German universities face a number of challenges and developments that raise new issues for research. To name but a few, there is the introduction of a two-stage structure in university education, a growing demand for outcome orientation, the evolution of universities towards institutions for lifelong learning, an increase of (international) competitiveness, and the emerging shortage of highly qualified professionals. At the same time, key issues of the last decades are still current, such as student dropouts, social selectivity in university entrance, and the relationship between university and working life. In order to answer research questions associated with these issues, a cohort of first-year students will be followed through their years of study, including their entrance into working life. Central issues to be studied are educational choices, competence developments, the benefits of university education, and the entry into the job market.
The main focus is on
- Students' competencies and competence development during the course of studies:
Which subject-based and general competencies do students possess? To what extent do they correspond to the demands of the employment system? To what extent is the acquisition of competencies dependent on the type of university and the field of studies? In what way do different learning environments and individual learning strategies influence competence development?
- Educational choices during the course of studies and success in studies:
What are the determinants of educational decisions and success in studies while studying at a higher education institution — such as dropping out, changing subjects, studying abroad, and pursuing a Master’s degree? What is the importance of competencies and social factors, such as social background, gender or migration experiences in this process? Which consequences do decisions have for subsequent education and working life?
- Entrance into working life and professional success:
When thinking about students' transition into the job market and their professional success (e.g., occupational position, income, employment security), how important are acquired competencies, on the one hand based on formal qualifications (diplomas), social background, gender, and on the other hand based on social and cultural capital? What role do general competencies play in comparison to subject-specific ones?