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News vom 22.03.2017

Increasing numbers of people are studying on basis of their vocational qualification in German higher education institutions

Normally students in German higher education institutions are possessing a diploma from a secondary school like the Abitur (A-level-degree). But since 2009 it is also possible to enroll at a university or university of applied science on basis of a vocational training certificate. The number of this group of students has now reached a new peak of around 51,000. Most of these students are pursuing Bachelor studies; Master’s programmes are less popular as yet. There are considerable differences in the increase in the number of first-year students without Abitur between eastern and western Germany. These findings were established recently by the CHE Centre for Higher Education.

In 2015, around 51,000 people without Abitur studied at German higher education institutions (HEIs). In percentage terms, however, this new record high has no effect on overall enrolment figures. The percentage of first-year students without the traditional academic higher education entrance qualification among all freshmen in Germany has decreased slightly compared to the previous year, by around 0.3 percentage points to 2.5 per cent. But one extremely positive development becomes evident when looking at the number of degrees completed: 1.3 per cent of all university graduates in Germany have successfully completed their studies without a previous Abitur. This is also a new record in this context compared to the previous year.

Sigrun Nickel welcomes the latest results. The Head of Higher Education Research at CHE explained: “Graduate data show that a successful completion of studies is also possible without Abitur. Against all negative predictions, the number of university graduates who have entered higher education via a professional career has continuously increased in recent years, and now stands at around 6,200.” A total of some 25,000 students who entered a university or a university of applied sciences without the traditional entrance qualification earned an academic degree between 2010 and 2015.

At the federal state level, there are still considerable differences in developments of this trend in eastern and western Germany. While in western Germany the number of first-year students has fallen slightly, eastern German states such as Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and Saxony were able to open their doors to considerably more first-year students holding a vocational qualification. Nevertheless, the federal states with the highest percentage of first-year students without Abitur in Germany are still Hamburg, North Rhine-Westphalia and Berlin.

The most popular HEIs for students without Abitur are universities of applied sciences. With a total of around 29,000 students, universities of applied sciences were able to welcome the largest number of holders of a vocational qualification throughout Germany. A similar picture emerges regarding the number of first-year students. In 2015, around 7,400 first-year students holding a vocational qualification opted for an academic education at an application-oriented HEI, around 5,000 for studies at a university and around 150 entered a school of fine arts.

The results also show that students without Abitur clearly prefer Bachelor’s programmes. Only 7 per cent of all students without a traditional academic higher education entrance qualification embarked on a Master’s programme. However, among the entire student population in Germany, one in four opted for this type of programme. It is remarkable that as many as 24 postgraduate Master’s programmes are already available in Germany that require neither an Abitur qualification nor a Bachelor degree. “These options are intended for those highly qualified in their profession, for example with management position experience. For this reason, it is a quite small and exclusive segment in the area of academic continuing education,” explained CHE expert Sigrun Nickel.

When selecting a subject, more than half of the first-year students opted for law, economics and social sciences (54.1 per cent), followed by engineering sciences (19.5 per cent) and medicine or health sciences (10.7 per cent). The institution where the most first-year students without a higher education entrance qualification are enrolled is the FernUniversität in Hagen (16.5 per cent).

The minimum requirement for applying for a place at a university or a university of applied sciences without the traditional entrance qualification is a completed apprenticeship and proof of relevant professional experience. Prospective students in Germany can choose from almost 7,000 degree programmes.

For detailed information, please visit the online study guide at The site also provides all recent data calculated by the CHE Centre for Higher Education based on information provided by the Federal Statistical Office for the year 2015. The website offers prospective students without a traditional academic higher education entrance qualification detailed information about admission options to HEIs and available degree programmes. The internet platform now also offers a number of interactive data tools that enable users to select and display data tailored to their interests.

Further Information can be found in the publication stated below.

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