CHE analysis shows large differences in subjects when entering university

On behalf of the CHE Centre for Higher Education Development, CHE Consult has analysed the orientation, information and advisory services for first-year students in the introductory phase of their studies at German HEIs. The study includs offers from the following areas: orientation, competence alignment and development, flexibilisation and personal support. Every year, half a million first-semester students start their "adventure of studying". The current study examines how personally and intensively they are accompanied and supported by their universities.

Whether tutorials, consultations or virtual learning platforms: The extent to which first-year students are accompanied and supported when starting their studies depends strongly on the subject in question. In subjects from the MINT spectrum - i.e. mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology - there are so-called pre- or bridging courses almost everywhere. In the humanities, only every second subject area offers the opportunity to refresh school knowledge before starting studies.

More than half of all subject areas now rely on individual measures such as a personal early warning system to avoid drop out. In contrast, modern approaches to the individual assessment of one's own academic progress have so far only been available at a few universities.

"It has been proven that the entry into higher education is of great importance for the later success - or failure," explains Frank Ziegele, Managing Director of the Centre for Higher Education Development. In view of the results of the study, he draws a positive conclusion: "The universities and faculties have taken the initiative in the introductory phase and have implemented and achieved many positive things in recent years."

The expansion of information and support services is of central importance right now. After all, the diversity of educational biographies as well as previous school and academic knowledge is more diverse than ever before. While the universities offer a wide range of support for students entering university, they still change too little about the flexibility of their studies. For example, it would be even more feasible for more students to start their studies at their own pace.

According to the CHE analysis, the universities are focusing on voluntary rather than compulsory support. For example, counselling interviews are only an obligatory part of the course of study for every tenth department examined. Unsurprisingly, departments and universities tend to hold back on cost-intensive or personnel-intensive measures. Not even every second university of applied sciences has a coordinator specifically for the introductory phase.

"The problem is that new offers and positions in the field of study orientation have so far been financed predominantly from temporary funds, such as the Quality Pact for Teaching," says Ziegele. New models for incoming students, which have proven their worth in practice, should be permanently established and reliably financed. To this end, however, an evaluation and analysis of the effectiveness of individual support, counselling and orientation services would be absolutely necessary in the future.

The study was based on data from the CHE Ranking. The data are based on surveys conducted as part of the CHE Ranking between 2015 and 2017 and include data from 1,624 departments at 246 German Higher Education Institutions. However, the analysis evaluates the number of courses on offer at the beginning of the study phase and cannot make any statements about the respective quality of the measures. Lukasz Hill and Olivia Key are the authors of the study.





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