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News vom 21.07.2016

More than 18,000 degree programmes in Germany – good reasons for such diversity

Overstretched, overspecialised and lacking transparency for prospective students: this is how some education experts have evaluated the range of degree programmes offered in Germany. However, an analysis conducted by the CHE Centre for Higher Education has come to a different result. There has only been a slight increase in undergraduate degree programmes that first-year students can choose from, and there are good reasons for the increasing diversity of these majors.

The total number of degree programmes offered in Germany has doubled in the last ten years to around 18,000 courses. However, this is mainly due to the adoption of the two-stage Bachelor/Master system. The number of undergraduate degree programmes leading to the first university degree, on the other hand, has only slightly increased in the same period. Prospective students could choose from 9,527 majors in winter semester 2005/06. Ten years later, this number had increased by only 418 programmes. This is equivalent to an increase of around four per cent. CHE Executive Director Frank Ziegele stated: “In view of the minimal growth in undergraduate degree programmes, there can be no talk of an explosion in the number of majors.”

According to CHE, there are good reasons for the differentiation of degree programmes. Professional specialisation, such as Marketing or Logistics majors in the area of Business Administration for example, is frequently described in discussions as the sole reason for the diversity of courses; nevertheless, this is only one of several explanatory models. In addition, the establishment of topic-centred degree programmes such as Renewable Energies or Gerontology should be mentioned here. Here, the thematic focus is a disciplinary diversification rather than a constriction of the subject. Another reason for the ever-increasing differentiation of the programmes on offer is the creation of new academic occupational areas involving a high level of practical training. This trend can be observed, for example, in Health Sciences. The introduction of hybrid subjects also contributes to a greater diversity of majors. Here, the connection of two disciplines creates a new subject, for example Mechatronics, Business Psychology and Media Informatics. By offering these courses, higher education institutions (HEIs) are responding to the demands of the labour market.

According to CHE authors, there are indeed seemingly odd specific examples of the partial aspect of the strong specialisation of degree courses. The Coffee Management major, which has since been abandoned, is one such example. However, no statement can be derived from this for the over 18,000 other degree programmes. According to CHE, competition and demand are also decisive factors for the relevance of successfully accredited, i.e. reviewed and approved majors.

“A broad-based initial phase of the course of study, followed by subsequent specialisation, is generally an appropriate model. This allows for flexibility and preparation for the profession,” said CHE Executive Director Ziegele. If HEIs orient themselves towards developments or demands in science and industry, and if they make specialisations transparent in the title of the degree programme, this should be seen as positive, according to Ziegele. It is not necessary to standardise the terminology to ensure that prospective students can navigate the wide range of programme options; it is much more important to constantly improve the search options for degree programmes and to provide improved local student orientation events organised by HEIs.

About the publication
For the working paper entitled “Zu viel Vielfalt? Warum die Ausdifferenzierung der Studiengänge kein Drama ist” (Too much diversity? Why the differentiation of degree programmes is not a cause for alarm), the authors Cort-Denis Hachmeister, Ulrich Müller and Frank Ziegele examined the diversity of degree programmes at German HEIs. In addition to data from the Higher Education Compass from the German Rectors’ Conference, data from the CHE University Ranking between 2003 and 2015 formed the basis for the working paper. Thanks to the University Ranking, CHE provides greater transparency for prospective students. In order to prepare the CHE University Ranking, the whole range of programmes available at German HEIs for more than 30 of the most popular subjects are assessed, enabling the authors for this study to track the development of programmes in each subject and at each HEI over time.

Further Information can be found in the publication stated below.

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