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About usFaculty of Behavioural and Social SciencesSociologyEducation

About Sociology

Economic prosperity has increased substantially in recent decades. We are richer than ever. Nevertheless, we are confronted with all sorts of social problems, such as unequal educational opportunities, unemployment, poverty, environmental pollution, (cyber) crime, segregation, loneliness, and extremism.

Social problems rarely have one cause and there is rarely a simple solution. Social phenomena are complex. Often all kinds of stakeholders, interests, factors, and processes play a role at the same time. Sociologists try to unravel these complex social phenomena through scientific research. What are the causes and what are the consequences? How can we intervene?

The starting point of sociologists is that human behavior is brought about in a social environment. People are influenced by others, by norms, by organizations. At the same time, the behavior of individuals and how people respond to each other has consequences at the collective level. Sociologists try to build a theoretical framework to understand these processes and to test this empirically.

The societal issues that sociologists analyze relate to different areas, such as education, employment, healthcare, crime and sustainability. Sociologists also investigate whether government policy has the desired effect. In doing so, they pay special attention to unintended and undesirable consequences. Will the banning of coffee shops, for example, lead to problem relocation? Does the welfare state actually make room for a participation society?

Sociology in Groningen

Governments, organizations, markets, and communities shape society. In Groningen we are interested in the interplay between these domains. An example is the increase of so-called black schools. The presence of different schools, the composition of a neighborhood, the preferences and behavior of parents and government policy play a role in this. Moreover, there are tensions between the interests of individuals (the best school for my child) and socially desirable outcomes (no segregation in education).

The starting point is that social welfare is important in addition to economic prosperity. Social welfare is the form of prosperity that people derive from having social contacts and feeling part of a group. How social welfare can be increased in society is a central question to our education and research.

Doing good and thorough research is important in Groningen. Theories explaining social phenomena give direction to research. Students will learn how to create questionnaires, collect data and analyze it, for example with statistics, in order to form scientific statements.

The social significance of sociological research is highly valued. Research is often driven by current social issues, such as aging, bullying, or integration. In addition, research findings are regularly translated into policy advice or interventions.

Last modified:04 February 2019 11.42 a.m.
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