Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Education as Welfare - Enhancing opportunities for socially vulnerable youth in Europe

Final Report Summary - EDUWEL (Education as Welfare - Enhancing opportunities for socially vulnerable youth in Europe)


Marie Curie Initial Training Network ‘Education as Welfare’ (238646)
Funded under the 7th framework program people

Reporting Period: January 2010 – August 2014 (project months 1-56)

The dramatic effects of the financial crisis are disproportionally hitting Europe’s young population. Political, economic and social developments have affected harshly a considerable number of young people, who are currently experiencing social disqualification and disaffiliation after compulsory schooling. While the crisis has generally worsened the situation of the young, the human capital-focus of existing educational and labour market policies has not proved to be effective especially in relation to the most vulnerable, such as, for example, those with a background of migration or being affected by socio-economic disadvantages. A continuous lack of participation in social life and in the productive economy is a critical indicator of this development as can be underlined by recent ‘Eurostat’ data on youth unemployment (Oct. 2014).
The ITN "Education as Welfare - Enhancing opportunities for socially vulnerable youth in Europe" consisted of 17 partner institutions from 10 countries with interdisciplinary research experience and expertise based in leading European university departments and social, economic and political stakeholders. It has trained 15 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) all over Europe to investigate transition pathways of socially vulnerable youth from school to working life, evaluating the capacity of education and welfare to tackle the multiple challenges and pressures a large proportion of young people in Europe faces. The main scientific focus of the Marie Curie ITN EduWel was to deliver interdisciplinary knowledge to fill the capability gap by extending the opportunities for work, autonomy and voice of young people facing multiple economic, social and personal barriers. The scientific objective of the research and training programme was to identify factors with which to extend young people's opportunities in and capabilities for work, autonomy and participation - the central dimensions of welfare using the theoretical framework of the Capability Approach (Sen, Nussbaum). EduWel provided training and support to enable ESRs to become leading experts who will navigate and influence the complex and closely intertwined educational and welfare systems in different European countries.


EduWel survey training

EduWel has finished the Education as Welfare survey training which aims were twofold: developing a high quality cross-cultural survey tool that will, for the first time, allow the measurement of the dimensions of individual and structural capability development and providing at the same time an excellent standard methodological training for the ESRs. The operationalisation of well-being and the measurement of capabilities and functionings represent some of the most challenging issues in social research today. The fellows were trained in comparative survey methodology and in quantitative measurement of capabilities as well as quantitative analysis of capability data emanating in the construction of a comparative survey instrument for measuring capabilities. The choice of a pilot study allowed to be more focused on the key aspects to be developed: the operationalisation of the Capability Approach and the cross-cultural aspect of the study. Both goals were achieved by directly involving the ESRs in the design and testing of the survey and by piloting it in four European countries. The lessons learnt represent a unique and invaluable starting point for a large-scale survey aiming to shed more light on the dimensions of analysis and the best way to measure them. In particular, the instrument chosen to gather the data in such a complex study dealing with different cultures, seemed overall consistent. It represents an important groundwork that will be integrated and applied in future comparative large-scale surveys.

‘Cumulated findings - Closing the Capability gap’

The methodological and complementary training as well as intensive supervision supported the ESRs in finishing their data analysis, bringing up results and continuing to publish their PhD research results. With the aim to ‘close the capability gap for socially vulnerable youth’ EduWel has defined ‘cumulated findings’ by synthesizing the PhD results: Looking at different contexts in different European countries, all research projects provide empirical sound data on educational processes and vulnerabilities of different target groups in a broad range of European wide institutional settings:
• Pupils with a migration background in secondary school education in Spain and Germany;
• Young refugees in third sector organizations in the UK;
• Young women in Further Education in the UK, and
• Unemployed young people of low formal qualifications in vocational training: juvenile detention centres and active labour market policy (ALMP) measures in Spain, Switzerland and Belgium.
• Students and doctoral fellows in higher education in Portugal, Poland and Sweden;
EduWel evaluated how inequality and social vulnerability based on e.g. gender, class position, ethnic background or spatial segregation impede the development of young people’s opportunities and abilities while highlighting the European perspective. The plurality of insights on vulnerabilities of young people that are analysed and contextualized within current educational discourses and policy measures uncover constraints and opportunities of young peoples’ full societal participation. More specifically they reveal areas of action and potential capability enhancement.

• Dissemination activities within the EduWel project

The core activity of EduWel was to disseminate the generated knowledge and the excellence of the ESRs gained through the training programme to different groups of stakeholders. EduWel research results are relevant for an academic audience, EU policy makers and professionals within education and welfare. The ITN trained the ESRs in transversal education and welfare methodologies and strategies with relation to the enhancement of opportunities for socially vulnerable youth in Europe, as well as a transversal strategy on how to close the capability gap. The aim of the dissemination activities was to make the generated findings known internationally and among the different relevant stakeholders and to secure excellent career chances for the ESRs by providing them with contacts with a broad range of possible employers. EduWel optimized its dissemination strategies to gain further access to the public by organizing international events and by promoting new intersectoral partnerships. The different activities and events gave access to attractive scientific and professional networks.

Dissemination and professional training via new EduWel partners

Aiming at career development and dissemination opportunities beyond academia EduWel successfully agreed on a partnership with the OECD Directorate ‘Employment, Labour and Social Affairs’ which offered secondment possibilities, international workshops and professional insights to an international stakeholder in the field of the EduWel research. Furthermore the network has started a new partnership with the University of the Free State Bloemfontain, South Africa enlarging the ‘global space’ in which debates about inequality and opportunities take place.

Final conferences in Valencia and Brussels for an academic audience, EU policy makers and professionals in education and welfare

The Final Conference I - Scientific Results ‘”To live a life one has reason to value”.Enhancing opportunities for socially vulnerable youth in Europe’ at Technical University of Valencia presented and discussed research results with scientific experts. The Final Conference II - Policy Recommendations ‘Creating educational and labour market opportunities for socially vulnerable youth. Current policy approaches and alternative perspectives’ at Brussels was especially dedicated to policy makers and different stakeholders in the field of education and welfare and allowed ESRs to present their results under a policy perspective to representatives from the European Parliament, the European commission, NGOs and trade unions.

EduWel Collected Volume

EduWel published the Collected Volume articles within the international peer reviewed open access journal ‘SW&S - Social Work and Society’ ( The special issue ‘Creating Capabilities for Socially Vulnerable Youth in Europe’ was published in October 2014, making the project results more accessible to the wider international scientific public.

Articles and ESR dissemination activities

EduWel ESRs presented their research progress at various conferences, published articles in journals and books and organized international events, hereby gaining further access to scientific networks. Lists on the website ( document project related papers, articles and conference presentations of ESRs and Senior Researchers from 2010-2014. EduWel has participated in the production of a Marie Curie EduWel short film:

• Final results and their potential impact and use

The ITN EduWel combined and synergised the interdisciplinary research experience and professional capacities of leading European university departments and social, economic and political actors. In doing so EduWel united the benefits of training through a well-defined research programme with complementing training activities within a high-level network and a systematic exchange with other professionals in the field of education and welfare. It provided an outstanding intellectual space for international and interdisciplinary discourse and an extraordinary opportunity for critical reflection on current societal problems.
Academically, the EduWel project makes a significant contribution to developing new theoretical and empirical tools in studying education and welfare from a European perspective. The issue of education is one of the most critical and sensitive political and social challenges in all European Member States. Europe is struggling to find a common perspective on human capital development as a basis for prosperous knowledge economies in the years to come and this struggle will continue. An achievement of the network is the sustained and critical framework it provides for comparative work across Europe. The project has been able to consider national processes in comparative perspectives, both between countries, and between time periods. EduWel has studied history as it happens. The research projects provide solid research results hereby documenting some of the effects of the recession on socially vulnerable youth, which will be a significant resource for policymakers and practitioners as many of the projects are particularly ‘tuned in’ to new kinds of hardship socially vulnerable young people experience and the strategies they develop to grapple with this. These perspectives convincingly demand for social policies grounded in the idea of social justice and equality of opportunity and call for capability-friendly policies.
In examining the welfare dimensions of educational settings and the educational dimensions of welfare services, the project integrates welfare and educational perspectives into a coherent approach for theoretical analysis and public policy. EduWel thereby promotes a new type of governance of education and welfare that transcends traditional national borders. The EduWel network has trained a ‘critical mass’ of 15 highly qualified scholars in the field of education and welfare with pan-European orientations. They will reinforce the current EduWel efforts to boost research development in this field while overcoming the incongruities and limitations in scope that still arise from national institutional boundaries and ideological imprints in education and welfare provision.

For further information on project partners, events and research results please check the project website:

Coordinating Office:

Network Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Dr. hc. mult. Hans-Uwe Otto

Project Coordinator: Dipl. Päd. Susanne Gottuck