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Since 2001, the German Science and Humanities Council (Wissenschaftsrat, WR) has been carrying out the institutional accreditation of non-state higher education institutions on behalf of the states (Länder). This is a quality assurance procedure that is intended to clarify whether a non-state higher education institution is capable of providing services in research and teaching that meet recognised scientific standards.

It also examines the resources (both material and human) and financing of a higher education institution. Since 2010, the WR has also produced reports on the proposal review for non-state higher education institutions in the start-up phase seeking state recognition as a higher education institution. With its work, the WR contributes to creating transparency and comparability in existing educational programmes.

The criteria in detail:

  • Institutional aspiration, profile and development goals
  • Governance structure, organisation and quality management
  • Staff
  • Study and teaching
  • Research and art practice
  • Material and spatial resources
  • Funding

For information on the procedure of institutional (re-)accreditations and proposal reviews, the WR offers guidelines (Guide to Accreditation; Guide to Concept Review), into which it regularly incorporates practical experience. Among other things, these guidelines contain detailed explanations of the mandate, objectives, framework conditions, procedures as well as the period of validity of (re)accreditations:

Since the WR first started addressing the non-state higher education sector, its role and importance have changed significantly. The share of private higher education institutions increased fivefold between 1992 and 2010. By now (as of summer semester 2021), there are 110 private and 38 church-run higher education institutions in Germany |1, which accounts for 35.2 percent (private higher education institutions alone, 26.2 percent) of all higher education institutions. The number of students at private higher education institutions has increased significantly over the past five years (winter semester 2021/22 342,586 students |2) and their share of the total number of students is now approximately 11.6 percent.

In overarching Position Statements, the WR has given a summary of its activities in this field, classifying and appreciating the private higher education sector from a functional point of view (German versions only):

Private and church higher education institutions from the perspective of institutional accreditation, 2012
Private und kirchliche Hochschulen aus Sicht der Institutionellen Akkreditierung (Drs. 2264-12), Mai 2012

Recommendations on accreditation as an instrument of quality assurance, 2012
Empfehlungen zur Akkreditierung als Instrument der Qualitätssicherung (Drs. 2259-12), Mai 2012

According to this, private higher education institutions, due to their often clear and distinctive profiling, drive the desired differentiation of the higher education system and can promote institutional innovations. They often take on a pioneering role by, for example, establishing non-academic occupational fields in the higher education sector (e.g. in the health professions) or offering more flexible study formats (dual and part-time study as well as distance learning). However, they can only perform these tasks if they meet certain quality standards.

|1 Source (German version): German Rectors' Conference
|2 Source (German version): Federal Statistical Office