Students drop out in scramble for jobs

July 7, 1995

Poor graduate job prospects rather than dissatisfaction with universities is the main reason for Germany's alarmingly high student drop-out rate, a government-commissioned report concludes.

A report by the higher education statistics agency, HIS, found that 600,000 students (31 per cent) quit their studies in the 1993/94 year - more than double the drop-out rate of 20 years ago.

Most ex-students said a mixture of factors had contributed to their decision to quit. The most common reason was alienation with their studies (73 per cent, followed by criticism of teaching organisation (63 per cent), the belief that their job prospects were just as good without a degree (53 per cent). Long study times, lack of finance, difficulties with the work and family reasons were also decisive factors. But despite growing criticism of overcrowding in German universities, Karl Lewin, one of the authors of the report, said it was not the universities' fault that students dropped out but a practical response to their career chances.

"Students who finished their degrees were just as critical of university structures, sometimes more so than people who drop out, which suggests this is not a decisive factor in people's decisions to leave.

"Students increasingly work part-time to finance their studies and once they have entered the employment market, many are offered full-time jobs and decide to take the chance while they can," he said.

His report, a representative sample of university and Fachhochschule students in the east and west, supports his view. Three-quarters of drop outs had found jobs within six months of giving up studying and on average were earning only a little less than graduates (between Pounds 1,590 and Pounds 2,0).

Nearly a third had completed a vocational training before entering higher education. Mr Lewin said the high drop-out rate should not necessarily be seen as failure of the system or the students but as an reasonable response to the development of the economy.

But he admitted the sharp rise in the drop-out statistics in the past 20 years was cause for concern. "Students would probably benefit from more advice choosing their courses of study to meet up to their expectations. And shorter study times would also encourage more to stick it out," he said.

Studienabbruch by Karl Lewin unt al. (Hochschul-Informations-System, Hannover, 1995)

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