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 1993, 1998, 2003 and most recently in 2012. In 2017 it was announced that the KNAW will no longer evaluate research schools.