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News vom 07.07.2009

Proud of variety? CHE Consult examines diversity regulations for higher education institutions (HEIs) in Germany’s neighbouring countries

In a globalised education market, society becomes increasingly more heterogeneous - its diversity rises. This also affects the student body, which today is already showing far greater variety than 20 years ago. HEIs still don’t reflect the more colourful and heterogeneous picture of the society in general, however. In Germany, this is mainly due to the distinctive selectivity of the education system, which leads, for example, to the fact that although people with a migrational background already produce 50% of newborn children in the cities, only about 5% of the students at HEIs have a migrational background.

The recently published study on diversity management examines the issue of the different regulations and conditions in Germany’s neighbouring countries in relation to two aspects:
firstly with respect to the large numbers of school leavers, the authors where interested in which countries in particular see German students as a target group. Secondly the study lists numerous examples of good practice, which can be helpful for German HEIs.

The findings therefore form part of the central topic of “diversity management”, which the CHE considers the central steering mechanism in the years to come. On the basis of this, HEIs can react appropriately to the increasing variety in the social, economic, gender-specific, cultural, religious and other requirements of the student body, and should therefore even be able to increase the study success rates, because the concept includes the idea that diversity and variety should not be seen as an enrichment rather than a deficit.

The findings show that diversity is understood differently in the countries and has a very different emphasis. This is why legal regulations and their implementation differ considerably in European countries and are reflected in existing practices.

The main focus of the European Union is still on the aspect of gender equality. This is somewhat surprising given that the EU programmes make a much wider demand and also emphasise lifelong learning or the support of cultural diversity, for example.

Some countries focus particularly strongly on certain aspects, for example the Czech Republic in terms of students with disabilities, or France, which puts the main focus on anti-discrimination and "Ouverture Sociale". Sometimes these regulations are not implemented to a great extent, however.

On the other hand, other countries quite obviously see diversity as one of their strengths. This list includes, for example, Denmark, Switzerland or the Netherlands, where the authors found a structured system that also includes the HEIs, while other countries run a rather reserved diversity policy, for example Poland.

It is also noteworthy that none of the countries examined consider German students as a special target group, something that could be expected given the geographic proximity. In border regions of course, for example Dutch universities close to the border, there are active recruitment efforts to attract German school leavers, but national trends or even strategies could not be found.

In summary: German HEIs and ministries can learn a lot from neighbouring countries in individual areas of activity of diversity management. Neighbouring countries, on the other hand, still have a great potential for “winning” German students – which would certainly be an interesting option in the coming years given the large number of students expected, and might later be a promising concept as a result of the demographic change in their own countries, as they could then fish in their neighbour’s bigger pond.

Further Information can be found in the publication stated below.

Publication in relation to this news
  • Brandenburg, Uwe; De Ridder, Daniela; Seifert, Stefanie; Schwerdtfeger, Ruth: Diversity in neighbouring countries of Germany, Gütersloh, Eigenverlag,
    ISBN 978-3-939589-90-7,
    ISSN 1862-7188

Printable version

Britta Hoffmann-Kobert
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