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News vom 13.03.2017

The closest higher education institution is no more than 59 kilometres away

The rapid growth in Germany’s student population has led to an increasing number of HEI institutions. An analysis conducted by the CHE Centre for Higher Education has revealed that the geographic coverage of academic education pretty much spans the entire country. The main reason for this high-density coverage is the establishment of new universities of applied science as well as satellite campuses of these institutions.

More than half of Germany’s 619 HEI campuses as we know them today were established between 1991 and 2016. In 1990, only 232 of the HEI sites in existence today had been founded. Most of the new main campuses were established in Berlin (in 28 cases), and in Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia (27 each). The federal state with the largest number of new secondary campuses is North Rhine-Westphalia, which has created 69 new sites since 1990.

Many of the new HEI campuses were established in major cities and conurbations where universities already existed, notably in Berlin and Hamburg, as well as in Cologne, Munich and Stuttgart. And yet, according to the CHE study, less urban regions have also benefited from this development. More than one third of all new campuses were created in districts and in towns not attached to an administrative district where higher education was not previously offered.

Based on CHE calculations, the large number of campuses means that prospective students in Germany need to travel no more than 59 kilometres, radius, to get to an HEI. Every inhabitant of Thuringia, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saarland and Hesse is no more than 40 kilometres from the closest HEI, radius.

CHE Executive Director Jörg Dräger takes stock: “The fact that studying is becoming the normality in Germany is not only reflected in student numbers, but also in the signs marking the start of towns and cities. More than half of all districts now have a university town, and for anybody living in Germany, the closest HEI is no more than one hour away.”

Universities of applied sciences are mainly responsible for the considerable increase in the number of campuses. In fact, 84 per cent of all campuses created between 1991 and 2016 were related to this type of HEI. This development was dominated primarily by non-state institutions, which set up numerous satellite campuses. While private universities of applied sciences had only four secondary campuses in 1990, this figure had increased to 116 by 2016. Campuses run by churches play a minor role in this development.

“The establishment of ‘branch campuses/satellite campuses’ is a relatively new phenomenon in Germany, but is common practice among private HEIs in the USA,” stated CHE Executive Director Jörg Dräger, explaining the rapid increase in secondary campuses.

The increase in university campuses for all HEI types is generally seen in a positive light: “Most parts of Germany that were excluded from the higher education landscape in the past have been brought into the fold over the past 25 years.” However, many campuses are not without risk, added Dräger: “A decline in student numbers, particularly at smaller campuses, must not result in a subcritical mass in terms of human and financial resources. A high level of academic quality must always be ensured, regardless of the HEI’s location and size.”



The development of HEI sites since 1990

About the study:
CHE Centre for Higher Education teamed up with CHE Consult to analyse the expansion of HEI campuses in Germany. The study involved analysing data from the Higher Education Compass, provided by the German Rectors’ Conference, and the CHE University Ranking, as well as conducting own research. The figures given illustrate Germany’s higher education landscape in 2016. The study focused on analysing the establishment of new campuses by HEI type and funding body at the federal state and district level. HEI campuses devoted to research activities only, were not included in the study. HEI campuses that were shut down during the period of analysis were disregarded, because the presentation was based exclusively on HEIs that existed in 2016. Postal regions served as the basis for calculating the maximum distance to the closest HEI campus at national and federal state level. The study “Im Blickpunkt: Hochschulbildung wird zum Normalfall − auch in räumlicher Hinsicht? − Eine Analyse zur Ausbreitung der Hochschulstandorte seit 1990“ (In the spotlight: Higher education is becoming the norm – also geographically? − An analysis of the expansion of HEI campuses since 1990) was written by Lars Hüning, Lisa Mordhorst, Ronny Röwert and Frank Ziegele. The publication is part of the CHE priority theme “Higher education is becoming the normality”.


Further Information can be found in the publication stated below.

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