“More practical relevance” is the call at German universities.

Lectures, seminars and term papers are held semester after semester for almost every student. A great deal of research and theory-related knowledge plague the knowledgeable future designers. Nevertheless, the question remains: what can I use it for and even if this question has been clarified, where, when and how can I put what I have learned into practice?

Theoretical Lectures

Who does not know it: The rooms are full, the events overcrowded and the faces of the students at a loss. The free composition of the modules can only be decided to a limited extent and so many young people find themselves in a lecture hall and nobody knows what is happening in front. No wonder, then, that the discontent that arises when professors or chair directors are unable to establish or offer any practical relevance is growing all the time.

However, this is more and more often the case, because at German universities there are few to no possibilities for concrete practical application on the agenda. It is therefore not surprising that less than half of the students at universities are satisfied with the practical relevance of their courses, as the university research working group at the University of Constance found out.

In order to understand that this does not create any added value, one does not have to be a student. Although fact-based learning is not wrong and sometimes even necessary, it is unfortunately of absolutely no use if you forget everything two months later. Classical exercises are good for temporarily storing what you have learnt, but there is a clear lack of reference to real life. This also affects the willingness to deal with the material in such a way that it clicks and one can actually do something with the knowledge. This is sometimes a reason for many students to change their course of studies or to discontinue their studies altogether. According to a study by University of Konstanz, every third student at universities and more than 20% of students at universities of applied sciences drop out of their current studies.

Of course, not all professors or lecturers are as far removed from reality as outlined here, but the basic structure of the problem is omnipresent and some students may have found themselves in a situation where what they have learned brings them little.

Relation to Practice

Some universities are responding to students’ calls for more practical relevance and have integrated a mandatory internship into the curriculum, which is definitely a step in the right direction. During an internship, students are offered insights into everyday practice and can gain valuable experience and skills. So to at least the ideal conception. Experience has shown, however, that interns often do worthless work in terms of content and thus do not derive any added value from a job lasting several months on average, which may involve some money, but in retrospect is in many cases regarded as wasted time.

However, an internship should primarily pursue one goal: The learning of job-relevant skills and the associated personal development.

Standard period of study

In principle, these opportunities are available on the job market for interns. But how do you find these internships? Not infrequently, important influencing factors are above-average grades, sufficient practical experience, i.e. already completed internships or the influence of networks and contacts. Talent is therefore often subordinated to personal inclination. Another disadvantage can be the delay in graduation. For those whose study plan does not provide for a compulsory internship, a trade-off decision is made between adhering to the standard period of study, sufficient practical experience in the form of a semester off or no free time at all and thus giving up the semester break.

Also in my case this means that my studies are artificially extended due to an internship semester. For me, gaining practical experience and acquiring skills are two incredibly important factors that will have a great influence on my later career. In the end, however, my study planning is postponed for half a year.

Can internships or working student jobs replace the lack of practical relevance in my studies? Yes and no, because a properly oriented and supervised internship can offer students exactly the practical relevance they need. However, the scope of qualitative positions is manageable and is often beyond the reach of the majority of students due to the barriers mentioned above.

There is still a lack of constructive approaches to solving this problem and so we, the 2.8 million students in Germany, are dependent on innovative and creative minds to develop an implementable concept with more practical relevance.

Have you also thought about this topic? Then please let us know in your comments!

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