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Isabelle Huning

MA Social Policy (University of York), BA (Hons) Social Work (University of Applied Sciences Hannover), MEd Teacher Training Social Pedagogy and Political Science (Leuphana University L√ľneburg), BA (Hons) Teacher Training Social Pedagogy and Political Science (Leuphana University L√ľneburg)

PhD student 


Thesis supervisor

Dr Kevin Caraher

Thesis topic

A Comparative Perspective on the Framing of Apprenticeships in Their Cultural and Historical Context.

Thesis summary

My thesis explores the narratives and political debates on apprenticeships in Germany and the UK. It takes a longitudinal approach and aims at understanding changes in the framing and content of political decision making over the last 70 years. Whilst apprenticeships share the same early modern origins across Europe, different countries took independent routes in recent centuries, which led to a surprising variety of skill formation systems today. This provoked a long standing academic debate on the evolution of skill formation systems, and inspired a branch of research that studies the institutionalisation of vocational education and training systems as part of country-specific contexts. As such, it remains a puzzle why apprenticeships in some countries thrive while they are marginalised or even abolished in others.

My research shifts the focus from formal institutions to the narratives surrounding apprenticeships, considered to have grown over decades and centuries. I use state of the art quantitative methods that rely on a large amount of text as data to understand how narratives shifted across different institutional and cultural settings, to finally understand their impact on the institutional paths towards or away from apprenticeships. 


General research interests

  • Political economy of skill formation
  • Institutions
  • Social justice
  • Comparative social and education policy
  • History of education policy


In 2012, I graduated from the Leuphana University Lüneburg with a BA (Hons), followed by a two-year MEd (Hons) in 2014, both in Teacher Training for Vocational Schools, Subject Area Social Pedagogy and Political Science. Alongside my University education I worked for several years as a certified workshop and seminar trainer, and provided experiential as well as vocational seminars, workshops and training for youths and young adults.

While the MEd prepared me to work in state-funded vocational colleges and schools to train young people in apprenticeship programs in Germany, I decided to support young people who remain excluded from traditional educational routes. After my studies in Lüneburg, I worked for a training provider as a Social Education Worker in Hannover, and provided social support for youth with multiple special education needs. This included skills training, extensive assistance in developing individual vocational chances and perspectives, and pastoral service. To extend my knowledge in social work practices I studied Social Work alongside my work, and graduated in 2017 with a BA (Hons).

In 2017, I became a concept and project designer for a vocational education and training provider in Berlin. I independently designed vocational and employability training, integration and social education courses for a diverse target group, including vocational and general education courses in prison, and integration and language courses for refugees.

Combining my studies in education, social work, and political science with my work experience I developed an interest in skill formation systems, and how they are integrated into society. This led me to complete the MA in Social Policy at York in 2019 and to pursue a PhD in Social Policy and Social Work.

I was awarded the Maria Bourboulis Scholarship to study Social Policy at York. During my PhD, I hold an ESRC +3 studentship by the White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership, within the Education, Childhood, and Youth Pathway (ECY), and a scholarship offered by the School for Business and Society.


  • VIII Stockholm International Conference & Research Workshop, Vocational Education & Training: Voices from research (2022). ‘Understanding the ‘Meaning’ of Apprenticeships in Their Cultural and Historical Context’. Oral Presentation, Stockholm University
  • Swiss Federal University for Vocational Education and Training (SFUVET) VET Congress (2022). ‘Can Narratives Explain Divergences in VET Policy? Evidence from Parliamentary Debates on Apprenticeships in Germany and England 1870-2019’. Oral Presentation (online)
  • Social Policy Association Annual Conference  "Global challenges – national social policy responses?" (2021). ‘Can Narratives Explain Divergences in Education Policy? Evidence From Parliamentary Debates on Apprenticeships in Germany and England 1870-2000’.  Oral Presentation (online)
  • Durham Castle Conference "Power, Privilege, and Possible Futures" (2021). ‘Still not Loving Apprenticeships? - How Narratives Shape Policies’. Poster Presentation (online)
  • White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership 9th Annual Conference "Well-being in Research" (2020). ‘A Comparative Perspective on the Evolution of Skill Formation Systems in Germany and England Within Their Social and Cultural Context’. Oral Presentation (online)


I am an Associate Fellow of Advance HE, the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA), and have experience as a GTA on the following modules:

  • Introducing Social Policy 
  • Introducing Sociology and Psychology
  • Understanding Childhood and Youth
  • The Policy Process
  • Exploring Social Policy and Social Justice
  • Research Design

Isabelle Huning

Contact details

Isabelle Huning
PhD student
School for Business and Society