Graduate panel, examination cohort 2017

Start of the project: 01-Jan-2017 - End of the project: 30-Jun-2020

The Graduate Panel 2017 is the first nationwide project in graduate research in Germany to be carried out by a supra-regional group of research institutes. The group partners (DZHW, INCHER, ISTAT) intend to take into account the interests of a range of user groups as comprehensively as possible, with the aim that the network concept AP2017 may prove to be a long-term, workable solution. For the first time, a nationwide survey of graduates combines a national representative sample and a study design with the opportunity for participating universities to include additional indicators based on their requirements. This new approach makes possible to use data not only for national education monitoring, scientific research in higher education but also for quality assessment of individual higher education institutions (HEI). Furthermore, parallel surveys by different actors are avoided. The survey of nationwide representative data on the graduate cohort 2017 in Germany is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Study design

The survey is designed as a longitudinal study with several survey waves. The first wave of the 2017 graduate cohort will be carried out 1-2 years after graduation. This part focuses the topic of transition into the labour market (or into further academic qualifications) and the first job market placing. Other important aspects will be the depiction of the students’ progress while at university and retrospective evaluations of study programmes, because initial surveys provide important feedback for the quality management of study programmes.

The later survey waves will most likely take place five and ten years after graduation. The aim is to coordinate existing survey formats for the later waves too. In addition to the nationwide representative random sample, individual higher education institutions have the option of expanding the survey into a census for their institution. This will be carried out via participation in the "Kooperationsprojekt Absolventenstudien" (KOAB), which is coordinated by ISTAT.


Multiple actors were involved in developing the AP2017 questionnaire. The process included the integration of two approved nationwide formats (DZHW graduate survey and KOAB graduate study). The present tool is oriented on the latest research in regards to content as well as methods, providing seamless continuation of most of the time series that originated in the DZHW graduate survey, the KOAB studies or a format based on one of these two types.

The AP2017 questionnaire is conceptualized as a core instrument that can be expanded with optional and HEI-specific questions by the KOAB universities. The instrument is available in German and English. Specific questionnaire variations exist for particular sub-groups (bachelor, master, doctorate, graduates of law, medicine and teachers training), as well as for non-traditional programmes of study).

Random sample

The AP2017 is created as a nationwide survey of the graduate cohort 2017 (= examination year 2017). The plan is to take a random sample of 75,000 graduates of all degree levels and types of higher education institutions in Germany (excluding colleges of public administration Universities of the Federal Armed Forces). Individual study programmes from a range of universities will be included in the sample. There is also a possibility that multiple programmes from a single HEI become part of the sample. The HEIs will be informed on the composition of the sample by the beginning of 2018.The sample also includes graduates who have completed a doctorate in 2017; for this reason the timing of the fieldwork phase will be coordinated with DZHW’s NACAPS project.

Fieldwork phase

The fieldwork phase for the first survey wave will take place from October 2018 to February 2019. The survey will be carried out using an online questionnaire; the graduates will be contacted both by post and by email. For data protection reasons contact will be made via the HEIs. ISTAT will support participating institutions in the preparation, implementation and follow-up of the fieldwork phase. We aim to minimise the expense for the participating higher education institutions. In addition, costs arising from updating address data and sending invitations for the nationwide sample will be borne by the project. An average response rate of approx. 25% is assumed for the survey.

Utilisation of findings

The AP2017 findings will be structured in such a way that they match both the requirements of educational monitoring and the needs of general higher education research. The survey findings will also be prepared in such a way that they can be used in the context of internal university evaluation research and quality management. In order to fulfil these demanding criteria, each partner in the group will bring their specific expertise to the preparation of the findings: for example DZHW will take on responsibility for analyses of educational monitoring, among other things; INCHER will contribute its expertise in relation to the international compatibility of instruments and research findings, and ISTAT will deliver use-focussed analysis of findings for applied evaluation research. These evaluation perspectives will be reflected in a joint project publication and also in specific preparations of findings and publications. All participating HEIs will receive both tabular and graphic presentations of the findings for the study programmes surveyed in the AP2017. An anonymised scientific use file for working on research issues will be made available to the scientific community.

Whole project

Lead Researcher

Gregor Fabian
Gregor Fabian Lead Researcher +49 511 450670-133


Iryna Kovalova

Funded by

Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung

In cooperation with

Institut für angewandte Statistik International Centre for Higher Education Research