The demand for studying without the German Abitur is higher than ever before
The demand for higher education study programmes that don’t require the German university entrance qualification (the Abitur) is higher than ever before: latest figures according to a new study by the CHE – Centre for Higher Education show that demand has jumped and now covers 2.1 per cent of all first-year students, which means that the share of first-year students without the Abitur has nearly doubled since 2007. Key reasons for the upward trend are simplified entrance requirements and the increase in the number of study programmes designed specially for this target group.
The boom in demand for non-Abitur study programmes is reflected very differently in individual German states. North Rhine-Westphalia, Berlin and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania top the table with 2.2 to 4.2 per cent of all first-years students who are not in possession of an Abitur, while Thuringia, Saxony and Saarland are at the bottom of the table with between 0.4 and 0.9 per cent.
The past three years have seen 14 out of 16 states radically improve their entrance requirements for studying without having obtained the Abitur. This means, for example, that people with a German Meister qualification (for a master craftsman) or comparably high professional qualifications are now on a par with those in possession of an Abitur, which means they can apply for any study programme at any higher education institution they choose. It is also now easier for people who have completed a professional training course and have several years of professional practice under their belts to enter into higher education. In 16 states, they are granted subject-restricted admission to higher education, which means they can apply for subjects whose academic content is linked to their professional activities. However, there is still an obstacle in place as, despite the general improvements, all states continue to apply many different details and exceptions. Prospective students without an Abitur therefore have to fight their way through a jungle of provisions in order to find the special conditions in the respective state.
According to the CHE, North Rhine-Westphalia, Berlin and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania are currently top of the list with respect to the share of first-year students without an Abitur:
After North Rhine-Westphalia finally opened up to the idea of non-Abitur study programmes in 2009, the situation has changed completely. The share of first-year students without an Abitur has jumped from 1 per cent in 2007 to 4.2 per cent in 2010. This rate is more than twice the German average and is the highest rate of all German states.
Berlin has been steadily increasing its percentage of students without an Abitur over many years. The latest figures show that the city’s rate is still on the up and now stands at 3.7 per cent, which is the second highest rate in Germany.
In states in east Germany, the average share of first-year students without an Abitur is 1.1 per cent and is therefore only half the average for states in west Germany. The only exception here is Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, whose share of first-year students without an Abitur is 2.2 per cent, twice the east German average. The rate has also increased dramatically since 2007, so Mecklenburg-West Pomerania is now one of the top three most successful German states with respect to offering study programmes without an Abitur.
In addition to comparisons of the German states, the CHE has also taken a close look at each HEI's individual development. The three most sought-after HEIs in each state in terms of being able to study there without an Abitur per state were identified. This resulted in a list of 33 universities of applied sciences, 16 universities and two art academies with particularly high figures in this respect. The most prominent example is FernUniversität Hagen, which in 2010 had 2,502 first-year students without an Abitur. It is thus Germany's most popular HEI in this target group. By way of comparison, the university that came second after FernUniversität Hagen in terms of the most first-year students without an Abitur in 2010 was Steinbeis-Hochschule in Berlin with 433 professionally-qualified first-year students.
Key success factors for the most sought-after HEIs are:
Flexible study-period models
Comprehensive distance learning offer
Comprehensive, easily accessible information on studies without an Abitur
Extra-occupational and/or practice-related study programmes
Bridge courses to catch up on missing previous knowledge
Possibility of recognising professional skills as part of the programme
Possibility for e-learning, at least for part of the course
Despite the increasing demand for study programmes that don’t require the Abitur, Dr. Sigrun Nickel, project manager at the CHE, still sees room for improvement. She said: “An increasing number of universities and universities of applied sciences are discovering the possibility of linking profession and studies as a means of developing a profile. Federal states should promote these initiatives more strongly with increased budget allocations. There are still insufficient scholarships for prospective students who don’t have an Abitur. Industry should also be more committed to these initiatives.”
This CHE study “Studying without an Abitur: Monitoring developments at federal government, state and HEI level” is available for free online. The publication was funded by Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft.