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02/22/2017

Greater diversity on campus: five factors of success of private higher education institutions

The publication “Erfolgsgeheimnisse privater Hochschulen” (The secrets behind the success of private higher education institutions) provides an overview of the development of private higher education institutions, the types that exist, and the concepts they apply. It also describes the structure of their student body. Jens Engelke, one of the authors of the study and Senior Project Manager at CHE Consult, stated: “In Germany, private higher education institutions are generally better at addressing new target groups among students than state institutions.” According to the author, the crucial factors are individual service and course provision, combined with course content that is highly relevant to graduates’ professional practice.

In addition to the traditional group of childless school leavers pursuing full-time study, the proportion of what is referred to as atypical groups in higher education is growing. Atypical groups include students with children, students who have already completed an apprenticeship, and part-time students. In Germany, private higher education institutions are much more successful at addressing these new target groups than state institutions.


A qualitative analysis conducted by CHE has revealed a recurring pattern among higher education institutions that lead the way in this field. According to the analysis, there are five factors of success in recruiting atypical students, namely:

  • Market orientation, including the targeted provision of specialist courses in niche markets
  • Practical orientation, involving appropriate preparation for professional life
  • Target orientation, featuring a clear communication of how the degree will create added value in employment
  • Student orientation, featuring individual subject-related and multidisciplinary support and
  • Needs orientation, featuring individual programmes that can be taken part-time or at the weekend.

The CHE publication concludes that, needless to say, state universities also manage to apply one or more of these factors of success. And yet, as the authors see it, the key to success is the consistent dovetailing and coordinated combination of all five factors. However, private higher education institutions that have managed to attract atypical students do not simply focus on single measures, but offer an entire package of tailormade seminar offers, including a personal study mentor.


The study is based on a qualitative survey of five selected private higher education institutions that are demonstrably excellent at recruiting atypical students. The institutions surveyed were the Mediadesign Hochschule in Berlin, FOM University of Applied Sciences in Essen, Steinbeis University Berlin, DIPLOMA University of Applied Sciences in Bad Sooden-Allendorf and the Euro-FH University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg. The publication, written by Jens Engelke, Ulrich Müller and Ronny Röwert, is part of the CHE priority theme “Higher education is becoming the norm”.

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