CHE Ranking: more degrees now earned within standard period of study at universities
Since the introduction of Bachelor and Master’s degree programmes, a higher percentage of students at universities are managing to complete their degrees within a reasonable timeframe. Percentages differ according to the subject taken: in Mathematics, the percentage of degree programmes in the top group increased from 18 to 75 per cent; in the subject of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the percentage in the top group also increased considerably. In the subject of Social Work at universities of applied sciences, the top group increased to 83 per cent; in Architecture, there were no longer any departments in the bottom group. These figures were revealed following a comparison of data from CHE University Rankings from 2003 to 2005 and from 2015 to 2017.
For all degree programmes in Germany, provision is made for the length of time within which the programme should be completed, called the standard period of study. Higher education institutions should ensure that students do not require much more time than the standard period of study due to poor academic feasibility (for example, poor organisation). This makes study programmes appealing to students; it is also financially rewarded in terms of state funding of higher education. As a result of the Bologna reform, many degree programmes in Germany underwent major changes from the 2000s onwards. The question is whether completion of a degree programme within a reasonable timeframe has been promoted by these reforms and whether today’s students are more likely to keep within the standard period of study than was the case 15 years ago. The “completion of programme within a reasonable timeframe” indicator, a criteria within the CHE University Ranking, provides an answer to this question.
A positive tendency is particularly visible in the case of universities: in this type of higher education institution, the proportion of degrees completed within a reasonable timeframe in the period 2015-2017 increased in nearly all of the subjects under consideration compared to figures from 2003-2005, most notably in the subjects of Mathematics, Education Science, and Civil and Environmental Engineering. In these subjects, a particularly large number of top places were achieved, meaning that more than 80 per cent of graduates complete their degrees within the standard period of study plus a maximum of two semesters. In the subject of Mathematics, the proportion of degree programmes in the top group increased from 18 to 75 per cent, and in Education Science from 19 to 53 per cent; in the subject of Civil and Environmental Engineering, which previously was not represented in the top group at all, 29 per cent of degree programmes from the period 2015-2017 made it into the top group for the first time. In these two subjects, there are now only very few departments in the bottom group, where a maximum of one in two students graduate within the expected standard period of study plus a couple of semesters. A considerable shift has also taken place in the subject of Computer Science: the 2003-2005 surveys showed that three-quarters of degree programmes ended up in the bottom group when it came to the study duration criteria; now, only 17 per cent of departments find themselves in this category.
At the same time, there has been less change at universities of applied sciences: in Architecture, the proportion of top group ratings rose from 59 to 64 per cent. No departments are in the bottom group any longer. In the subject of Social Work, which originally scored a high 77 per cent in the top group, this figure was even increased to 83 per cent.
Dr. Sonja Berghoff, Senior Expert for Empirical Methods at CHE, stated: “Although completion of a degree programme within the prescribed length of time depends to some extent on students’ individual circumstances, it is also contingent upon the general conditions governing the degree programme, such as the good organisation of studies, small study groups, and good academic feasibility. Many such aspects have traditionally been addressed at universities of applied sciences. As a result of the Bologna reform, universities also placed greater emphasis on such aspects, and some subjects have evidently undergone radical change.”
A comparison of the proportion of degrees completed within a reasonable timeframe at universities
How has the proportion of students who have completed their studies within a reasonable timeframe developed over time? This question is addressed in the CHE Blickpunkt publication entitled “20 Jahre CHE Hochschulranking: Studiendauer im Zeitvergleich” (20 years of CHE University Rankings: a comparison of study duration over time). The paper compares data from the pre-Bologna reform CHE University Ranking of Diplom degree programmes in the period 2003-2005 with Bachelor degree programmes in 2015-2017 in 11 subjects at universities and at universities of applied sciences. The indicator under consideration corresponds to the percentage of students on a degree programme who graduated within the standard period of study plus X semesters. “X” is an add-on to the standard period of study (as a signal that it is still reasonable to complete the programme in a slightly longer time than the standard period of study, e.g. due to periods studying abroad, side-stepping into other subjects, the completion of internships, etc.).
Further Information can be found in the publication stated below.