German universities expand support services for first-year students

The Local Germany
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German universities expand support services for first-year students
The fountain outside of Munich's prestigious Ludwig Maximilian University. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Andreas Gebert

Universities and colleges in Germany are increasingly offering their first-year students help for a successful start, according to a new report from the Bertelsmann Foundation.


Four out of five faculties currently offer preparatory or bridge courses for first-semester students, the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHE), a subsidiary of the subsidiary of the Bertelsmann Foundation, announced in Gütersloh on Thursday. 

This is an increase of 12 percentage points compared to the last evaluation in 2021 for the "CHECK University Admission and Study Entrance in Germany" report.

Almost all of the universities offered support for mathematics and science programmes, the authors said.

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Part of the push to expand services was a reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw many universities decrease their offerings as classes migrated increasingly online.

"Politicians, schools and society have rightly demanded that special attention be paid to the Covid-19 strains and possible gaps in the curriculum of the past Abitur cohorts at the start of their studies,” said CHE Managing Director Frank Ziegelein a statement. 

“The universities have met this responsibility by expanding their support services.”

Bridging courses, tutorial programmes or individual study planning have become obligatory for German universities, he said.

Universities have also made improvements in the early detection of problems during studies, according to the evaluation. In 2021, 81 percent of the approximately 1,800 departments offered counselling on individual study planning. Two years later, in 2023, the figure reached 94 percent.

According to the evaluation, the Abitur grade - or the score on a final test which students take at the end of their Gymnasium studies - plays an increasingly minor role in access to a degree programme.

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Whereas in the winter semester 2013/2014, more than every second Bachelor's degree programme had an admission restriction (52 percent), this will only apply to 38 percent in the upcoming winter semester 2023/2024.

In its 2023 Best Countries ranking, US News and World Report named Germany the third best country for higher education. 

“The United States, United Kingdom and Germany were the only three countries viewed by a majority of respondents as having top-quality universities,” according to the news organisation.

“These same three countries also topped the list of where respondents would consider attending university.”

READ ALSO: Germany ranked '7th best country in the world' in 2023


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