Influence of social background on educational and occupational reorientation after higher education drop-out

Start of the project: 01-Jan-2018 - End of the project: 31-Dec-2018

The German education and training system is heavily influenced by social inequalities, especially in relation to social background. Social background influences educational choices and educational returns alike and is thus a substantial factor for the distribution of opportunities at every stage in the educational system. The risk of dropping out of a study programme also varies based on social background and the associated educational choices prior to starting university studies. Further, the resulting educational inequalities affect areas that lie beyond the educational system and hence lead to disparate vocational pathways and achievements.

With regard to the persisting inequalities within the (German) educational and training system that are ascribed to social background, questions arise as to the effect of these inequalities on educational and professional development after higher education drop-out. This requires a re-evaluation and an individually complex decision-making process in terms of possible future educational and professional pathways. It can be assumed that during this time of reorientation, social background once again proves to be influential.

The research project addresses this connection. The overall aim of the project is to analyse the influence of social background on the educational and vocational reorientation process after drop-out from higher education. The following questions shall be pursued in particular:

  • Does social background influence the intention to pick up a new study programme after a prior drop-out?
  • Does the social background of individuals that opt for vocational training after dropping out of higher education influence the type and level of vocational training as well as the duration of the transitional period?
  • Does social background have an effect on the duration of the reorientation process after drop-out?

The type of vocational and educational reorientation and the duration of the transitional process in particular have an important influence on equality of opportunity, depending on social background. If social background makes a difference to chances of compensating for dropping out of higher education by taking another degree that qualifies for a profession, this would be very important information for the scientific, public, and political spheres.

Data from the nationwide representative survey of graduates of the 2014 summer semester by the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW) is used for this project.


Sören Isleib Carolin Otto

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