Well worth the higher education

Higher education is becoming the norm

Studying more and more. The biographies are becoming more and more diverse. For universities and politics, it is important to shape the transition to the normal case of studies.

The number of first-year students will remain at over 425,000 per year until 2050 and thus well above the level of 2005. At the same time, the group of students is becoming more and more heterogeneous. Not only the 19-year-old high school graduate goes to college today, but also the master craftsman, the single father or the manager. Higher education is becoming the norm. The CHE has been focusing on this social development since 2014. Studies provide suggestions for dealing with change.

In 2005, the number of annual first-year students in Germany was around 350,000. Currently, around half a million people begin academic training each year. The number of freshmen will decrease slightly by 2050, but will no longer drop below the 425,000 mark. This is the result of a model calculation by the CHE. The forecast values ​​assume an unchanged tendency to study among the population. Thus, the number of new students will remain on a high plateau in the next few years. To the CHE forecast of first-year students up to 2050.

In the universities, the image of students is becoming more colorful

Childless, studying full-time, early 20s, high school graduate, without health restrictions, from an academic household, without a history of immigration - this description once applied to the majority of students in Germany. Today the picture is much more colorful. According to the Federal Statistical Office, in 2016, for example, 22 percent of students had completed vocational training. 20 percent had a migration background. 11 percent of all students live with a health impairment. The heterogeneity of the students goes hand in hand with diverse needs.

Further information and figures can be found in the brochure “Higher education is becoming the norm - social change and its consequences”. An update of some of the dates can be found here.

The range of courses is becoming more extensive

There are currently more than 19,000 courses in Germany. One reason for the high number is the introduction of the tiered study system as part of the Bologna Process. But growth continues. Between 2014 and 2017, the number of courses increased by around eleven percent. Somea half of the additional courses are at the universities, which at around 60 percent continue to offer the largest proportion of courses in Germany, including 4,000 teacher training courses.

The largest growth rate, however, was at the universities of applied sciences with an increase of around 16 percent. The strongest dynamics can be observed here in the area of ​​advanced courses, especially at private universities of applied sciences. Between 2014 and 2017 there was an increase in the number of courses offered by almost 50 percent. About the study “In the spotlight: the variety of courses. Development of the range of courses in Germany between 2014 and 2017 ".


The fact that studies are now open to almost everyone is the result of a changed university policy and an opening up of universities. This also creates challenges for politics and universities.

Need for action on a political level: Firstly, a nationwide, permanent and reliable reorganization of university funding beyond the previous university pact is required in order to do justice to the persistently high number of new students. Second, student funding needs to be reformed. The BAföG entitlement, for example, must also apply to part-time students. Part-time students should also be entitled to reduced health insurance contributions up to a certain income limit.

Need for action for universities: They have to adapt to the diverse range of students and adapt their offers to the requirements and needs of the different target groups. So the question arises whether the procedures for part-time actually work and are sufficiently flexible. The design of the offer and the way in which the students are addressed must be coordinated with their everyday lives. At the same time, the number of courses that can be studied part-time must be increased. In addition, targeted formats such as bridging courses, coaching and counseling sessions can be used in the introductory phase of the study to make the requirements clear to the students on the one hand and to support them in acquiring missing skills on the other.