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News vom 14.05.2007

Transition to two-cycle degree structures: Impulses for more flexible capacity planning

In 2001, CHE put forward proposals for overcoming the rigidities and over-complexities of traditional German capacity law (“Kapazitätsverordnung”), which regulates the planning of study places in Germany. CHE called for higher degrees of freedom for higher education institutions (HEIs) to set teacher-student ratios and student numbers according to the profiles of their degree programmes. The transition to Bachelor and Masters programmes has created additional pressure on the traditional practices. A new CHE study shows: In the meantime, quite a lot has happened. First moves into the right direction were taken.

Overall, all Länder find themselves confronted with a difficult goal conflict: They want to offer a sufficient supply of study places for undergraduate degrees, provide attractive Masters programmes, and assure that students are well looked after in both undergraduate and graduate programmes. In times of high student demand – as Germany will be facing in the next few years – this trade-off is particularly difficult. The study shows that most countries give priority to ensuring a more or less constant number of undergraduate study places when making the transition to the Bachelor-Masters structure.

At the same time, they try to improve the quality of student tutoring within the limits set by the context of austerity. Only limited scope remains for offering Masters programmes. This is also because the total study time to the Masters level has increased to five years as compared to the previous system. The goal conflict therefore can hardly be solved without additional resources; however some Länder are trying to give their HEIs more flexibility in administering the scarcety.

Towards this end, most Länder turn to so-called “Bandwidth models” (Bandbreitenmodelle) for teacher-student ratios. However, better teacher-student ratios in one degree programme have to be compensated by a deterioration in other areas in this model. Also, the reforms remain within the traditional understanding of German capacity law. An “agreement model” (Vereinbarungsmodell), which would implement a new logic of capacity planning, is only seriously being considered in Hamburg so far.

CHE sees scope and need for development in three directions:

(1) The consistent implementation of a combination of student- or graduate-based funding with management by contracts (Zielvereinbarungen) could replace the current capacity regulations (Kapazitätsverordnungen) from a steering perspective. A decidedly demand-oriented institutional funding would create strong incentives for HEIs to create more study places. At the same time, HEIs would have the possibility to improve the quality of degree programmes by deciding upon programme-specific teacher-student ratios themselves.

(2) In addition, from a legal perspective a new evaluation of the constitutional court seems to be a necessary condition for even more far reaching reforms. Such a judgement could be triggered by the advance of one Land.

(3) At the same time, more funding for teaching and learning is indispensable so that degrees of freedom for HEIs in favour of higher quality of teaching and learning are not used at the expense of the number of study places.

The CHE working paper is based on document analysis and a series of interviews with the representatives responsible for capacity planning in the ministries in charge of higher education of the 16 Länder conducted between July 2006 and January 2007. It was written by Johanna Witte and Thimo von Stuckrad.


Further Information can be found in the publication stated below.

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