Heidelberg

The Institute of Political Science (IPW) at Heidelberg University is among the oldest political science departments in Germany. Beginning with the first seminar taught on the “Science of Politics” by Dolf Sternberger in 1947 and followed by the founding of the institute in 1958, the Institute of Political Science has consistently been held in high regard. The same can be said of the sub-fields comparative analysis of political systems, German politics, and comparative public policy.

More recently, the institute has been supported by the German Excellence Initiative as well as various programs funded by the state of Baden Württemberg, which has greatly contributed to the expansion of the sub-fields comparative foreign policy and conflict research, modern political theory as well as international political economy and policy analysis.


National and international research in Heidelberg

The institute’s strong research profile is not only reflected by the German Association for Political Science (DVPW) rankings, but also by its members’ involvement in numerous national and international research projects (funded, for example, by the German Science Foundation, Thyssen Foundation, VW Foundation, Bertelsmann Foundation, and EU research programs). The researchers at the department have contributed to a wide array of diverse and internationally recognized publications. Currently, 5 full professors and around 40 faculty members cover the core political science topics in their teaching and research:

  • Empirical comparative democracy and autocracy research
  • International comparative public policy and policy analysis (in particular labor market, energy, climate, sustainability, welfare state, and environmental policy)
  • Analysis of decision making processes and state activities in the Federal Republic of Germany
  • International and comparative political economy
  • International security structures; security policy; and weapons of mass destruction
  • History of political ideas and theories
  • Institutional theory and urban studies
  • Communal politics
  • Justice theories and discourse
  • Comparative analysis of political systems in the Global South, in particular Asia-Pacific, and in Western Europe
  • Empirical analysis of intrastate conflicts and disputes in international relations
  • Theories and empirical approaches to the study of political behaviors and attitudes


Integrated into one of 11 national Excellence Universities, the IPW has been able to successfully combine outstanding research with excellent study conditions and a multitude of international contacts. The institute is part of the Faculty for Economic and Social Sciences at Heidelberg University. Moreover, the institute’s second and third-party funded research is embedded within the university’s research environment, for example, the interdisciplinary group Field of Focus 4: Self-Regulation and Regulation: Individuals and Organizations and the Research Center for Distributional Conflict and Globalization at the Faculty for Economic and Social Sciences.

The IPW is a member of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR). Its individual researchers are members of various national and international professional associations such as the German Association for Political Science (DVPW), the American Political Science Association (APSA), the International Studies Association (ISA), the European Political Science Association (EPSA), the International Political Science Association (IPSA), the Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA), etc. These associations offer students, doctoral candidates, and young academics numerous opportunities to expand their qualifications (e.g., at summer or winter schools) as well as to present their research at workshops and conferences.


Excellent combination of research, study and teaching

The study of political science in Heidelberg covers all the core areas of the field: international relations, German and EU politics, political theory, comparative politics, policy analysis, and empirical research methods. Students get to know the full spectrum of topics and approaches to political science and are introduced to theoretical, empirical, and normative perspectives. Drawing on political science’s theoretical claims, empirical foundations, and methodological instruments, the teaching at the institute aims to equip students with the tools necessary to identify political patterns with the goal of generalization. Such an approach not only fosters factual knowledge, but also requires a solid understanding of theory and methodological approaches. Students are moreover encouraged to address the normative foundations of politics as well. This demanding approach is what sets apart the study of political science from “politics” in general.

Each winter semester we accept around 140 new Bachelor’s students majoring in political science. In addition, around 30 students start a minor in political science. We are able to accept 62 Master’s students per year – two-thirds of which begin in the winter and one-third in the summer semester. A Master’s of Education program is currently under development that will replace the former teacher-training program at the department. There are currently around 1050 enrolled students studying political science. In addition to the Bachelor’s and Master’s programs, the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences also offers a PhD program in political science. Around 10 to 15 new doctoral candidates join the program each year.

Apart from the large introductory lectures in the Bachelor’s program, most of the courses taught at the institute have small class sizes. Undergraduates and graduate students benefit from the close proximity to current research at the department. The overarching goal of the degree programs is to foster the theoretically grounded and methodologically sound analysis of complex issues and political ideas.

Diverse opportunities for student engagement

There are numerous working groups and student initiatives at the IPW, such as the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK), the Forum for International Security (FIS) and the Internet Governance Group as well as its student organization. The institute maintains a good relationship with the “Fachschaft Politik”, a group representing the political science students in Heidelberg. 

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Latest Revision: 2018-12-12
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