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Prof. Dr. Justin J W Powell

Full professor

Academic Area(s) Sociology & social sciences
Faculty or Centre Faculty of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences
Department Department of Social Sciences
Postal Address Université du Luxembourg
Maison des Sciences Humaines
11, Porte des Sciences
L-4366 Esch-sur-Alzette
Campus Office MSH, E03 45-110
Telephone (+352) 46 66 44 9786
Speaks English, French, German
Research Stays in Germany, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, United States

Justin J.W. Powell has been Professor of Sociology of Education in the Institute of Education & Society at the University of Luxembourg since 2012. His comparative institutional analyses of educational systems chart persistence and change in special and inclusive education, in vocational training and higher education, and in science and research policy. His research—bridging sociology, political science, and education—has been widely published in English and German and received numerous international awards. Recent books include Barriers to Inclusion (Routledge, 2011/2016), Comparing Special Education: Origins to Contemporary Paradoxes (Stanford UP, 2011), The Century of Science: The Global Triumph of the Research University (Emerald, 2017), and European Educational Research (Re)Constructed: Institutional Change in Germany, the United Kingdom, Norway and the European Union (Oxford: Symposium Books). In 2017, he co-founded the Luxembourg Educational Research Association (LuxERA).

After coordinating international dissertation fellowship programs at the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), New York, he was Research Fellow of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin; Lecturer at the University of Göttingen; T.H. Marshall Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science; and Project Director at the Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB). In Winter 2011/12, he was Visiting Professor of Sociology of Education at Leibniz University Hannover. He is also Research Fellow of the Institute of Higher Education Research of the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, Germany.

A graduate of Swarthmore College (BA, 1992, with distinction in sociology and anthropology), he studied political science and sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Humboldt University of Berlin (MA, 1999, with distinction), and received his doctorate in sociology from the Free University Berlin (Dr. phil., 2004, summa cum laude).

Last updated on: Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Research Interests

My research focuses mainly on questions raised in the sociology of education and comparative & international education. Conducting comparative neo-institutional analyses of educational and science systems, I am particularly interested in the processes of learning from others and mechanisms of model transfer between countries. Examining continuity and change in organizational fields and organizational forms in an era of internationalization, I also carry out internationally and interculturally comparative analyses of inclusive education and special education.

Research Projects

Relational Quality: Developing Quality through Collaborative Networks and Collaboration Portfolios (Q-KNOW), 2019–22.

The New Governance of Educational Research: Comparing Trajectories, Turns and Transformations in the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway and Belgium (EDRESGOV) (Co-PI with Gert Biesta, Brunel University London). UL “Tandem” Multidisciplinary Research Project, 2014–18.

Teaching Diverse Learners in School Subjects (TdiverS). Comenius Network Lifelong Learning Programme (Co-PI with Kerstin Merz-Atalik, PH Ludwigsburg; et al.). European Commission Education, Audiovisual & Culture Executive Agency, 2013–17.

Science Productivity, Higher Education, Research & Development, and the Knowledge Society (Co-PI with David P. Baker, Pennsylvania State University; et al.). Qatar National Research Fund, 2012–16. 

Expansion, Internationalisierung und Export dualer Studiengänge (Co-PI with Lukas Graf, University of Luxembourg; Nadine Bernhard, Humboldt University of Berlin; Johann Fortwengel, King’s College London). Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD), 2013–14.

Chancen und Grenzen der inklusiven Schulbildung in den deutschen Bundesländern (with Jonna M. Blanck & Benjamin Edelstein, WZB). 2011–2014.

Internationalization of Vocational and Higher Education Systems in Transition (INVEST) (Co-PI with Heike Solga, WZB). German Research Foundation (DFG), 2009–12.

Special Education in Comparative-Historical Perspective (with John G. Richardson, WWU). Stiftung deutsch-amerikanische Wissenschaftsbeziehungen im Stifterverband für die deutsche Wissenschaft, 2008–2010.

The Shifting Relationship between Vocational and Higher Education in France and Germany (Co-PI with Laurence Coutrot, École normale supérieure). EU Network of Excellence on Economic Change, Quality of Life and Social Cohesion (EqualSoc), 2008–2010.

Knowledge and Authority of the Special Education Profession in Germany (with Lisa Pfahl, WZB). T.H. Marshall Fellowship Program, Volkswagen Foundation, 2008–10.

The International Symbol of Accessibility: Global Diffusion and Local Diversity (with Liat Ben-Moshe, Syracuse University). 2006–09.

Transitions of Students with Disabilities beyond Secondary Education in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland (with Kai Felkendorff, PH Zürich). OECD, 2007–08.

Barriers to Inclusion: The Institutionalization of Special Education in the United States and Germany. Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung, Berlin, 2000–04.

Professional Service: Boards

German Sociological Association, Education Section, Elected Board Member & Series Editor, Bildungssoziologische Beiträge [Contributions to Sociology of Education], Beltz Juventa Verlag (2012–14)

Swiss Leading House in VET Research GOVPET (St. Gallen/Lausanne) International Advisory Board (2016–)

Zentrum für Schul- und Bildungsforschung, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg Board (2016–)

Professional Service: Editorial Boards

Disability & Society Editorial Board (2008–)

Disability Studies Quarterly Editorial Board (2009–16)

Sociology of Education Editorial Board (2013–17)

WZBrief Bildung Founding Editor (2008–12), www.wzb.eu/de/publikationen/wzbrief-bildung

Peer Review (journals, book publishers)

Alter, American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Bildungsgeschichte, Comparative Education Review, Comparative Politics, Comparative Sociology, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, Continuum Books, Critical Policy Studies, Current Issues in Comparative Education, Education Policy Analysis Archives, Empirische Pädagogik, European Educational Research Quality Indicators, European Journal of Higher Education, European Sociological Review, Göttingen University Press, Health Policy, Higher Education, Journal for Educational Research Online, Journal of Disability Policy Studies, Journal of Vocational Education & Training, Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie & Sozialpsychologie, Leviathan, Policy & Society, Regulation & Governance, Research in Social Stratification & Mobility, Review of Disability Studies, Routledge, Sage, Sage Open, Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, Social Inclusion, Sociology, Sociology of Education, Sozialer Fortschritt, Springer Verlag, Studies in Higher Education, World Education Research Yearbook, Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft, Zeitschrift für Pädagogik

Peer Review (foundations, ministries)

Austrian Federal Institute for Education Research, Innovation & Development (BIFIE), Vienna
Czech Science Foundation (GAČR), Prague
French National Foundation for Research (ANR), Paris
German Federal Ministry of Education and Science (BMBF), Berlin
German Institute for Human Rights (DIM), Berlin
Jacobs Foundation, Zurich
National Science Foundation (NSF), Arlington, VA/USA
OECD Center on Education Research and Innovation (CERI), Paris
Society for Disability Studies (SDS), Chicago
Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), Berne


2012–present Institut für Hochschulforschung, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Germany: Research Fellow

2016   Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany: International Guest Lecturer (Education)

2016   Universität Bielefeld, Germany: International Guest Lecturer (Education)

2015   Université de Fribourg/Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland: International Guest Lecturer (PROWEL)

2010   London School of Economics (Volkswagen Foundation), United Kingdom: T.H. Marshall Fellow

2009   American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Washington, DC: DAAD Fellow


2014   Fritz Thyssen Stiftung Prize for Best Article in the Social Sciences, first place, (with J.M. Blanck & B. Edelstein) for “Persistente schulische Segregation oder Wandel zur inklusiven Bildung?” Swiss Journal of Sociology (2013) 39(2): 267–292.

2012   American Educational Research Association Outstanding Book Award for Comparing Special Education (with J.G. Richardson)

2006   Society for Disability Studies Irving K. Zola Award for Emerging Scholars in Disability Studies

2006   Körber Foundation USable Transatlantic Idea Competition (Idea Prize, with K.S. Lindner)

1999   Körber Foundation USable Transatlantic Idea Competition (Idea Prize, with E.V. Powell)

Conference Organization

German Sociological Association, Science & Technology Studies Section, University of Bonn, Germany, 23–24 May 2019.
Schnittstellen der Wissenschafts- und Hochschulforschung: Methoden, Theorien und empirische Zugänge (with Martina Franzen, David Kaldewey, Anne K. Krüger, Alexander Mitterle & Christian Schneijderberg).

Netzwerk Inklusion International (i_int) Annual Meeting, Luxembourg, 15–18 June 2017.
International Workshop: Human Rights – Inclusion – Education. Interdisciplinary and Comparative Perspectives (with Robert Aust, Michelle Brendel, Andreas Köpfer, Lea Schäfer)

Comparative International Education Society (CIES) Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, 11 March 2015.
Session on Comparative Analysis of Science Productivity, Higher Education, and the Knowledge Society.

U. of Luxembourg (Campus Scolaire Geesseknäppchen), Luxembourg, 14–15 November 2014.
International Conference on Learning Together to Live Diversity: Comparing Inclusive Schooling in Europe (with Alain Adams, Michelle Brendel)

German Sociological Association (DGS) Congress, Trier, 7 October 2014.
Forum Bildungssysteme in der Dauerkrise (with Andreas Hadjar, Thomas Lenz, Daniel Tröhler)

U. of Luxembourg (Abbey of Neumünster), Luxembourg, 2–4 July 2014.
International Conference on How do education systems shape educational inequalities?
(with Andreas Hadjar, Christiane Gross, Claudia Buchmann, Elina Kilpi-Jakonen, Walter Müller)

U. of Teacher Education Basel, Switzerland, 13–14 June 2014.
International Conference on Organizing Education: Sociological Approaches, Analyses and Findings (with Raimund Hasse, Christian Imdorf, Regula Julia Leemann, Michael Sertl)

Bundesinstitut für Berufliche Bildung, Bonn, 17–18 October 2013.
International Conference on Welches Wissen ist was wert? Soziale Inwertsetzung von Wissen in der Berufsbildung (with Agnes Dietzen, Mona Granato, Regula Julia Leemann, et al.)

Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (wzb), Berlin, 1–2 July 2010.
Workshop on Institutional Change at the Nexus of Vocational and Higher Education (with Nadine Bernhard, Lukas Graf)

European Consortium of Political Research, Potsdam, 10 September 2009.
Panel on Institutional Change and Reform in Education Politics and Policies (with Moira Nelson)

ASA Annual Meeting, San Francisco, 8 August 2009.
Roundtable on the Sociology of Special Education

German Sociological Association (DGS) Congress, Jena, 7 October 2008.
Panel (Ad-hoc-Gruppe) on Ausbildungssysteme im Wandel (with Martina Dieckhoff)

German Sociological Association (DGS) Congress, Kassel, 13 October 2006.
Panel (Ad-hoc-Gruppe) Zur Natur der Behinderung (with Michael Maschke)

Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung, Berlin, 11–12 May 2000.
Conference low-skilled = low-paid? Opportunities and Risks of a Low-Wage Sector in Germany (with Heike Solga, Jürgen Schupp)

GAAC German-American Frontiers of Social Science Symposium, Dölln, 25–28 March 1999 (with Julia Delius)

GAAC Young Scholars’ Summer Institutes, HU Berlin, Harvard, Bremen, UC–Davis, Bielefeld, 1994–1998. Social Science Research Council (SSRC) / Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (with Michael Becker). Over 500 participants in 16 multidisciplinary 10-day workshops.

Last updated on: 01 Aug 2019

At the nexus of sociology and education, I have taught diverse seminars (in English and German) at Bielefeld University (Germany), Free University Berlin (Germany), Fribourg & Neuchâtel Universities (Switzerland), Georgia Augusta University Göttingen (Germany), Humboldt University of Berlin (Germany), Justus Liebig University Gießen (Germany), Leibniz University Hannover (Germany), and University of Oxford (United Kingdom).

Since 2012, in Luxembourg, I have taught in the following programs of study:

  • Doctoral School in Educational Sciences (DSES), in which I was Program Director of “History, Theory and Sociology of Education” (2013–16)
  • Doctoral School of Humanities and Social Sciences (DSHSS, 2017–)
  • MA Social Sciences and Educational Sciences (MASSES, 2014–)
  • MA Management und Coaching im Bildungs- und Sozialwesen (MAMACO, 2012–)

Furthermore, I am Course Director of the MASSES Program and Deputy Course Director of the MAMACO Program.

Last updated on: 23 Jul 2019

Primary or Secondary Supervision:

Katja Beck (PH Ludwigsburg, Germany): Governance inklusiver Bildung im Ländervergleich - Analyse differenter Prozesse der Bildungssysteme Baden-Württemberg und Südtirol. 2023, University of Education Ludwigsburg, Germany.

Miwa Chiba (uni.lu): Comparative Institutional Analysis of School Curricula in Luxembourg and Japan.

Anna Prisca Lohse (Hertie School of Governance, Berlin, Germany): Higher Education Internationalization in an Age of Disruption: A Comparative Analysis of Student Mobility Policies in England, France, and Germany

Anne Stöcker (uni.lu): Soziale Partizipation und Behinderungserleben in zentralen Lebensbereichen.


Christoph Tschanz (Université de Fribourg, Switzerland, 2022): Disability Policy Regimes and Social Inequalities: Comparative Perspectives (Doc.CH Stipendiat).

Curie Lee (University of Cologne, Germany, 2021): Inclusion and Citizenship: A Historical Comparison of Inclusive Education Policy Discourses in Germany and the United States.

Alexandra Strebel (St. Gallen University, Switzerland, 2021): Exploring the Dynamics of Institutional Stability: The Case of Collective Skill Formation in Switzerland.

Lea Schäfer (Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany, 2019): Institutioneller Wandel und Steuerung von ‚Förderbedürftigkeit‘ im Zuge inklusiver Bildung.

Julia Biermann (Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany, 2018): The Influence of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the Development of Inclusive School Systems in Nigeria and Germany (Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung Stipendiatin).

Jonna M. Blanck (Free University Berlin, Germany, 2018): Übergänge nach der Schule als „zweite Chance“? Eine quantitative und qualitative Analyse der Ausbildungschancen von Schülerinnen und Schülern von Förderschulen “Lernen“ (Winner, Friedrich-Edding Prize, German Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training, BIBB, 2019).

Marcelo Marques (University of Luxembourg, 2018): Research Governance through Public Funding Instruments: Institutional Change in Educational Research in European Union and England (1984–2014).

Simon Gordt (University of Berne, Switzerland, 2018): Bildungsschisma. Eine historisch-vergleichende Analyse der Säkularisierung der westeuropäischen Schulsysteme.

Jennifer Dusdal (University of Luxembourg, 2017): Welche Organisationsformen produzieren Wissenschaft? Expansion, Vielfalt und Kooperation im deutschen Hochschul- und Wissenschaftssystem im globalen Kontext, 1900–2010 (Winner, Ulrich Teichler Prize, Best Dissertation, German Society for Higher Education Research, 2018).

Nadine Bernhard (Free University Berlin, Germany, 2014): Durch Europäisierung zu mehr Durchlässigkeit? Veränderungsdynamiken des Verhältnisses von beruflicher Bildung zur Hochschulbildung in Deutschland und Frankreich (Winner, Dissertation Prize, German Sociological Association, Education Section, 2016; Winner, Friedrich-Edding Prize, German Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training, BIBB, 2017).

Lukas Graf (Free University Berlin, Germany, 2012): The Hybridization of Vocational Training and Higher Education in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland (Winner, Dissertation Prize, HE SIG, Comp. International Education Society, 2013/14; Winner, Ulrich Teichler Prize, Best Dissertation, German Society for Higher Education Research, 2014).

Dissertation Supervisory Committees, University of Luxembourg:

Elisabeth Epping: Disentangling and Mapping the Rationales for Science Diplomacy.

Melanie Noesen: Portfolioarbeit und Lernen: Eine Studie in einer inklusionsorientierten Grundschule im Kontext der luxemburgischen Bildungsreform.


Christina Haas (University of Luxembourg, 2021): Higher Education Trajectories and Social Origin in Germany and the United States: A Comparative Sequence-Analytical Approach.

Emilia Kmiotek-Meier (University of Luxembourg, 2019): Auslandsstudium an der Schwelle zum Erwachsenenwerden. Ausgestaltung und Bedeutung des Auslandsaufenthaltes unter Credit und Degree Studierenden aus Luxemburg.

Alyssa Grecu (University of Luxembourg, 2019, chair of defense): Die Entwicklung der Entfremdung vom Lernen in der unteren Sekundarstufe: Der Beitrag differenzieller schulischer Lern- und Entwicklungsmilieus.

Mireille Krischler (University of Luxembourg, 2018, chair of defense): Inclusive Education: Effects of Teacher Characteristics and School Support on Inclusive Practice.

Julia Maria Zimmermann (University of Luxembourg, 2017, chair of defense): Ko-Konstruktionen von Geschlecht, Sexualität und europäischer Integration im Europäischen Parlament 1999-2014. Diskurse, Narrative, Mythen.

Sylvia Nienhaus (University of Luxembourg, 2017, chair of defense): Wie wird Ungleichheitsrelevanz im Bildungs- und Betreuungsalltag hergestellt?

Barbara Rothmüller (University of Luxembourg, 2017, chair of defense): Ungleichheiten, Sexualität und Mehrsprachigkeit in der Migrationsgesellschaft.

Ligia Deca (University of Luxembourg, 2016, chair of defense): Understanding the Internationalization of Higher Education as a Policy Process: The Case of Romania.

Stefanie Gysin (University of Luxembourg, 2016): Subjektives Wohlbefinden von Schülerinnen und Schülern.

Bastian Röther (University of Luxembourg, 2016, chair of defense): Die Naturwissenschaften an der Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Bonn und die Leopoldina, 1818–1830.


Last updated on: 16 Jun 2022