CHE study: the nearest higher education institution is no more than 59 kilometres away

The rapid growth in Germany’s student population has led to an increasing number of HEI sites. An analysis conducted by the CHE Centre for Higher Education reveals: one of the main reasons for this high-density coverage is the establishment of new university of applied sciences sites. CHE Consult contributed to the study by creating visualisations and providing interactive graphics via the “Tableau” software program.

More than half of Germany’s 619 HEI sites (as in 2016) were only established as we know them today over the last 25 years. Most of the new main sites were established in Berlin (in 28 cases), and in Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia (27 each). Many of the new HEI sites were established in major cities and conurbations where universities already existed, notably in Berlin and Hamburg, as well as in Cologne, Munich and Stuttgart. And yet, according to the CHE study, less urban regions have also benefited from this development. More than one third of all new sites were created in districts and in towns not attached to an administrative district where higher education was not previously offered.

According to CHE, the large number of sites means that prospective students in Germany need travel no more than 59 kilometres, as the crow flies, to get to an HEI. Every inhabitant of Thuringia, North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse is no more than 40 kilometres from the nearest HEI, as the crow flies.
Universities of applied sciences are mainly responsible for the considerable increase in the number of sites. In fact, 84 per cent of all sites created between 1991 and 2016 were related to this type of HEI. This development was dominated primarily by non-state institutions, which set up numerous secondary sites. While private universities of applied sciences had only four secondary sites in 1990, this figure had increased to 116 by 2016. Sites run by churches play a minor role in this development.

The CHE Centre for Higher Education teamed up with CHE Consult to analyse the expansion of HEI sites in Germany. The study involved analysing data from the Higher Education Compass, provided by the German Rectors’ Conference, and the CHE University Ranking, as well as conducting own research. The figures given illustrate Germany’s higher education landscape in 2016. The study focused on analysing the establishment of new sites by HEI type and funding body at the federal state and district level. Postal regions served as the basis for determining the maximum distance to the nearest HEI site.


The publication “Im Blickpunkt: Hochschulbildung wird zum Normalfall − auch in räumlicher Hinsicht? − Eine Analyse zur Ausbreitung der Hochschulstandorte seit 1990” (In the spotlight: Higher education is becoming the norm – also geographically? − An analysis of the expansion of HEI sites since 1990) is part of the CHE priority theme “Higher education is becoming the norm”.



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