Importance of legal regulations (institutional context) on dropout and long-term study

Start of the project: 01-Mar-2021 - End of the project: 29-Feb-2024

For the innovation and development opportunities of the economy and society, a high demand for scientifically qualified personnel is forecast. However, not only the increased demand, but also the demographic change make it necessary from the perspective of education and labor market policy to avoid dropouts and the costs and expenses associated with them. Therefore, the question arises as to how the study success can be better ensured in the future and how dropouts can be largely avoided. Once central mechanisms that lead to dropouts have been identified, concrete measures to reduce dropouts can be developed. So far, little systematic research has been done on the significance of the concrete legal regulations of study programmes (“institutional context”). These regulations are empirically found on three different levels of the institutional context, starting with (1) the design of the state higher education laws, to (2) university-wide regulations, to regulations (3) on the level of individual study programmes and modules. The different regulations establish requirements for the scope of study achievements, for registration and deregistration of examination achievements, for the number of repetition possibilities or the regulations for the revocation of achievements if the final examination is not completed within a certain period of time. The regulations vary considerably between federal states, the colleges of a federal state, and even between study programmes at a university. They can act as selection mechanisms if they provide too few exam retakes or too high minimum requirements in terms of the number of credit points to be achieved. Conversely, it could also be the case that strict regulations in particular contribute to well-structured study behaviour, fewer exams are postponed and students complete their modules quickly from the first semester. The aim of the project is to investigate the effect of the study-related institutional context on study progression, dropout intention, long-term study and dropout for three levels (country, university, study program) using existing data sources.

Sub-study 1: Effects of course-related regulations on study progress (principal investigator: Prof. Dr. Christoph Hönnige): The sub-study aims to investigate the effects of university-wide and course-related regulations on study duration and dropout based on the actually observable study progress of students at Leibniz University Hannover (LUH).

Sub-study 2: Institutional Context (principal investigators: Dr. Julian Bernauer, Prof. Dr. Volker Epping): Using machine learning this sub-study aims to classify the characteristics of the institutional context in the form of regulations relevant to the course of study at the level of state higher education laws and general examination regulations of higher education institutions with regard to their influence on study duration and dropout.

Sub-study 3: Duration of studies and dropout (principal investigator: Dr. Axel Oberschelp): This sub-study aims to examine the effects of the institutional context on the frequency of dropout and long-term studies using data on student and graduates numbers from the official higher education statistics.

Sub-study 4: Intention to drop out (principal investigator: Sören Isleib): The sub-study focuses on the individual level and examines the effect of the characteristics of the institutional context on the intention to drop out using survey data from the Student Survey 2021.

This study is funded by BMBF Förderlinie Studienerfolg und Studienabbruch.

Contact person

Monika Jungbauer-Gans
Prof. Dr. Monika Jungbauer-Gans +49 511 450670-910


Sören Isleib Anh Nguyen Xuan Dr. Axel Oberschelp

External Contact

Prof. Dr. Christoph Hönnige, Leibniz Universität Hannover
Prof. Dr. Volker Epping, Leibniz Universität Hannover
Dr. Julian Bernauer, Universität Mannheim

Funded by

Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung

In cooperation with

Leibniz Universität Hannover Universität Mannheim