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Germany: ‘eternal students’ become a threatened species

According to a survey conducted by the German higher education think tank CHE, the introduction of the two-cycle Bologna degree system has led to shorter periods to graduation, as reported by Michael Gardner in the World University News. 

In Germany’s at the time hotly debated 1976 higher education act, the Regelstudienzeit (standard period of study) was introduced. For a long time, the Regelstudienzeit was a spectacular ‘misnomer’, since Germany’s students often studied for much longer than the time foreseen.  At least in public perception, the country’s universities were full of ‘eternal students’. This appears to have changed for the better. 

The CHE study compares the de facto duration of studies (time to graduation) of the age cohorts 2003 to 2005 with those of 2015 to 2017. The main result: It was easier for recent cohort of students to finish within the Regelstudienzeit or, anyway, a reasonable time span than for the earlier one 15 years ago. 

Improvements were more marked in the sector of research-intensive universities (wissenschaftliche Hochschulen) than in the Fachhochschulen (universities of applied science). But then, time to graduation at the Fachhochschulen never went so far beyond the Regelstudienzeit than at classical universities. The share of departments in mathematics where students graduated in the period of Regelstudienzeit plus two semesters was 75% , whereas it had in 2003 to 2005 been 18%. The respective shares in education studies were 53% and 19%. In civil engineering, the share in 2003 to 2005 was 0%, whereas it is now 29%.