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The German higher education sector is enjoying another year of strong growth, with the number of students enrolled in German universities and colleges hitting a new all-time high. New figures released by the Federal Statistical Office on November 25 show enrolment in the winter semester 2015/2016 reached 2.759 million, surpassing the previous high from the winter semester 2014/2015 by 60 400 (+2.2%). Of those, 1.755 million (63.6%) were enrolled in universities and 932 500 (33.8%) were studying at universities of applied sciences. Despite the upward trend in the overall number of students, the academic year 2015 (summer semester and winter semester) saw the first-year enrolment slightly drop to 503 600 by 0.2% compared to the previous year.
The suspension of compulsory military service and demand for higher education have been the main factors driving the growing student numbers in the recent years. In order to cope with the increased demand for university places, in 2007 the Federal Government and the states established the Higher Education Pact 2020, a joint financial framework for funding additional study places. According to the German Rectors' Conference (HRK), the second phase of the programme, running from 2011 to 2015, expected 245 000 additional new students compared to 2005. In reality, the number of additional students has now surpassed 720 000. Commenting on the new figures released by the Federal Statistical Office, Professor Dr. Horst Hippler, President of HRK, said more funding was needed for future additional students.