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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 Lüneburg), BA (Hons) Teacher Training Social Pedagogy and Political Science (Leuphana University Lüneburg)

PhD student 


Thesis supervisor

Dr Kevin Caraher

Thesis topic

A comparative perspective on the evolution of skill formation systems in Germany and England within their social and cultural context.

Thesis summary

Countries’ youth labour market policies and their different reactions to the recent recession has shifted researchers’ focus towards countries’ vocational education, training, and skill formation systems. To gain insight into the varying roads to recovery and reducing youth unemployment, historical institutionalists have highlighted the role of history and path-dependence. They want to understand why different countries developed different skill formation systems, and have inspected the institutions' origins, their structural changes, as well as their path dependent nature. This led to a viable discussion of the evolution of skill formation systems, studies focusing on the interplay between various stakeholders, however, mainly focused on economic and political constellations. The establishment of youth institutions was historically confounded by a dynamic discussion of ideas which have to be understood in their context. The understanding of the context is a rich, and yet understudied, field of research. I explore the long-run development of countries’ frameworks to institutionalise skill formation systems. I analyse the role of social and cultural influences, and how these shaped (vocational) education policy. The aim is to better understand the embedment of skills and skill formation within societies. 


General research interests

  • Skill formation
  • Institutional change
  • Historic institutionalism
  • Path dependency
  • Political economy
  • Education policy
  • Vocation Education and Training (VET)


GTA - Introducing Social Policy module


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.

Isabelle Huning

Contact details

Isabelle Huning
PhD student
School for Business and Society