Diversity at HU

Social background

The social background belongs, to this date, not to the personal characteristics protected by the General Act on Equal Treatment. However, students' family of origin highly impacts study access and many higher education conditions such as entrance qualifications, study course, study financing and time budget. The so-called inheritance of educational qualifications starts with Germany's traditional trinomial school system and takes effect in higher education as well. To illustrate, two thirds of students have at least one parent who has achieved a high school certificate (Abitur). However, only ten percent of students have parents who have only completed nine or ten years of schooling.

Similarly, the group of students who have been admitted to university based on their vocational qualification are in the minority in higher education. Apart from university access, the educational background of students' family of origin also impacts their study financing: For students who come from a highly educated family, financial support provided by the parents makes up for two thirds of their study financing. For students whose parents have lower qualifications, on the other hand, it is only one third.

Barriers in academic culture

Affected students have to compensate for this lack in financing, for instance by pursuing paid employment. As a result, they have less time at hand to invest into their studies than their peers. At university, working students are often met with a lack of understanding by educators if they cannot attend class due to their work obligations or require more time to complete assignments.

Academic culture itself can also be challenging for first-generations students. In contrast to their peers who have inherited knowledge about the operation of higher education from their parents, they have to familiarise themselves with the social norms and culture on campus for the first time.

Students from less wealthy families may also encounter discimination based on their social background, also referred to as classism. At Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, 27 of respondents to the 2019 survey "Diversity at HU" have experienced or witnessed discrimination based on low income at least once. For discrimination based on a low level of education, the share was 28 percent.


Facilitating access to university regardless of social background

Humboldt-Universität has developed a range of measures aimed at facilitating access to the university for students without an academic family background. Students of the first generation may participate in the mentoring programme firstgen which will pair them with a more experienced student from a similar background. The programme also offers trainings and opportunities to network.

A further point of contact is the Crossover - centre for people with vocational qualifications which offers support to professionals without Abitur seeking admission to Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. The centre offers regular orientiation sessions as well as personal counselling. In addition, the student body offers a social counselling and counselling on study financing. Students may also contact the social counselling offered by studierendenWERK Berlin.



studierendenWERK BERLIN
Social Counselling Centre
Franz-Mehring-Platz 2-3
10243 Berlin
Telephone: +49 30 93939 8437/8440/8449
Email: sb.fmp@stw.berlin


Further HU resources

Mentoring programme firstgen [English]

RefRat general social counselling // study financing [German // English on request]

Studying without a high school certificate [German]

Subsidy to the semester ticket [German]


External resources

studierendenWERK Social counselling centre [English]

ArbeiterKind [German]

Scholarship guide by BMBF [German]