Students at private higher education institutions as a blind spot in higher education research

Typology(ies) of students at private (distance) higher education institutions

Start of the project: 2023-Nov-01 - End of the project: 2026-Sept-30

Higher education in Germany is becoming increasingly privatised. More and more first-year students are opting to study at a private rather than a public institution of higher education; in the university of applied sciences sector, it is already more than one in four. However, little is known about who studies at private higher education institutions in Germany, why they do so, and under what conditions. The aim of the "TypeS" project is therefore to provide, for the first time in Germany, an empirically reliable and differentiated analysis of students at private higher education institutions (HEIs).

In a mixed-methods design, the quantitative analysis of students at private higher education institutions will be combined with an in-depth, qualitative-biographical analysis. The aim is not only to compare students at private and public institutions, but also to explore potential heterogeneities within the group of students at private HEIs and possible overlaps between private and public higher education. Only by interweaving these perspectives can a differentiated, even societal, understanding of private higher education be achieved:

  • What distinguishes students at private HEIs from those at non-private institutions – in terms of composition, study motives/goals, and academic success?
  • How diverse is the group of students at private higher education institutions?
  • Are the private and public higher education sectors really two separate systems that play very different roles in the academisation of the German population?
  • The quantitative sub-study of the project is led by the DZHW and aims to provide an overarching, comprehensive, and differentiated description and analysis, essentially a “big picture”, of students at private higher education institutions. To analyse these questions, the project uses data from a new nationwide student survey which was conducted in the summer semester of 2021 under the title „eine für alle: Die Studierendenbefragung in Deutschland“ (one for all: The Student Survey in Germany).

    The qualitative sub-study is led by the Europäische Fernhochschule Hamburg (Euro-FH) . Its aim is to gain a deeper understanding of the study motives, goals, wishes, and challenges of students at private distance-learning institutions of higher education. This will be achieved through biographical interviews with students conducted at three private institutions of distance learning.

    The cooperation between the DZHW and the Euro-FH makes it possible to combine long-standing expertise in the analysis of higher education with a practical understanding of the field of private higher education.

    Contact person

    Sandra Buchholz
    Prof. Dr. Sandra Buchholz +49 511 450670-176


    Gunther Dahm

    External Contact

    Prof. Dr. Antje Buche

    Funded by

    Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung