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Student life in Germany

This month, the German Student Services provider – Deutsches Studentenwerk (DSW) - has published the results of its 20th Social Survey, which explores how students in German higher education live, work, and study. In 2012, when this study was conducted, there were around 2.5 million students enrolled in German higher education institutions, which was a record high of 55% of the same-age entrants to higher education in the country’s institutions. The survey was conducted on a sample of 15 128 students via a questionnaire covering various aspects of student life. The 20th Social Survey focuses on ‘first-degree students’, who are in the study defined as follows:

“Students who have not yet completed a degree program are considered first-degree students. In addition, students whose first degree was a bachelor’s degree and who are currently enrolled in a master’s program are also regarded as first-degree students. The deciding factor is whether their degree program qualifies for assistance under the BAföG on the basis of continuation of the initial course of study at an institution of higher education (Section 7 [1a]) of the BAföG). Students with no academic degree who have been admitted to a master’s program based on their professional qualifications are also considered to be first-degree students.”

Below is a glimpse of student life in German institutions:

  • The average age of students at German institutions is 24.4 years 
  • 23% of the respondents have a migrant background
  • 6% are married and more than half live in what is in the report called ‘a committed relationship’. 5% of students have at least one child.  The most popular (or affordable) form of accommodation is flat-sharing and 29% of students live in such an arrangement, whereas only 10% live in a student residence hall. As much as 80% regularly go to a Studentenwerke dining hall or cafeteria. 
  • The average amount students live off on a monthly basis is 860 Euro. However, 25% have less than that at their disposal. The main expenditure is for the rent, almost EUR 300 per month. Students’ main sources of income are parental support, part-time jobs and federal grants and loans (BAFöG).

This study is among the many to confirm the relevance of parents’ educational background: 77 out of 100 children make it to university if their parents have an academic background. In families without academic education, this figure drops significantly - to only 23%. When it comes to further studies, nearly two-thirds of the students who decide to pursue doctoral degrees come from families with academic backgrounds (65 %), while more than half of those are from families where both parents hold academic degrees (36 %).

The DSW studies, conducted every third year (the previous one was in 2009), aim to support higher education policy making by providing a comprehensive account of the student experience - from housing to finances, family situation, cultural background and many other relevant factors that influence and make part of students’ lives in German higher education. 

20th Social Survey (English, PDF)

DSW information brochure: Studying in Germany today. The diversity of students (English, PDF)

Foreign students in Germany 2012  special report (English, PDF)