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Lecturers of the University of Cologne, partner universities worldwide and external experts will contribute to the academic program.


The topics of our Online Cologne Summer School on Equality of Opportunity 2022 range from Psychology and Health, Economics and Politics, Philosophy, Social Sciences, Education, Arts and Culture.

Coherency and consistency are in the core of our interdisciplinary summer school project. Thus, the lecturers will address the following core questions in order to build bridges between the various disciplines:

How does your discipline define (in)equality?
Which are the methods used to identify and test (in)equality?
What concepts of (in)equality are dominant in your discipline?
What specific (in)equality challenges do researchers face? Here lecurers will adapt the question to their research expertise and report the results of their studies.
Based on your research, what actions do you identify as important to be taken (for example on a political level with social policy) in order to raise equality of opportunity?
And finally, what could be a discpline-specific definition of balance between (in)equality and fairness? How can we achieve equality without compromising fairness from your perspective?

The program is constantly evolving and being updated. Stay tuned!

Prof. Dr. Wilfried Hinsch

Keynote "Equality of What?"

Workshop "Equality of Opportunity"

University of Cologne, Chair for Practical Philosophy

The keynote and workshop address questions of economic inequality and social discrimination in Europe. We shall discuss contemporary philosophical accounts of social well-being and justice. Beyond philosophy, we will take a fresh look into the challenges of diversity and inequality also from the perspectives of economics and the social sciences. Concerning economic inequality, our discussion will focus on theories of distributive justice that put ‘basic needs’ (Frances Stewart), ‘basic capabilities’ (Amartya Sen & Martha Nussbaum, or ‘basic goods’ (John Rawls) center stage. Concerning discrimination, we shall examine familiar ideas of ‘unfair disadvantage.’ How well do received conceptions of discrimination in terms of ‘vulnerable groups’ and ‘disparate treatment’ cope with emerging phenomena of social ‘super-diversity’ and computerized data mining and statistical discrimination.

Students who want a head start may wish to take a closer look at the following books:

•    Amartya K. Sen, The Idea of Justice, Cambridge MA 2009.
•    François Bourguignon, The Globalization of Inequality, Princeton 2017.
•    Virginia Eubanks. Automated Inequality. How High-tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, New York NY 2018.
•    Stijn Oosterlynck, Divercities: Understanding Super-Diversity in Deprived and Mixed Neighborhoods, Bristol 2020.


Dr. Meghan Campbell

Joint Keynote "Is Equality Law Up to the Challenge?"

Birmingham Law School, Reader in International Human Rights Law

The current global political climate is revealing the fragility of equality. Achievements in especially for women, children, racial minorities, disabled persons and sexual and gender minority rights are being rolled back and hollowed out. The rise of conservative populism, the concentration of wealth, the impacts of the climate crisis and the continued repercussions of COVID-19 have perpetuated and cemented inequalities in the lives of so many people. The promise of the constitutional right to equality is tantalizing. But is equality law up to our contemporary challenges? Drawing on the jurisprudence from the US, Canada, South Africa, the UK, India, this presentation explores the potential within equality law. It traces the evolution of equality law from identical treatment to a more substantive conception and consider how this substantive conception can speak to current inequalities. The presentation also canvasses theoretical and doctrinal challenges equality law faces in responding to new crisis and emergencies. It concludes by reflecting on ways forward so that the right to equality remains a pillar of transformative social justice.

This will be a joint keynote between two summer school projects: Cologne Summer School on Equality of Opportunity and the KölnAlumni WELTWEIT (KAW) summer school on Human Rights and EUniWell consortium. The keynote will build a bridge between the topics of the summer schools in a typical multidisciplinary manner.

Prof. Dr. Michaela Pelican

University of Cologne, Department for Social and Cultural Anthropology

Production and Reproduction of Social Inequalities

In this class we will tackle the subject of (in)equality from an anthropological perspective and focus on social inequalities. We will ask how social inequalities are produced and reproduced, and how this relates to epistemic inequality. We will draw inspiration from the sociologist Göran Therborn and his distinction of different kinds and mechanisms of (in)equality. We will also engage with the call of the anthropologist Arjun Appadurai to recognize the role of cultural differences in how people around the world imagine a just society and in what they aspire. Finally, we will take serious the argument of the historian and decolonial theorist Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni who draws attention to the long history of epistemic inequalities and how it has impacted the production and practical implementation of knowledge in Africa. The class also draws on the work of the research unit “The Production and Reproduction of Social Inequalities: Global Contexts and Concepts of Labour Exploitation” (https://socialinequalities.uni-koeln.de)  

Recommended readings:

Therborn, Göran (2013). The Killing Fields of Inequality. Cambridge: Polity Press. Part II: Theory. p. 35-66.
Appadurai, Arjun (2004): The Capacity to Aspire: Culture and the Terms of Recognition. In: Rao, Vijayendra and Michael Walton (eds.): Culture and Public Action. Stanford: Stanford University Press. p. 59–84.
Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Sabelo (2018): Chapter 1: Rethinking Development in the Age of Global Coloniality. In: Mpofu, Busani and Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni (eds.). Rethinking and Unthinking Development: Perspectives on Inequality and Poverty in South Africa and Zimbabwe. New York: Berghahn Books. p. 27-49.


Prof. Michele Raitano

Sapienza University of Rome, Department of Economics and Law

Intergenerational inequality: concepts, mechanisms, measures and policies

The economic literature is increasingly interested in analysing intergenerational inequality, i.e. how much (and why) economic (dis)advantages persist between parents and their children. Taking account of the links with several disciplines (e.g. sociology, philosophy, political science), this lesson will focus on the issue of intergenerational mobility from various perspectives. First, it will clarify the meaning of the concepts and the link between intergenerational mobility and the most used concepts of equality of opportunity. Second, the possible theoretical mechanisms which may engender a link between parental background and children's economic perspectives will be depicted, also highlighting in what steps of the children's life course these mechanisms might play a role (e.g. in the early infancy, at school, at the labour market entry). Third, measurement issues of intergenerational inequality will be discussed and, then, cross country performances in intergenerational inequality indexes will be compared. Then, empirical and theoretical links between income inequality and intergenerational inequality will be inquired. Finally, possible policies to deal with intergenerational inequality will be discussed

Carlo Botrugno PhD

University of Florence, Department of Legal Sciences

The Equity Challenge in Digital Health(care)

During COVID-19 pandemic, the severe pressure faced by healthcare systems led to significant restrictions of hospital admissions to increase capacity to treat patients while also reducing physical contact between other patients and healthcare professionals in order to contain infection risk. As a consequence, many countries have implemented strategies aimed at digitalizing healthcare delivery. Those countries that promoted the use of digital healthcare services (DHSs) before the pandemic outbreak were significantly advantaged in channeling the benefits of remote healthcare, while others were forced to adopt emergency measures. Regardless of whether these attempts have been effective, it is undeniable that the pandemic accelerated this digital transition and contributed to the birth of new awareness about the benefits of DHSs. In the meantime, however, this transition made (digital) healthcare inequalities more apparent and widened the gap between those who are well acquainted with the functioning of the healthcare system and those who suffer from inequalities.
In all countries gravely affected by COVID-19, detainees, undocumented migrants, homeless people, people with disabilities, elderly people housed in residences, and other vulnerable groups were exposed to higher physical and psychological harm than any other populations.  This can be explained by significant, sometimes extreme, reduction of the autonomy experienced by most of these people, which often made it difficult, if not impossible, to take basic precautions against infection risk, such as maintaining social distancing, sanitizing hands frequently, and using personal protective equipment.
They, like people in remote areas, also often did not have ready access to telemedicine services and AI applications. Material access to the internet and related technologies (computer, tablet, smartphones, and other connected devices) still represents the primary digital divide. Disparities in the kinds of care available, together with differences in familiarity with and knowledge of both the healthcare system and digital technologies, affect deployment and use of telemedicine, further exacerbating digital divides.
In light of these considerations, digital exclusion must be analyzed as an emerging form of social exclusion, as it contributes to worsening individuals’ material and social deprivation in a “digital vicious cycle”. Policy promoting using telemedicine or smartphone applications clearly helped many people from the outset of the pandemic and will continue to do so. Still, the choice of deploying these technologies instead of increasing access and care in other ways or of improving conditions conducive to better health are policy choices with ethical and social implications. Combined with biases in AI, the current direction risks further disadvantaging those already disadvantaged.

Vasilena Stefanova PhD, Bethan Iley MSc, Teresa Gomes Arrulo PhD

Queens University Belfast, School of Psychology

Equality of Opportunity in Psychology: Research, Practice, and Importance within and Beyond Academia

This interactive workshop will define equality of opportunity from a psychology perspective and will introduce research methods within psychology that are used to study equality in career-related contexts. In particular, it will discuss research focusing on hiring decisions and equality of opportunity (e.g., gender, caregiver status). This workshop will also discuss initiatives aiming to support gender equality in STEM fields, and how to overcome backlash against them. Finally, this workshop will address the use of personality assessments in the hiring process, the importance of the wording used across the different stages of recruitment, and how effective equal opportunity practices may be fostered in academia through research and teaching.

Vasilena Stefanova is a social psychologist and postgraduate researcher at Queen’s University Belfast and a member of the Centre for Identity and Intergroup Relations. Her research investigates the motherhood penalty effect in occupational settings and the impact of gender and parent stereotypes on career progression.

Bethan Iley is a second-year PhD student in social psychology at Queen’s University Belfast and a member of the Centre for Identity and Intergroup Relations. She is interested in how intergroup dynamics and political beliefs shape attitudes towards progressive social change. Her research specifically investigates why men respond negatively to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion policies within male-dominated fields, and how to change negative attitudes towards EDI once they have developed.

Teresa Gomes Arrulo-Clarke is a postgraduate researcher and a current member of the InteRRaCt Lab and the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Group at Queen’s University Belfast (School of Psychology). As a music and personality psychologist, her research investigates the relationship(s) between stress, personality, and music in adults, with a particular focus on the contextual benefits of predominantly socially aversive personality traits (e.g., narcissism) and music genres (e.g., hip-hop/rap). Her most recent work addresses gender bias in the music industry (particularly hip-hop/rap music videos) and its implications for gendered self-perceptions and feelings of empowerment.

Dr. Nora Probst

University of Cologne, Institute for Media Culture and Theatre & Paderborn University, Department of Media Studies

(In)Equality in Data? Ongoing Debates in the Digital Humanities

Data is everywhere. We use and produce data every day. It shapes our lives, it shapes the way we see the world and the way we interact with our surroundings. In 2010, the amount of data created, consumed, and stored worldwide was about two zettabytes (that equals Bytes). Only one decade later, in 2020, the volume increased up to 64.2 zettabytes – and by 2025, it is projected to exceed 180 zettabytes.

Data is the new oil, was the title of an article in the Economist in 2017 – and even though this is a quite poor comparison for a variety of reasons, the article does point to the fact that data, power, and capitalist structures are interconnected on a global scale. There still is a prevalent notion of objectiveness ascribed to data and only in recent years, have we started to challenge the presumption that data or data technologies are in any way neutral. Who collects data about whom? Who profits? Who is visible in data – and who is not?

My presentation will elaborate on the question of how data can presuppose, reproduce, and amplify hegemonial norms of gender, race, class, nationality, sexual orientation, age etc. On the one hand, I will give examples of the ways in which data, archives and algorithms form structures feeding from and leading to systems of oppression. On the other hand, I will present possibilities to tackle those inequalities by developing a data literacy that enables us to challenge power structures connected to data models and information technology.

Franziska Iwan (Mediator) and Josephine Thiel (School Psychologist)

University of Cologne alumnae, M.Sc. Psychology

Inequality in Education. An educational psychology perspective.

Fostering education systems where all students can fulfill their potential regardless of their backgrounds is crucial for democracy, economy, and social justice. Yet, the reality in many countries looks different as educational opportunities highly depend on social background. This lecture examines equality and equity in education from an educational psychological perspective, drawing on international data from the PISA assessment. Furthermore, the lecture introduces the concept of a growth mindset, that is, the belief that personal attributes are malleable and can be developed. We will not only address how a growth mindset is associated with the way students face academic challenges but also how it is connected with mental health and well-being. Can fostering a growth mindset help overcoming inequality in education?

Dr. Ina-Maria Maahs

University of Cologne, Department of Education and Social Sciences

More equal opportunities through a linguistic empowerment?

Language is one, perhaps the central resource for mutual understanding between different people. It can explain thoughts, feelings as well as actions. It’s possible to build emotional and diplomatic bridges through language. But language can also be used as a marker of difference to support othering processes or to justify discrimination. We experience this socially, for example, when people with a certain accent experience poorer access to the housing or labour market. Another example would be the less representation of people with migration-related multilingualism in politics, so that they literally do not have a say.
Inadequate support for multilingual learners at school leads to poorer educational and professional opportunities. But also the dominance of a single "legitimate" language in educational institutions leads to devaluation of other languages and possibly a poorer self-concept of multilingual learners.
This workshop will advocate an approach that understands linguistic diversity as an enrichment in school and society. To this end, we will first become aware of our own overall linguistic repertoire and then critically discuss the effects of language prestige and language ideologies. Finally, the didactic approach of translanguaging will be presented, which should enable learners with a second language not only to be adequately supported in the surrounding language, but also to be linguistically empowered in order to support social structures of equal opportunities in the long term.

Kritica Economica, Students initiative

Giorgio Michalopoulos and colleagues

Introduction into the academic debate over the issue of equality of opportunity and inequality

It was April 2021 when Joe Biden spoke in Congress against the so-called “trickle-down economics”, an approach to economic policy according to which cutting taxes on the rich is needed to unleash productive forces and increase the welfare of overall society. This approach had had a great influence over American economic policy since the ‘80s, when the neoliberal wave started gaining momentum thanks to the Reagan administration. However, times have changed. More and more economists, politicians and activists are calling for an increase of government’s social investment against inequalities and poverty. This new approach which is taking shape is of course incompatible with a structural continuation of fiscal and economic favors to the wealthiest.
But what are the intellectual roots of these competing approaches?
In the history of economic thought, a long and rich debate has been held on this issue. The first breaking point is the division between the problem of production and the problem of distribution, originated from the split between the Classical Economists and the Marginal Revolution by the end of the 19th century. Embedded in the notion of Pareto efficiency, obtained by efficient markets, equity of distribution was not the main focus of economists anymore. In this interactive introduction to inequality in the history of economic thought, we show how the link between the neoclassical paradigm and neoliberal policies downplayed economic inequality to a secondary problem. Other influential economists however, notably Karl Marx, put inequality at the center of their discourse. We will present this context so that participants will be able to contextualize the current debate. We will conclude with a large “philosophical” discussion on equality of opportunity asking some questions that will trigger the debate: is perfect equality a desirable outcome? Meritocracy and equality: where should we go? Is inequality good for development?

Kritica Economica is an independent magazine involved in the critical economic debate. The editorial staff, composed of young students and researchers, is moved by passion for a pluralist and multidisciplinary approach. This approach is supported by the neglection of simplistic assumptions and an integration of complexity from the very first stages of the writing. If the end is a transparent analysis, the means is scientific journalism. Every source in the articles is verifiable and data are carefully studied before every publication. Apart from the website, Kritica Economica publishes articles with “Il Sole 24 Ore” (Econopoly) and Huffington Post.it. A prestigious  collaboration with the historic foundation Fondazione Feltrinelli shall be mentioned. These publications contribute to consolidating the name and the approach of this magazine. The magazine also organized online and live events with top guests from the European economic debate. The main target are university students and young people, coherently with the composition of the editorial staff: 45 members (students and researchers) from all over Italy. At an international level, Kritica Economica collaborates with the Young Scholars Initiative, which funded the project “Economic of Complexity”, a series of seminars around Italy with discussions about inflation, money and inequality with top economists from European universities and organizations.

Association "First Generation PhD"

(In)Equality of Opportunity in Higher Education. Insights from a Practical Perspective

"First Generation PhD" is a non-profit organization which was founded by PhD students of the University of Cologne. The purpose of the initiative is to provide peer coaching and networking services that are open to first-generation master's students and doctoral candidates from all over Germany and abroad.

The Workshop with the non-profit organization “First Generation PhD”, founded in Cologne in 2014, will inform about structural and individual challenges that students and PhD candidates face in Germany, who are the first in their families studying at a university. During the workshop we will do exercises on the one hand to reflect on a personal and individual level one’s situatedness in society and academia, on the other hand to analyze from an international point of view the socio-political context of and access to higher education. We will discuss the challenges that not only first-generation students face while studying and we will develop strategies for equal opportunities in higher education – the members of the association will share insights from their practical experiences of peer coaching, networking, and political engagement.

Ann-Kristin Kolwes PhD and Phuong Glaser PhD

University of Cologne, HR Development for Researchers

Measures against Inequality - Mentoring Programs in Higher Education

For more than twenty years, the University of Cologne has been supporting early career researchers in their career development by offering them mentoring programs. Through specific offers for different target groups, we support young academics in achieving their goals. The main focus is to address and reduce inequalities in the higher education system and to support those groups that have to overcome larger hurdles.

The mentoring program for international female scholars (IFS Mentoring) and the first generation doctoral mentoring (EGP+ Mentoring) are two examples of this work. Together with you, we will reflect on the challenges that international and first generation students face at university, on the one hand, and talk about how these target groups can be better supported and what possibilities as well as opportunities mentoring offers to deal with exactly these challenges, on the other.

Prof. Dr. Barbara Potthast

University of Cologne, Department of History

History and Gender in Latin America Education