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News of 28.09.2017

Part-time employment is commonplace, unlike part-time study

More than one third of the population in Germany do not work full-time. By contrast, the issue of part-time study has not yet become established. Officially, only 6.8 per cent of the student population study on a part-time basis. Only 12.8 per cent of all degree programmes are expressly open to students wishing to handle a reduced workload. These are the findings of an analysis conducted by the CHE Centre for Higher Education.

There is little demand for official part-time degree programmes. According to the Federal Statistical Office, some 190,000 students pursued part-time study in winter semester 2015/16. The proportion of part-time students, which has been growing steadily for years, now stands at 6.8 per cent. However, the percentage of “de facto” part-time students may well be much higher – despite being enrolled on full-time programmes, many students take on a smaller workload and therefore take longer to complete their studies, perhaps because they must work part-time to pay for university.

“Unlike in the world of work, the option of studying part-time is unfortunately not something that can be taken for granted at state higher education institutions in Germany,” summarised Frank Ziegele. This is compounded by the fact that there are disadvantages of studying part-time, such as with regard to financing their studies. “As long as there is no entitlement to a grant (BAföG) in the case of part-time study, it will always appear to be a ‘second choice’ study option, which gives out the entirely wrong signal. After all, there is a steadily growing proportion of students whose centre of life is not university, but their profession and family,” remarked the CHE Executive Director.

Germany’s federal state with the highest rate of part-time students is Hamburg. Around one fifth of the student population in this city-state do not study full-time. One of the reasons for this is that Hamburg has two private open universities, and the majority of the students enrolled at both these institutions (around 16,000 in total) study part-time.

Compared with other countries, Germany performs poorly in terms of part-time study. According to OECD calculations, only 10 per cent of the student population in Germany study part-time at the Bachelor level, which is well below the OECD average of 18 per cent.

“Countries such as Sweden show what can be achieved if the right political and legal framework is in place. In Sweden, every second student is part-time,” explained Cort-Denis Hachmeister, co-author of the study, describing how Sweden differs to Germany in this respect. One of the reasons for this could be that part-time students in Sweden are given financial support.

Percentage of part-time degree programmes in the federal states

The small proportion of students in Germany officially pursuing part-time study may also have something to do with the fact that there only a few suitable degree programmes on offer. According to data from the Higher Education Compass, provided by the German Rectors’ Conference, one in eight degree programmes in Germany are also open to students wishing to study on a part-time basis. 12.8 per cent of the degree programmes currently on offer this winter semester 2017/18 are part-time programmes. This figure is slightly higher than the rate in winter semester 2015/16 (10.6 per cent).

The highest percentage of part-time programmes is offered in Saarland, where two-thirds of all degree programmes can be studied part-time. Next comes Hamburg (54 per cent), followed by Brandenburg (35 per cent). The proportion of part-time study options was less than 10 per cent in seven federal states. At the bottom of the table is Bremen, where only one in fifty degree programmes can be studied with a reduced workload each semester.

Altogether, the proportion of part-time options at universities (14.6 per cent) is slightly higher than that at universities of applied sciences (11.1 per cent). Those wishing to study while in employment, for example, have a wider choice of programmes at the Master’s level (15.7 per cent) than at the Bachelor stage (11.1 per cent).

One sixth of all humanities and social sciences degree programmes can be studied part-time, as is also the case for linguistics and cultural studies, and medicine and health sciences. The lowest proportion of part-time options can be found in the area of art, music and design (5.8 per cent).

About the study The CHE Centre for Higher Education commissioned CHE Consult to analyse the development of part-time study options in Germany. The analysis included courses offered by HEIs, student demand for part-time programmes, and a selection of examples from the international arena. The rate of part-time programmes on offer is based on data contained in the Higher Education Compass provided by the German Rectors’ Conference for winter semester 2017/18. The percentages of part-time students are based on information provided by the Federal Statistical Office for winter semester 2015/16. The study “CHE Teilzeit Check 2017/18 − Teilzeit-Studiengänge und Teilzeit-Studierende in den einzelnen Bundesländern” (CHE part-time check 2017/18 − part-time degree programmes and part-time students in the individual federal states) was written by Anna Gehlke, Cort-Denis Hachmeister and Lars Hüning. The publication is part of the CHE priority theme “Higher education is becoming the norm”. Key information about the topic, check lists and a commented list of links can be found at:

Further Information can be found in the publication stated below.

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Cort-Denis Hachmeister
Cort-Denis Hachmeistermehr
Phone: +49 5241 9761-35
Fax: +49 5241 9761-40
Email: cort-denis.hachmeister
Tina Schürmannmehr
Phone: +49 5241 9761-39

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