Part-time student rate declines slightly for the first time

On behalf of the CHE Centre for Higher Education Development, CHE Consult analysed the development of part-time study programmes in Germany. It covers the range of courses offered by HEIs and the demand from students. It turns out that part-time courses are still the exception at HEIs. Only every 14th student in Germany officially completes his studies part-time. Anyone looking for an alternative to full-time study has only a limited choice.

According to the Federal Statistical Office, 203,000 people in Germany did not officially study full-time in the 2017/18 winter semester. Part-time students currently account for 7.1 percent of all students. This is the first slight decline since 2000.


With 95,000 people, North Rhine-Westphalia accounts for about half of all part-time students. This means that about one in seven students between the Rhine and Ruhr rivers does not study to the full extent. Only Hamburg has an even higher rate of 20.7 percent, with two distance-learning universities specialising in part-time studies located there. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania has the same 12.3 percent as North Rhine-Westphalia. The Saarland is at the bottom of the league in a state comparison with only around 150 official part-time students and a part-time share of 0.5 per cent.


In real terms, the number of "de facto" part-time students who are enrolled in a full-time course but study less intensively and longer than planned is likely to be significantly higher, explains the CHE in the context of the results. "More and more people want to reconcile their academic education and training with family, career or other factors," explains Frank Ziegele. "The module structures that we have established since the Bologna reform make flexible part-time studies in Germany theoretically possible in any degree programme," says the CHE Managing Director. "The fact that now nevertheless the ratio of the part time students sinks for the first time in years is a precarious development.


According to co-author Cort-Denis Hachmeister, one reason for the low official figures for part-time studies is the general framework: "The biggest hurdle in part-time studies is still the lack of BAföG funding". In addition, there are different part-time rules for students depending on the university. "At state universities, explicit part-time study programmes are rarely specified, but often a part-time study programme must be applied for individually for each academic year with a corresponding justification.


At private universities, on the other hand, which often offer more time-flexible study programmes, those entitled to study may enrol for part-time studies without justification. For this reason, some federal states have numerous private universities, some with high student numbers, that specialise in flexible part-time study models.

However, the decline in the proportion of students in Germany who are officially enrolled part-time is probably also due to the small number of corresponding degree programmes on offer. According to the HRK Higher Education Compass, only every seventh degree programme in Germany is open to part-time students. The proportion of part-time degree programmes in the current winter semester 2019/20 is 13.9 per cent. It has risen slightly by 0.4 percentage points compared with the previous year.


At 65.7 per cent, Saarland has the highest proportion of study programmes with the possibility of part-time study. Hamburg and Brandenburg follow with 52.2 and 42.9 percent respectively. In six federal states, the proportion of part-time courses is less than 10 percent. Bremen is at the bottom of the league. In the city-state, only one in fifty courses can be completed to a lesser extent per semester.


At 15.8 percent, part-time courses at universities are somewhat more extensive than those at universities of applied sciences (13 percent). Also in the Master's area (16.7%), people who want to complete a course of study parallel to their profession have a greater choice than in the Bachelor's area (12.8%). In the social sciences, the part-time option exists in every fifth degree programme. At 5.9 percent, the lowest proportions are found in the subject groups of art, music and design.

The basis for the part-time offer rate is the data from the Hochschulkompass of the German Rectors' Conference for the winter semester 2019/20. The proportions of part-time students are based on data from the Federal Statistical Office for the winter semester 2017/18.





Lars Hüning+49 30 2332267-56Write e-mail