Dual study programmes in Germany: a good way to enter the German labour market
The concept of the dual study programme was devised in Germany. It combines a university degree with experience gained inside a company or with vocational training. The practical orientation makes it very popular.
The German tertiary education landscape is highly diverse. Dual study programmes are becoming increasingly popular among students. This concept was first developed in Germany. It is considered to be practical in orientation and extremely promising. The professional and career prospects of graduates are excellent, also for international students.
What is a dual study programme?
A dual study programme combines theory with practice. As well as classes at an institute of tertiary education, students apply what they have learned during practical training phases inside a company; this too is an important part of the course. A dual study programme is thus similar in structure to the dual system of vocational and technical education and training, which is customary in Germany.
The curricula of the institute of tertiary education and the in-company facilities are developed jointly. Students are taught by university lecturers and by experts within the company. The companies assume the costs of training during the practical phases and pay students for the work they perform in the company.
Essentially it is possible to choose between different sorts of dual study programmes. Two of these are particularly relevant for school-leavers with university entrance qualifications but with no professional experience. One model provides vocational qualifications in addition to the university degree, while the other offers practical experience without any recognised vocational qualifications.
A study programme that offers both a degree and a recognised vocational qualification is termed training-integrated. Students gain two qualifications, a university degree and an occupational qualification (e.g. the German commercial qualification Industriekaufmann/Industriekauffrau).
Where the study programme is combined with longer period of practical experience gained in a company, it is termed practice-integrated. Students acquire a recognised university degree, generally a bachelor degree, but no additional vocational qualification.
What can I study, and where?
Dual study programmes are offered by a number of different institutes of tertiary education. Most are attached to universities of applied sciences, which traditionally have a strongly practical orientation. One example that should be mentioned specifically is the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University, or DHBW. It is the only German university that offers purely dual study programmes, of the practice-integrated type. With some 34,000 students at nine locations across the federal state of Baden-Württemberg (as at academic year 2016/2017), DHBW accounts for about one third of all students pursuing a dual study programme in Germany.
Alongside Baden-Württemberg, the federal states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria offer a high percentage of dual study programmes and account for a large number of the students. In terms of the number of dual study programmes available, the states of Hesse, Lower Saxony and Saxony also play a part, although basically a dual study programme can now be pursued in all 16 federal states of Germany.
Almost three quarters of all study programmes involve engineering and economics courses. These are also the fields in which most dual students are found, with the highest number pursuing economic science-related degrees, followed by engineering, which includes mechanical and chemical engineering, as well as industrial engineering. Dual study programmes also exist in computer science, but it is difficult to find a suitable dual study programme for degrees in subjects like mathematics and architecture.
“I was very pleasantly surprised to find that a dual study programme gives you the chance to gain a wealth of practical experience with some of Germany’s top companies during your studies, as well as allowing you to finance your own studies and providing the opportunity to apply what you have learned at university during the next practical training phase. It is almost impossible to begin your career at 19, and have three years of experience under your belt by the time you are 22 at a normal uni.”
What must I bear in mind when I apply for a dual study programme?
You will need general university entrance qualifications (equivalent to the German allgemeine Hochschulreife or Fachhochschulreife) to apply for a dual study programme. Places are very much in demand, though, so you will need to have very good results to stand a chance, as the German daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung noted in November 2017. Students are also required to find a company in which they can undertake the vocational training or the practical phases of their training. When companies make their selection they will look, among other criteria, at whether candidates have demonstrated a genuine interest in the technical area, as well as the personality of the applicant as a study has found.
A good command of German is indispensable, since there are still very few English-language programmes. Depending on which country you come from, you must also investigate the legal position. You might, for instance, need a work permit.
What are my career prospects on the labour market?
The majority of graduates of a dual study programme are offered a permanent job by the company in which they undertake their training when they graduate. A study conducted in 2015 showed that more than two thirds of graduates stayed with their companies “in the medium term”. “About seven per cent are not only offered a job, according to the study, but go on to head a department”.
The practical experience that students gain generally stands them in very good stead when it comes to finding a job. Graduates of dual study programmes are in high demand on the labour market. And there is another factor that you shouldn’t forget: “Often graduates of dual programmes earn more in their first years of working life than other graduates with a bachelor degree because they are already familiar with the company and their duties.”
Where can I find out more about dual study programmes?
The AusbildungPlus database run by the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) is a good place to start. You will find more than 1,600 training-integrated and practice-integrated dual study programmes there (as at May 2018).
Another useful address is the Higher Education Compass run by the Stiftung zur Förderung der HRK (foundation to promote the German Rectors’ Conference). Searches for “duales Studium” (dual study programme) produced almost 1,400 hits (as at July 2018). This website is also available in English, unlike AusbildungPlus which is German only.
Dual study programme – do the opportunities outweigh the risks?
A dual study programme combines theory and practice. Do you think that is a good idea, or are you afraid that the quality of education might suffer? Do you think that the opportunities outweigh the risks, or vice versa? Join our discussion with other alumni in the community group “Study, research and education”.