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News of 10.10.2019

Even greater diversity: a choice of more than 20,000 degree programmes in Germany

Never before have students in Germany been able to choose from such an extensive range of programmes. An analysis undertaken by the CHE Centre for Higher Education shows that the number of degree programmes on offer has increased significantly, particularly at postgraduate level and in the area of Health. This growth in diversity presents both opportunities and challenges to students.

The number of degree programmes offered at German higher education institutions has risen by 17 per cent since 2014. In May 2019, the Higher Education Compass – the information portal of the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) that publishes information about study opportunities – hit the 20,000 mark for the first time. Five years previously, around 17,000 programmes were available.

Half of all new degree programmes created since 2014 were established at a university. But the country’s universities of applied sciences had the highest percentage growth rates. Private providers in this area in particular increased the number of programmes they offered by almost 70 per cent. Taken as a whole, two-thirds of all new course options were postgraduate programmes (mostly Master’s programmes requiring completion of an undergraduate degree). In contrast, the choice of Bachelor and other undergraduate degree programmes available to prospective students grew only slightly by ten percentage points during the five-year period under review.

Jörg Dräger sees this trend as part of a natural evolution. “A diverse range of courses is required to meet the growing number and diversity of students,” explained the CHE Executive Director.

Universities of applied sciences are particularly keen to develop such new fields of higher education, and are opening their doors to new groups of students. One example is the subject of Business Psychology, introduced as an alternative to the extremely popular Psychology degrees that were once offered exclusively at universities. New study options also exist in the field of Health, one example being Nursing Science. CHE’s analysis shows that there are now around 40 per cent more degree programmes in Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences subjects than was the case in 2014.
Around a third of these new degree programmes address a particular part of a traditional scientific discipline, focusing, for example, on aspects of Business Administration such as “Marketing” or on specific application fields such as “Hotel Management”.

Approximately 13 per cent of the new degree programmes combine different subjects to create a hybrid degree – examples being Media Informatics and Medical Technology. Interdisciplinary degree programmes focusing on thematic issues such as the “environment” or “health” are also in vogue. Only one in five new degree programmes include in their title a traditional academic discipline such as “Chemistry” or “Physics”. Almost a third of new programmes have an English title.

“Modern challenges like climate change are also reflected in the names of new interdisciplinary programmes. As such, academics with qualifications in multiple subjects are now more in demand,” stated CHE Executive Director Jörg Dräger, highlighting the need for change with regard to programmes. Particularly in the case of early specialisation, however, it is essential to ensure that degrees facilitate the transition to various labour markets as well as to Master’s programmes.

Dräger also emphasised the importance of clearly reflecting the specialisation in the title of the degree programme and in texts describing the programme. “The diversity of degree programmes must not appear excessive in the eyes of prospective students and employers. What we need to ensure that they get to grips with the 20,000 or so degree programmes is good digital guidance services, and not standardised subject names,” stated Dräger. In this respect, CHE believes that the higher education institutions have a responsibility to present the content of their new subjects as accurately as possible in online guidance portals such as the HRK’s Higher Education Compass.

About the publication


The analysis was based on excerpts from the Higher Education Compass of the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) from the month of May in the years 2014 and 2019. Besides assessing the relevant data, the authors analysed the names of all new degree programmes launched in 2018 and 2019. The publication entitled “Die Vielfalt der Studiengänge 2019” (The diversity of degree programmes in 2019) was written by Cort-Denis Hachmeister and Jakob Grevers.


Further Information can be found in the publication stated below.

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Cort-Denis Hachmeister
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