Students whose parents do not have an academic background are still underrepresented in German universities, although many achieve a higher education entrance qualification (“Abitur”). Which education policy measures might convince them to decide in favour of university enrolment? This question is explored by a joint research project of the DIW Berlin and the WZB.

Main content

Economical and sociological literature on education discusses numerous reasons why young adults with a higher education entrance qualification whose parents do not hold a university degree decide against attending university. The project’s aim is to identify measures of education policy that might convince these young people to decide in favour of university enrolment. On the one hand, they might lack information about the advantages of higher education compared to apprenticeships, how to finance their studies, and how to get admitted at their desired university. On the other hand, financial reasons might discourage from university enrolment: while university creates costs, apprenticeships are paid. Against this background the project will analyse the effectiveness of possible countermeasures aimed at increasing the number of students from non-academic backgrounds.

We will examine these research questions taking the example of Berlin. The starting point of our analysis is a panel of young adults holding a higher education entrance qualification (“Abitur” or equivalent) in Berlin. The panel members will be interviewed one year before graduation concerning their study plans. Then, we follow these pupils for at least three years through online interviews. Furthermore, the project will analyse the influence of universities’ selection and admission processes on the decision for or against university enrolment.

The research project is sponsored by the Einstein-Stiftung Berlin and is a cooperation of two professors at the Free University of Berlin, Prof. Dr. C. Katharina Spieß and Prof. Dr. Heike Solga and their teams at the DIW Berlin and the WZB.

Selected Publications

Finger, Claudia (2022): "(Mis)Matched College Aspirations and Expectations. The Role of Social Background and Admission Barriers". In: European Sociological Review, Vol. 38, No. 3, S. 472-492. (vorab online publiziert 15.11.2021)
Finger, Claudia (2022): Soziale Herkunft und die Umsetzung von Studienaspirationen. Individuelle und institutionelle Einflüsse in Phasen der Selbst- und Fremdselektion. Opladen [u.a.]: Budrich Academic Press.
Finger, Claudia/Solga, Heike/Ehlert, Martin/Rusconi, Alessandra (2020): "Gender Differences in the Choice of Field of Study and the Relevance of Income Information. Insights from a Field Experiment". In: Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, Vol. 65, Article 100457, Special Issue "Experimental Methods in Social Stratification Research", edited by Carlo Barone/Heike Solga, S. 1-17. (vorab online publiziert 29.11.2019)
Finger, Claudia/Fitzner, Cindy/Heinmüller, Judith (2018): Von wegen 'einfach einschreiben'. Wie deutsche Hochschulen ihre Studierenden auswählen. WZBrief Bildung 37/November 2018. Berlin: WZB.
Ehlert, Martin/Finger, Claudia/Rusconi, Alessandra/Solga, Heike (2017): "Applying to College. Do Information Deficits Lower the Likelihood of College-eligible Students from Less-Privileged Families to Pursue their College Intentions? - Evidence from a Field Experiment". In: Social Science Research, Vol. 67, S. 193-212. (vorab online publiziert 29.04.2017)
Ehlert, Martin/Peter, Frauke/Finger, Claudia/Rusconi, Alessandra/Solga, Heike/Spieß, C. Katharina/Vaishali, Zambre (2017): The Berliner-Studienberechtigten-Panel (Best Up) – Methodological and Data Report. Data Documentation 90. Berlin: DIW Berlin.
Peter, Frauke/Rusconi, Alessandra/Solga, Heike/Spieß, C. Katharina (2017): "Money Alone Is not Enough. A New Study Looks at What May Encourage High School Graduates to Choose College". In: WZB Report, Vol. 2017, S. 69-71.
Finger, Claudia (2016): "Institutional Constraints and the Translation of College Aspirations into Intentions. Evidence from a Factorial Survey". In: Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, Vol. 46, Part B, No. December, S. 112-128.
Peter, Frauke/Rusconi, Alessandra/Solga, Heike/Spieß, C. Katharina (2016): "Anschubfinanzierung reicht nicht. Neue Studie untersucht, was zur Entscheidung fürs Studium beiträgt". In: WZB-Mitteilungen, H. 153, S. 32-35.
Peter, Frauke/Rusconi, Alessandra/Solga, Heike/Spieß, C. Katharina/Zambre, Vaishali (2016): "Informationen zum Studium verringern soziale Unterschiede bei der Studienabsicht von AbiturientInnen". In: DIW-Wochenbericht, H. 26, S. 555-565.

Research fields

Education and Training
10/2012 - 12/2017
until 12/2016 funded by Einstein Stiftung, 1-12/2017 funded by WZB