The ICS has been established in 1986 in order to promote theoretically and methodologically advanced work in the field of sociology and social sciences in general. The name ‘Interuniversity Center for Social Science Theory and Methodology’ was chosen to express that the ICS focuses on problems that are central to social science in general, and that ICS work does not exclude theories or methods on the basis of their disciplinary origin.

In 1986, the Ministry of Education and Science began to sponsor a new type of second phase (postgraduate) training aiming to create top level research training by stressing five distinct features:

  • cooperation of leading scholars from different universities in a particular research area for teaching purposes.
  • participation of international scholars in the program.
  • a favorable infrastructure.
  • a stringent selection of PhD students.
  • a highly structured program in the form of interrelated courses.

A limited number of interuniversity training networks have been awarded a certified status and have received special funding from the Ministry of Education and Science. The ICS, originally a cooperation between the Universities of Groningen and Utrecht, since 1992 joined by Nijmegen and since 2016 joined by the University of Amsterdam, has been fortunate enough to become one of two certified programs in sociology.

In contrast to some other training programs, the ICS has chosen to give equal weight to all five requirements (thus also to stringent selection and a highly structured program), thereby becoming an integrated graduate school. This has proven to be an effective choice. As a result the ICS became one of the 13 research centers cum PhD programs, which were awarded further financial support through the STIMULANS program in 1991. This support was used mainly for an investment in the collection of data and in methods to process data, which was useful in several interdisciplinary projects in organization studies and studies in decision making, and for international workshops and contacts.

In 1993, the ICS was proposed by the three participating universities to the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and was accredited as one of the very first so-called ‘National Research Schools’. Every five years these National Research Schools have to be re-accredited by the Accreditation Committee of the KNAW. For the ICS this procedure of re-accreditation has successfully taken place in 1998 and recently in 2003.

In the transition process to the new Bachelor’s/Master’s structure of higher education in Europe, the ICS offers and contributes to selective, internationally oriented, Research Master’s Programs within the framework of the participating Faculties at the University of Groningen, Utrecht University, the Radboud University Nijmegen, and the University of Amsterdam.

The ICS at the University of Groningen is involved in the program ‘Social and Behavioral Sciences’ that started in September 2005. The ICS at Utrecht University offers the program ‘Sociology and Social Research’, which started in September 2004, as well as the program ‘Comparative Studies of Migration, Ethnic Relations and Multiculturalism’ that started already in 2002. The ICS at the Radboud University Nijmegen is involved in the program ‘Social Cultural Science: Comparative Research on Societies’, which started in September 2005. The target group of students for these programs consists of promising students, Dutch as well as from abroad, with a suitable Bachelor’s degree or an equivalent qualification. Successful completion of one of these Research Master’s Programs will be a good preparation for the ICS PhD program. However, the selection procedure for the ICS PhD program operates independently of the Research Master’s Programs, and having graduated from one of these Research Master’s Programs is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for selection into the ICS PhD program.