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Did you know that young people from less privileged profit from counselling programmes to enrol in higher education?

April 2022

Despite rising student numbers, the likelihood of enrolment in higher education in Germany depends on the social background of young people. Even with very good and good performance in upper secondary school, pupils whose parents did not study are less likely to enrol in university than pupils with an academic background. In order to reduce this educational inequality, several individual counselling programmes have been implemented in Germany in recent years.

In a study conducted by ISS researchers Marita Jacob, Irena Pietrzyk and Juliana Schneider (in collaboration with colleagues from the Social Science Research Center Berlin), the impact of such a counselling programme was examined. The intensive guidance counselling program is offered to students in upper secondary schools in NRW before the Abitur. A special feature of the study is the experimental, large-scale and longitudinal design, which allows to draw conclusions about the programme's causal effect on the decision to study and on academic success.

While there was no measurable effect of the programme six months after the Abitur, the results one and a half years after the Abitur are all the more revealing. Young people without an academic background who participated in the programme are eight percentage points more likely to enrol in higher education than the control group without programme participation. This finding is particularly true for students with good academic performance in school. For young people with an academic background, the effect is the opposite: for this group, participation in the programme leads to taking up vocational training, especially if the young people had rather low academic performance. Accordingly, the programme leads to a convergence of enrolment rates between high school graduates with and without an academic background.

The results show that inequalities in study enrolment can be reduced through individual counselling, guiding students to follow an educational path that matches their academic potential. However, the study also shows that such intensive counselling only unfolds its effects in a long-term perspective - which is why it could only be recognised with corresponding long-term scientific monitoring.

(See the video interview with Prof. Jacob for further information!)