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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Support measures for learners in higher education


12.Educational support and guidance

12.5Support measures for learners in higher education

Last update: 2 April 2024

Definition of the Target Group(s)

Germany has, within the framework of the Bologna Process, committed to the social require-ment that students entering higher education, participating in higher education and completing a degree should, at all levels, reflect the composition of the population at large. Given the growing need for highly qualified higher education graduates, and their better-than-average labour market and career opportunities, there is therefore a need to overcome social barriers and facilitate equal participation for previously underrepresented groups.

Hitherto underrepresented groups in the German higher education system include women (in certain groups of subjects and amongst scientific staff), students with children, students with disabilities and chronic illnesses, children from low-income or educationally disadvantaged origin groups, and students with a migrant background.

Specific Support Measures

With a view to ensuring the equal participation of the sexes, the distribution in various subject groups and its consequences for social development (school sector, MINT subjects), has to be followed up on. At many higher education institutions, gender commissioners or offices support the promotion of gender equality.

For students with children higher education institutions and student support organisatins offer places in child care, either through their own child-care services or with the support of other providers. More than half of the places available are for children under the age of three. Many student support organisations (Studierendenwerke) supplement the classic care offers with care provision outside standard operating times, at the weekend and in holiday periods, and flexible short-term care arrangements. For questions relating to the compatibility and funding of study and family life, student support organisations have set up advisory and information services (e.g. family offices). Other support measures include the provision of special housing for students with children, playrooms, baby-changing rooms and nursing rooms, and children’s equipment and eating areas in student cafeterias. When setting up family-friendly study conditions the higher education institutions cooperate with local authorities and other higher education institutions, inter alia within in the framework of the audit familiengerechte hochschule (“family-friendly university” audit).

Under the Framework Act for Higher Education (Hochschulrahmengesetz – HRG) and the Länder legislation on higher education, the higher education institutions are responsible for ensuring that students with disabilities are not disadvantaged and can take up courses without assistance where possible. The examination regulations must take account of the particular requirements of students with disabilities in order to ensure equal opportunities. Advocates representing the needs of students with disabilities, and lobbies for students with disabilities have an important function as an intermediary between the students and the higher education institution's governing boards. Most student support organisations (Studierendenwerke) also offer advice for students with a disability or chronic illness. In April 2009 the German Rectors’ Conference (Hochschulrektorenkonferenz – HRK) adopted a recommendation on study with a disability or chronic illness.

Information on support measures for students from low-income families may be found in the section on the financing of the tertiary sector.

Special promotion opportunities for foreign students in training programmes and pro-grammes for gifted students have been expanded in recent years. For example, foreign students who only live in Germany with a temporary residence permit for humanitarian reasons or with mere acquiescence have been granted access to training assistance after 15 months (instead of four years as before) by amending the Federal Training Assistance Act (Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz – BAföG). Private foundations are also increasingly becoming involved in supporting young people with a migrant background.

The promotion of underrepresented social groups in the education system is achieved through a number of measures which aim to overcome social obstacles and enable equal participation. At the level of the system as a whole these include, inter alia, efforts to ensure success at school for all social groups, or the implementation of the National Integration Plan (Nationaler Integrationsplan) adopted in 2007, which contains measures to promote young people with a migrant background or non-German language of origin at all stages of education and training and was substantiated in January 2012 through the National Action Plan for Integration (Nationaler Aktionsplan Integration). The stipulations made in the context of the Federal Government’s National Action Plan to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Nationaler Aktionsplan der Bundesregierung zur Umsetzung des Übereinkommens der Vereinten Nationen über die Rechte von Menschen mit Behinderung) are also to be viewed in this connection.

In the higher education sector, measures to promote underrepresented social groups include the following:

  • The Professorinnenprogramm (women professors programme) of the Federation and Länder contributes to an increase in the number of female professors at institutions of higher education towards parity; another central goal of the programme is to sustainably strengthen the equal opportunities structures at institutions of higher education through specific measures; 
  • within the framework of the alliance for Women in MINT (mathematics, IT, natural sciences and technology) professions (Nationaler Pakt für Frauen in MINT-Berufen), the share of new female entrants and female graduates in natural science and technical professions is also to be increased;
  • The BMBF has launched three funding guidelines to provide impetus for greater gender equality and to set the course for parity between women and men in science and research: "Innovative Women in Focus" (‘Innovative Frauen im Fokus‘ – IFIF), "Mission MINT - Women Shaping the Future" (‘Mission MINT – Frauen gestalten Zukunft‘) and "Gender Aspects in Focus" (‘Geschlechteraspekte im Blick‘ – GiB).
  • As part of the BMBF-funded initiative of the German Rectors' Conference (Hochschulrektorenkonferenz – HRK) "Diversity at German higher education institutions" (‘Vielfalt an deutschen Hochschulen’, higher education insitutions are supported in the further development of holistic diversity concepts.
  • the Network “Pathways to Study” (Netzwerk “Wege ins Studium”) is carrying out an in-formation campaign to increase the propensity to study;
  • the needs of students in special circumstances are to be considered in terms of admission to study, workload and examinations including, inter alia, as part of the accreditation of study courses and the system accreditation of entire higher education institutions;
  • at the recommendation of the Standing Conference the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung – BMBF) has since 1982 been promoting the information and advisory service for study and disability (Informationsstelle Studium und Behinderung – IBS) at the German Student Services Association (Deutsches Studierendenwerk); the information and advisory service has served for a number of years as the competence centre for students with health concerns, and is regarded  by all stakeholders in German higher education as the competent German authority with specialist expertise (;
  • the financing of the additional costs which arise for students with disabilities in connection with study and living costs (“disability-related additional study needs”), is to be ensured by adapting the social security regulations to modern educational pathways;
  • higher education institutions are to be made aware of the specific needs of students in special circumstances;
  • study organisation should be made more flexible and part-time study programmes expanded.