Expert report on redesigning the early study phase

CHE Consult has prepared an expert report in collaboration with the “nexus” project of the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK). The report is based on a systematic analysis of model approaches for designing the early study phase, and describes best-practice examples and their success factors. The report also contains proposals for designing additional programmes.

The design of the early study phase has increased in importance due to the many newly introduced degree programmes that place a wide variety of demands on students. In addition, heterogeneity among first-year students has increased as a result of more open higher education institutions. “With our proposals concerning the design of new models, we seek to help improve study conditions,” stated co-author Lukasz Hill from CHE Consult. “In light of this, it is important that higher education institutions first precisely analyse which challenges their students have to face in their respective early study phases, and develop suitable support measures accordingly.”

The core element of the report is a typology of redesigned early study phases. “We developed the typology from a list of characteristics in the form of a morphological chart,” explained CHE Consult’s Olivia Key, who conceptualised the study. The types described differ with regard to the central objective of the models and further characteristics such as curricular entrenchment or duration.

In total, there are six different types. While the purpose of Type A is to improve study orientation in the sense of organisational support, Type B aims to enhance technical orientation. Type C focuses on efforts to free up time, while Type D seeks to smooth out any deficits identified. Types E and F address the development of skills and student motivation respectively.

CHE Consult assessed a range of relevant studies, evaluations, project documentations and conference contributions, which enabled the team to prepare the typology and to identify factors of success. The documents assessed came from the Innovative Early Study Phase project, developed by the Heinz Nixdorf Foundation and the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft; the project database of the “Quality Pact for Teaching” of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF); the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft’s “Handbuch Studienerfolg”; and “Committed Universities”, a publication by the HRK. Structured expert interviews provided a basis for the analysis of sample approaches to reform.

The nexus project is funded by the BMBF. The tasks and objectives of the project are to support higher education institutions in further developing degree programmes and enhancing academic quality. The project focuses mainly on: optimisation of the early study phase, promotion of mobility during studies, and transition to the labour market.



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