by Jan Goller

While the general framework for Germany’s universities needs improving, students are nevertheless largely satisfied with their degree courses. This is the conclusion of the latest survey presented by Germany’s Centre for Higher Education (CHE).

Twenty-two of the 31 German universities surveyed fell into the second half of the league table. The rankings caused consternation among politicians and higher education officials.

Doubts about the significance of the study

The new report on teaching, Im Spiegel des Rankings: Wie gut ist die Lehre an deutschen Hochschulen?, follows on the heels of the Times Higher Education (THE) Europe Teaching Rankings 2018. THE left German institutions middle-class at best, with only Heidelberg University and the University of Göttingen figuring among Europe’s top 50 institutions regarding teaching.

But the head of international ranking exercises at CHE, Gero Federkeil, has doubts about the significance of the THE results.

The quality of teaching at a university is determined by standards in individual subject areas. You can’t simply draw conclusions from these areas for the institution as a whole.

CHE heads an international ranking project supported by the European Commission together with the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies and the Center for Science and Technology Studies, both in the Netherlands, and Spain’s Knowledge and Development Foundation. U-Multirank examines several dimensions of university activity and enables users to choose indicators to develop their own rankings. About 1,600 universities in more than 90 countries participated in the survey.

In Germany the students are more satisfied

Only 28% of the departments looked at in Germany showed above-average.

  • As for example the teacher:student ratios – whereas nearly every second department in Europe as a whole was above average regarding this dimension of teaching.
  • CHE concludes that the framework provided for many of Germany’s higher education institutions is poorer than the European average standard.
  • In addition, on average, students exceed standard lengths of study significantly more frequently than in other parts of Europe.

These results contrast extremely with how satisfied students generally with the mentoring during the studies. In Germany more than every second department is in the top groups, compared to just 29% on a European scale.

In 39% of the departments, students give student-teacher contact a good to excellent mark against a European average of 30%. The quality of organising degree courses also scores above average at 54% of the German departments, compared to just 32% in Europe as a whole. Teaching quality is rated better than the European average by students as well.

The CHE Director Frank Ziegele concludes

In spite of the unfavourable circumstances teaching faces, most German universities and their departments appear to be doing a good job in many areas. If teaching staff numbers were to keep up with growing student numbers as well, we could come out top of the list in Europe.