Welcome to eduLIFE

eduLIFE is the short form for the international comparative research project ‘Education as a Lifelong Process – Comparing Educational Trajectories in Modern Societies’.

The project is supported by an Advanced Grant of the European Research Council (ERC) and started at Bamberg University in Germany. In September 2012, the project moved to the European University Institute in Fiesole (Florence), Italy.

Principal investigator of the eduLIFE project is Professor Hans-Peter Blossfeld.

About eduLIFE

Scientific background

Studying educational opportunities has a long tradition in sociological inequality research and many sociologists have argued that education is the key variable when researching stratification in society. Over the last decades, modern societies have evolved into knowledge-based economies in which the role of education and the organization of educational institutions have become important in all phases of the life course. More than in the past, today, education is a lifelong process where the individual acquires skills and competences in formal and non-formal learning settings throughout the entire life-span. Most empirical research on education is still based on cross-sectional studies and does not analyse education as a highly time-dependent, stepwise, and cumulative process.

Aims of the project

The aim of this project is therefore to study how individuals’ educational careers and competence trajectories unfold over the life course in relation to family background, educational institutions, workplaces, and private life events. The project takes an explicit life course perspective and utilises innovative data from the new National Educational Panel Study (NEPS) in Germany. The German results will then be compared with longitudinal data from various other  countries (conservative, liberal, social-democratic, southern european and post-communist countries). Based on these cross-national comparisons of educational processes the project will do both, (a) establish the generality of findings and (b) study the specific impact of variations in educational institutional settings across countries.


In substantive terms the project focuses on four distinct phases of the educational career: (1) the quality of pre-school education and its short- and longer-term effects on individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds; (2) consequences of different models of differentiation in secondary school and their consequences on competence development and educational opportunities; (3) different vocational training trajectories and their impact on entry into the labour market; and (4) the interaction of adult learning and job careers.

Research agenda

Concretely, the eduLIFE research agenda will be as follows:

  • 2012:
    Various models of adult learning and their consequences on the educational trajectories of adults and labor market returns
  • 2013:
    Different vocational training trajectories and their consequences for entry into the labour market
  • 2014:
    Different models of school differentiation in secondary school and their short- and longer-term consequences on competence development, highest educational attainment level, participation in vocational and academic tracks, and access to higher education
  • 2015:
    Quality of pre-school education and its short- and longer-term effects on individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds


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