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News of 25.09.2018

Students make less use of cars to get to university

As semester begins, Germany’s nearly three million students will be making their way to university more often again. In this regard, the car is diminishing in importance as a mode of transport: only a quarter of students now drive to their higher education institution on a regular basis. Back in 2003, one in three students commuted to their alma mater by car. Public transport is particularly popular among students in major cities, now used by more than 80 per cent of the student population in some cases. Greifswald and Münster are still excellently positioned as bike-friendly cities. A current analysis of the CHE University Ranking sheds light on the modes of transport used by students to commute to university by comparing data from the years 2003 and 2018.

Local public transport was the number one mode of transport for students back in 2003, and remains so to this day. In fact, the proportion of users in the period under consideration even increased by an average of three percentage points, and now stands at 56 per cent. More than 80 per cent of students use buses, trams and trains to get to their alma mater in large cities such as Berlin, Hamburg and Munich, but also in smaller cities such as Essen and Bochum.

A major change in the number of motorists is apparent over time. While in 2003 a good one-third of students (36%) stated that they normally commuted to university by car, nowadays this is only the case with one in four students (25%). This overall trend is also apparent at individual university locations such as Ulm, for example, where car usage has declined by more than 20 percentage points, whereas the use of public transport has increased by around 18 percentage points. The majority of students in smaller university locations such as Diepholz, Wetzlar, Iserlohn, Minden and Bernburg commute to university by car (over 80% in each case).
Cycling is particularly popular as a way of getting to university among students in Greifswald (93%) and Münster (82%). In contrast, more than 80% of students in Vallendar, Freiberg and Clausthal walk to university.

“Transport mode decisions are obviously a reflection of infrastructural characteristics,” stated Sonja Berghoff, Senior Expert Empirical Methods at CHE. “The introduction of semester tickets and the development of student housing that is close to the campus, or at least easily accessible by public transport, will undoubtedly have played a role in the significant decline in car usage that we are seeing. But maybe also students are more climate conscious nowadays,” Berghoff mused.

The publication entitled “Verkehrsmittel für den Weg zur Hochschule” (Modes of transport for getting to university) was written by Sonja Berghoff and Cort-Denis Hachmeister. The analysis was undertaken on the basis of evaluations of a survey of around 150,000 students in the context of the CHE University Ranking.


Further Information can be found in the publication stated below.

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