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Dual studies are growing in popularity in Germany. And yet the programmes that combine academic and vocational education vary significantly, depending on their design. There is also a wide range of variation between the federal states in terms of study programmes, demand and remuneration. Whereas about a third of all students in Saarland, for example, are enrolled in a dual study programme, the figure in eight other states does not even reach three per cent. A joint study by the CHE Centre for Higher Education and the Forschungsinstitut Betriebliche Bildung (f-bb) entitled “Duales Studium: Umsetzungsmodelle und Entwicklungsbedarfe” (Dual studies: implementation models and needs for development) now offers the most comprehensive overview of dual studies in Germany to date.

The number of students who combine studies with vocational training or long placements increased four-fold between 2004 and 2019. Around 122,000 students are currently enrolled in one of the 2,000 or so dual study programmes offered at higher education institutions (HEIs) in Germany. However, with an average student share of 4.2 per cent nationwide and a current first-semester share of 4.6 per cent, dual studies in Germany continue to lead a marginal existence.

States differ in terms of study programmes, demand and remuneration

The analysis conducted by CHE and f-bb shows clear differences between federal states regarding dual studies. In Bavaria, for example, one in five courses are dual study programmes, whereas in Bremen and Saxony-Anhalt, not even one in twenty meet this criterion. The highest demand by far is in Saarland, where almost 30 per cent of all students are enrolled in a dual study programme. This figure is around 26 per cent higher than the national average. The federal states also differ remarkably in terms of remuneration. For instance, dual students in Saarland are paid an average of €627 a month from companies cooperating with the programme, compared to €1,115 in Hesse.

Overwhelmingly high level of satisfaction among stakeholders

On the whole, HEIs, students and companies are very satisfied with this type of study programme. They do say, however, that close cooperation between the learning venues places high demands on all those involved, and that this continues to be the area with the greatest need for improvement. Three-quarters of the students surveyed in the study cited good career prospects as a very important reason for choosing a dual study programme. In spite of the generally high level of satisfaction, no fewer than a quarter of those surveyed had already thought about changing companies or degree programmes. Given these figures, Sigrun Nickel, one of the two project leaders of the study, emphasised the need to ensure that dual studies offer a good combination of theory and practice. “As joint providers of post-secondary education options, HEIs and companies could do even more, particularly with regard to assuring the quality of placements. In-company training plans and course timetables also play a key role in this respect,” stated the Head of Higher Education Research at CHE.

Variant of dual studies with integrated practice is dominant

The vast majority of dual students are taking a Bachelor’s degree at a university of applied sciences or a cooperative state university. Two-thirds are enrolled at state HEIs. Almost 75 per cent of dual study entrants in Germany opt for the study programme variant with integrated practice, i.e. a combination of university studies and long placements. A distinction is made between the variant that includes an apprenticeship – a combination of academic studies and vocational training – and on-the-job programmes. More than a third of all dual students (37.2%) are enrolled in a business or law programme. Dual study options in the fields of engineering (23.1%) and health sciences (15.1%) are also in high demand.

Programmes primarily meet regional business needs

The existing dual study options typically meet companies’ regional economic needs. In general, dual studies are readily accepted by companies. “This is also noticeable in the growing number of programmes offered in recent decades,” stated Iris Pfeiffer, Managing Director of f-bb. There are numerous reasons why cooperating companies participate in dual study programmes: they appreciate the practical relevance of dual study programmes (78.7%); they see a potential for retaining employees early on (67.2%); and they perceive a great advantage in providing in-house training to students prior to graduation (65.6%). It is important for participating companies to have the necessary flexibility in designing placements for dual study programmes, enabling them to respond to demand.

Outlook and recommendations for action

The authors from CHE and f-bb believe there is a potential for expanding dual study options in areas such as healthcare and nursing. The emerging demand for qualified professionals in this field could be met in part by increasing the number of dual study programmes in this subject area. Further recommendations for action identified in the study relate to issues such as the legal framework of dual studies, the cooperation between HEIs and companies, and the contractual safeguarding and social situation of dual students. Based on the study, recommendations for the further development of dual study programmes are currently being drawn up by the competent committees of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) and the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK). This is in response to a resolution of the German Bundestag.

About this publication:

The scientific study on the status of dual studies in Germany was prepared on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). In drawing up the study, the team of authors from the CHE Centre for Higher Education and the Forschungsinstitut Betriebliche Bildung (f-bb) examined the supply and demand side of dual study programmes as well as the associated legal framework. Both higher education institutions and colleges of cooperative education were included in the study. The survey results of around 700 programme directors, 3,500 dual students and 1,700 representatives of companies cooperating in the context of dual study programmes were analysed during the study period from October 2020 to April 2022. As such, the study is the most comprehensive assessment of the status of dual studies in Germany to date. The publication entitled “Duales Studium: Umsetzungsmodelle und Entwicklungsbedarfe” (Dual studies: implementation models and needs for development) was written by Sigrun Nickel (CHE), Iris Pfeiffer (f-bb), Andreas Fischer (f-bb), Marc Hüsch (CHE), Barbara Kiepenheuer-Drechsler (f-bb), Nadja Lauterbach (f-bb), Nicolas Reum (CHE), Anna-Lena Thiele (CHE) and Saskia Ulrich (CHE).


A short version with the key findings of the study “Duales Studium: Umsetzungsmodelle und Entwicklungsbedarfe” will be available for download on the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) website from 22 April 2022:   


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