The Medium-Sized City as a Place for Participation. Qualitative Change via New Cultures of City Making.

Key Info

Basic Information

Target Group:
Doctoral Candidates
Direction / Place:



Agnes Förster

Chair of Planning Theory and Urban Development



A team from RWTH Aachen University, the University of Stuttgart, and the University of Potsdam is developing a research training group for the Robert Bosch Stiftung. The group is focused on future developments in medium-sized towns of 20,000 to 50,000 inhabitants. Using an inter- and transdisciplinary approach, they aim to investigate future issues and transformation concerns in eight selected medium-sized cities in order to bring about change via new forms of city making and participation.

Prompting Change – Interlinking Content and Processes

The research training group aims to investigate transformations in eight selected medium-sized cities and to prompt a (planning/administrative) cultural change in specific areas, future issues, and transformation concerns of the cities. Three possible transformation approaches are at the core of the initiative: 'Change via places and spaces'; 'Change via institutions and governance'; and 'Change via processes and dialogue'.

The doctoral candidates in the group work at their universities, but also on the ground, so they can investigate transformation processes and identify and specify transformation tasks, as well as observe planning and dialogue cultures, and governance structures. Based on this, they will then stimulate, test, and subsequently reflect on the participation and design of important future issues on the ground.

Transformative Research – Agents on the Ground

The interdisciplinary research training group pursues an agent-based approach that aims to link empirical research on transformation processes in medium-sized cities with specific spatial, structural, and planning incentives on the ground in order to initiate (planning/administrative) cultural change in the medium-sized cities in question.

Do Your Doctorate in a Group – Together, not Alone

The Research Training Group starts April 1, 2020 and runs for a period of three and a half years. During this period, doctoral candidates will receive a scholarship of 1,800 euros gross plus expenses for on-the-ground activities and conferences.

The following can supervise dissertations at the three participating universities:

Together with a representative from the Robert Bosch Stiftung, they form the selection committee for doctoral students. Interviews will be held with two professors each.

The research training group enables a close, or peer-to-peer, cooperation between doctoral candidates thanks to topic-specific tandems, group coaching, joint research weeks, thematic and methodological training sessions, and a platform where they can pool their knowledge. Further, a strong exchange of knowledge and experience with the medium-sized towns and local stakeholders is also sought - through field work, but also in conferences on medium-sized towns.

Your Profile


  • have a university degree (Master's or equivalent) in architecture, landscape architecture, urban, regional, spatial, and environmental planning, spatial sciences, (urban) geography, political/administrative science, social sciences,
  • can happily work independently on your research project in the thematic context described,
  • are very interested in scientific work in close dialogue with local (planning) practice,
  • can be flexible, working in different locations (regular work in medium-sized towns, research weeks at different universities, conferences, etc.),
  • are happy to be part of the cooperative work and associated events, including the establishment of a medium-sized city network.
  • take a lot of initiative, are highly responsible and creative, have a team spirit as well as very good knowledge of German and English.

Facts & Figures on Applications

Candidates must send their application as a PDF file to by January 15, 2020.

As well as the standard application documents, a letter of motivation is also expected (maximum 2 A4 pages) with a short statement on the question: Which transformation processes/tasks of German medium-sized cities are the focus of your research and to what extent do you think this can support medium-sized cities?

Please also state the university and supervisor you would like to pursue your doctorate with. You may name more than one person; the doctorate will be submitted to the university of your first supervisor.

and will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

You can find further information on the Chair of Planning Theory and Urban Development website.