Part-time study is still not commonplace

The CHE Centre for Higher Education commissioned CHE Consult to analyse the development of part-time study options in Germany. The issue of part-time study is not yet established, unlike part-time employment. Only 7.2 per cent of all students officially study part-time at present. In total, only 13.5 per cent of all degree programmes can also be pursued on a part-time basis.

Germany’s federal state with the highest rate of part-time students is Hamburg. Around one fifth of the student population in this city-state do not study full-time. One of the reasons for this is that Hamburg has two private open universities, and the majority of the students enrolled at both these institutions (around 17,000 in total) study part-time. Saarland has the lowest rate of part-time students (0.4 per cent).

According to the latest Social Survey on behalf of the Deutsches Studentenwerk, however, the rate of “de facto” part-time students, who are enrolled on full-time programmes but take on smaller workloads, may well be much higher. According to these figures, the workload tackled by students is much smaller than the stipulated level in the case of around one in three students. Figures provided by the Federal Statistical Office show that only 40 per cent of students completed their degree programmes within the standard period of study in 2014.

For this reason, CHE believes there is an enormous need for a transition to flexible periods of study, a need that is not met by formal part-time study. The proportion of students who hat to effectively combine their studies with family life, professional commitments or other factors would be steadily growing. The framework conditions in place for part-time study would fail to take this into account, summarises CHE Executive Director Frank Ziegele.

The small proportion of students in Germany officially pursuing part-time study may also have something to do with the fact that there are only a few suitable degree programmes on offer. According to data from the Higher Education Compass, provided by the German Rectors’ Conference, only one in eight degree programmes in Germany are also open to students wishing to study on a part-time basis. 13.5 per cent of the degree programmes currently on offer this winter semester 2018/19 are part-time programmes. This figure represents a slightly increase of 0.7 per cent compared to the previous year.

The highest percentage of part-time programmes is offered in Saarland (64.5 per cent). Next comes Hamburg (53.3 per cent), followed by Brandenburg (36.8 per cent). The proportion of part-time study options was less than 10 per cent in six federal states. At the bottom of the table is Bremen, where only one in fifty degree programmes can be studied with a reduced workload each semester.

Altogether, the proportion of part-time options at universities (16 per cent) is slightly higher than that at universities of applied sciences (11.5 per cent). Those wishing to study while in employment, for example, have a wider choice of programmes at the Master’s level (16.7 per cent) than at the Bachelor stage (11.8 per cent).

One fifth of all humanities and social sciences degree programmes can be studied part-time, as is also almost the case for linguistics and cultural studies, and medicine and health sciences.

In light of these findings, CHE calls for the further development of part-time study to give students maximum flexibility to study when it suits them. One such improvement would be to amend the existing rules concerning BAföG (student grants), which until now has ruled out the awarding of grants for part-time students.

The analysis included courses offered by HEIs, student demand for part-time programmes, an analysis of the legal framework and a random sample of the provision of information on the websites of sixty HEIs in Germany.

The rate of part-time programmes on offer is based on data contained in the Higher Education Compass provided by the German Rectors’ Conference for winter semester 2018/19. The percentages of part-time students are based on information provided by the Federal Statistical Office for winter semester 2016/17.


  • The most important information about the topic, checklists and a commented link list can be found here
  • The working paper for download


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