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News of 25.09.2019

CHE analysis reveals striking differences between subjects concerning starting university

Every year, half a million first-year students embark on the “adventure of university“. A study undertaken recently by the CHE Centre for Higher Education examines how personally and intensively higher education institutions accompany and support their first-year intakes.

Tutorials, advisory interviews and virtual learning platforms: the extent to which first-year students are accompanied and supported when entering higher education depends largely on the subject in question. For instance, so-called preparatory or bridge courses are offered by virtually all higher education institutions (HEIs) in the STEM subjects, i.e. science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In the humanities, only one in two departments offer first-year students the option of refreshing their school-level knowledge before they embark on their chosen degree programme.

More than half of all departments now take individual measures, such as a personal early warning system, to help prevent students from dropping out of university. In contrast, only very few HEIs have adopted modern approaches for the self-evaluation of a student’s academic progress.

“A student’s entry to higher education is shown to be of crucial importance to his or her future academic success – or failure,“ explained Frank Ziegele. In light of the study findings, the CHE Executive Director comes to a positive conclusion: “When it comes to the induction period, universities and departments have taken the initiative, and have implemented and achieved many positive things in recent years.“

Now it is essential to expand these offers of information and support. After all, not only educational biographies, but also previous school and academic knowledge have never been more diverse. While HEIs offer a wide range of support for students during the induction period, they have yet to initiate changes enabling students to pursue their degree programmes with greater flexibility. For example, many first-year students would cope better if they had the option of proceeding at their own pace.

The CHE analysis found that HEIs focus more on voluntary measures rather than on compulsory support. For example, advisory interviews are a compulsory part of the study programme in only one in ten of the departments analysed.

Unsurprisingly, departments and HEIs are rather reluctant to offer costly or labour-intensive measures to assist students starting out at university. For example, less than one in two universities of applied sciences have a coordinator specifically for the induction period.

“The problem is that, until now, new offers and positions relating to study orientation have been financed mainly from temporary funding options such as the Quality Pact for Teaching,“ explained CHE Executive Director Frank Ziegele. New models for entering university that have proven their worth in practice should be established on a permanent basis and financed using reliable sources. To achieve this, however, it is necessary to evaluate and analyse the effectiveness of individual support, advisory and orientation services in the future.

About the study:
On behalf of the CHE Centre for Higher Education, CHE Consult has analysed the orientation, information and advisory services offered to first-year students during the induction period at HEIs in Germany. The analysis included offers from the following areas: orientation, skills alignment and development, flexibilisation, and personal support. The study was based on data from the CHE University Ranking. The information, based on surveys conducted within the CHE University Ranking between 2015 and 2017, includes data from 1,624 departments at 246 HEIs in Germany. The analysis evaluates the number of offers available during the induction period, but is unable to provide any information about the quality of the measures offered. The study entitled “Orientierung und Unterstützung zum Studieneingang“ (Orientation and support for university entrants) was written by Lukasz Hill and Olivia Key.


Further Information can be found in the publication stated below.

Publication in relation to this news
  • Hill, Lukasz; Key, Olivia: Orientierung und Unterstützung zum Studieneingang, Gütersloh, CHE Centrum für Hochschulentwicklung, 53 Seiten,
    ISBN 978-3-947793-26-6,
    ISSN 1862-7188

Printable version

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