Teaching in Germany: students satisfied despite difficult conditions
Compared to the rest of Europe, Germany’s higher education institutions have too few teaching staff, and times to degree are still too long. German professors, however, appear to be making the most of the situation: students often rate study organisation and their contact to teaching staff more positively than in other European countries. These are the results of an analysis of data from the global U-Multirank university ranking.
In summer 2018, those responsible for education in Germany were startled by a special evaluation of the international Times Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking: compared to the rest of Europe, teaching at German higher education institutions was mediocre at best. Only Heidelberg and Göttingen universities managed to reach the Top 50 “best universities in Europe in the area of teaching”. In fact, 22 of the 31 universities ranked found themselves in the bottom half of the table. Is teaching in Germany really that bad?
“The quality of teaching at a higher education institution is determined by the quality of teaching in the individual subjects. It is relatively difficult to draw reliable conclusions at the level of the entire university,” stated Gero Federkeil, Head of International Rankings at CHE, limiting the scope of the results obtained in the THE ranking. The ranking experts from the U-Multirank team took a closer look at how things really stand with the quality of teaching in Germany. In so doing, they are able to take into account a much larger number of higher education institutions than the 31 considered in the THE ranking.
The facts: there is still room for improvement with regard to the conditions surrounding teaching in Germany Data for several subjects taken from the U-Multirank indicate that only a few departments (28 per cent) in Germany have an above-average staff-to-student ratio, i.e. the ratio of teaching staff to students. And a further 28 per cent of participating departments are even below average in this category. In contrast, almost one in two departments in Europe have an above-average staff-to-student ratio. In other words, the conditions at many higher education institutions in Germany are worse compared to the overall situation in Europe. In addition, German students are much likelier than their counterparts in other European countries to need longer than the standard period of study to complete a degree. These facts indicate quality issues.
Student opinions reveal high levels of satisfaction with teaching at German higher education institutions U-Multirank additionally gives students a chance to assess their degree programmes. It was found that students rank the quality of teaching in Germany much more highly than is the case in Europe as a whole. “General student satisfaction” is very high in Germany: more than 50 per cent of departments are to be found in the top groups for this criterion. In Europe as a whole, only 29 per cent of participating departments are ranked that highly in this category.
At 39 per cent of German departments, students rate their contact to teaching staff as good to very good; only three per cent of departments are given a below-average rating. The organisation of the degree programmes under consideration is also ranked as above average at 54 per cent of departments in Germany; in Europe as a whole, this is only the case for 32 per cent of departments. What is more, students rate the quality of courses more highly than across Europe.
Professor Frank Ziegele, Executive Director of CHE, commented on the results as follows: “Most German higher education institutions and their departments appear to be doing a great job when it comes to teaching, in spite of the adverse circumstances. If, then, the teaching staff were able to keep pace with student numbers, we could come out top in Europe.” Ziegele calls for a differentiated view of strengths and weaknesses in teaching, rather than sweeping statements.
The focus entitled “Im Spiegel des Rankings: Wie gut ist die Lehre an deutsche Hochschulen?” (A reflection of the ranking: How good is teaching at German higher education institutions?) presents a differentiated comparison of indicators for demonstrating the quality of teaching at departments in Germany and the rest of Europe. The analysis considers both universities and universities of applied sciences. The data refer to results at the subject level. A separate subject-specific consideration of teaching is undertaken for the subjects of Business Administration, Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science.
Further Information can be found in the publication stated below.