Three-year, dual study Bachelor's degree and being an employee enabling learners to combine important theory with dynamic practice

Dual education at the Cooperative State University Baden-Wuerttemberg (DHBW) in Germany, which alternates between education in higher education training academies and campuses in 9 cities, geared more towards practice in teaching and learning. The subjects offered mainly include engineering, economics, information technology, nursing care and social work. The higher vocational training academy DHBW provides the theoretical knowledge, while the companies offer practical training for the students. At the end of the three-year course, the students graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

Dual education in higher vocational training institutions in Germany or at university of applied science offering dual programmes combine theory and practice in their curriculum. Companies bear some of the costs and benefit from the practically relevant skills of the trained professionals.

 In order to attend dual courses, students are required to have qualified for the DHBW and to have a contract with a company. A contract is not easy to come by. Companies usually have a number of applicants to choose from, and can select those who best fit their needs. They then invest substantial amounts of money in training these candidates.

The company Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG, for example, bears all the tuition fees for students studying electrical engineering at the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW) in Mannheim, in addition to paying them a monthly training allowance.


From campus to company and back again Daimler’s three-year Bachelor’s degree program is split into six semesters, each of which comprises three months of theory and three months of work experience. The course is highly practical: students gain first-hand experience of different areas of the company. They even have the opportunity to go abroad, although the theory part of the course will be taught in Germany. Lectures take place in small groups of around 30 students, offering optimal learning conditions and direct contact with the professors and managers at DAIMLER. The security of a regular salary makes the students financially more independent and allows them to devote their undivided attention to their studies – which they need to do, as the courses are very demanding.

The broad goal of having the learner also being an employer is two-fold: From an economic perspective, dual training is expected to create a broad foundation upon which well-trained skilled workers can fulfill a variety of roles and respond to the changing needs of the business world. The student is working in different departments during his practical study phase in the company. Department managers are assessing the performance, skills and competence after each praxis phase. At the end of the 3-years study program, students and employers have a much better understanding of the skill match or mismatch.

How well the dual principle is implemented depends on how well the learning site is utilizing the possibility to let the student work in different departments. A benefit no other student can get during the study period.

The costs of the dual training system are borne proportionately by the government and the business community.

The investment of the world of work helps young people to develop vocational skills that are relevant to the labour market, but not limited to a certain company.

97% of the companies involved in dual study programs were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the dual system. Small and medium-sized companies in particular benefit from graduates’ practical experience. The dual training system is an effective response to the current shortage of skilled labour. Advantages for include good employment prospects with the training company, short overall training periods, a trainee allowance and the opportunity to acquire additional qualifications.

More Information


What was the challenge intended to be addressed? Why? What did work well? What did not work well? What have been the main achievements? How did you evaluate its success? What has been the change brought by this good practice?

In the German context, the following forms of dual study programmes can be differentiated in terms of target groups, intensity of HEI-company cooperation and the organisation of working and study phases:
- Integrated vocational training programmes combine a degree course with an officially recognised apprenticeship. Study and working phases are interconnected in terms of time and content. In addition to an academic degree, students receive a vocational training qualification as well.
- combine work placements for an extended period of time with academic degree programmes. For this type of dual study programme, an internship, employment or traineeship contract with a company is mandatory for enrollment. The content covered in the academic and vocational education is related.
- Integrated full-time employment programmes and programmes in tandem with employment are directed at continuing vocational education and target experienced employees. Degree courses are undertaken next to a full-time employment, mainly through self-study and evening or weekend classes.
The major outcomes for dual study programmes include:
- For students, it can provide an ongoing income stream and an educational option that provides more practical outcomes and potentially results in a job.
- For business, it can provide a better human capital supply chain, more committed and loyal employees with the appropriate skills for the organisation.
- For HEIs, it can provide an ongoing income stream, academics with better practical understanding, more market-connected educational programmes and better student employability.
- For society, it can mean more appropriately skilled graduates as well as higher employment rates as well as the improvement of regional competitiveness.
The student mobility and effective talent acquisition are the main benefits for collaborating partner companies, which have a good opportunity to simply choose students, and thus future employees, for themselves. This in turn enables partner enterprises to have good qualified junior staff. Furthermore, the close relationships with the university on a strategic level can also be extremely beneficial for the partner enterprises, giving them a possibility to promote talents, to do research together and to expand contacts.

Success Factors

What are the enabling conditions (e.g. institutional, economic, social/cultural, regulatory) that needed to be in place or played a facilitating role for the good practice to be successful?

The need for both industry and HEIs to possess an understanding of the existence, structure and functionality of dual study programmes is a basic, but underestimated facilitator of the proliferation of dual study programmes. Whilst the model is known primarily in German-speaking nations, the adaption of this model of education is limited elsewhere owing to this lack of understanding or a highbrow negative association already in existence for such a model.


What are the challenges, barriers or limiting factors encountered? How have they been addressed?

One of the key challenges facing dual-study programmes relates to how to align the differing policies and requirements of the stakeholders involved, including how to comply with state regulations and conditions. Dual study programmes demand flexibility for their successful execution, which is especially difficult for bureaucratic institutions such as government and HEIs.
Similar to the development and delivery of vocational education, being a business-centric educational offering, dual study programmes will inevitably involve unconventional (for HEIs) programme development and delivery.

Feasibility & Sustainability

What are the elements that need to be put into place for the good practice to be sustainable (institutionally, socially, economically, etc.)? If applicable, indicate the total costs incurred for the implementation of the practice. What are the benefits compared to total costs?

DHBW is a state university funded by the state government. In general, there are no tuition fees for bachelor´s and consecutive master´s degree programmes. Students need to pay only a small enrolment or confirmation fee, which normally is covered by the partner company. One of the main benefits for students is that they receive a monthly remuneration for the duration of their studies at the university.
Furthermore, the university has its own foundation, which aims to strengthen the university profile thorough the financial donations from companies and individuals, and provides further stimulus for teaching and research. The DHBW Foundation´s funds are utilised in a long-term way to secure the outstanding position of the university. In addition, the specific earmarked donations are invested directly into the individual DHBW locations to be used for the certain activities at a campus level. The university has nine locations with three campuses in the German Federal State of Baden-Württemberg.
DHBW has several governing bodies in their top management: the supervisory board, the managing board with a university president as a chairman, as well as a senate. The supervisory board is composed of 17 members, with at least 8 members from the private sector. In the university councils, the number of academic representatives is always equal to the number of company representatives.

Replicability & Upscaling

What are the possibilities of extending the good practice more widely? What are the conditions that need to be in place for the good practice to be successfully replicated in a similar context? What are the steps that should be taken/respected to ensure that the good practice is replicated / up-scaled, but adapted to the new context?

Mobilising the most important stakeholders is another major challenge. This includes getting business to buy-in to the system and commit to providing the training aspect, HEIs to invest into the programme creation and allow flexibility for vocation and work-related training, vocational providers to align with the needs of both businesses and HEIs as well as trade unions and other support organisations to support the initiative. This process is made more difficult in countries where the understanding and recognition of dual study programmes is limited, or whereby the image of these programmes is somehow negative.

Lessons learned

What would have facilitated an earlier and/or bigger impact? What are the key features that should be kept in mind if this would have to be implemented again? What would you do differently if you could go back in time? What could have been done better?

After completing the course in the dual program, the students emerge as well-trained professionals who are familiar with everyday working life in the training company. They know the ‘corporate culture’ and are already an integral part of the company’s networks.


Please provide some information about the context and initial situation that can help in fully understanding the action (e.g. information about the national system, applying regulations, etc.)

DHBW delivers job integrated learning programmes only. Dual education offered by the university is provided in the three-month rhythm, alternating between the university and their workplace training provider. Due to this regular switch from theory and practice, the studies are explicitly intensive. The dual education programme operates on a non-stop, twelve-month schedule. Students are granted vacation days as stipulated in the three-year employment contract signed between the student and the partner company at the beginning of the dual study programme.
The recruitment of the students is also exclusively done by the cooperative education partners, while the DHBW only has to verify the higher education entrance qualification. The university courses are taught by full-time professors of DHBW, associate lecturers from partner universities, and furthermore by the specialists and experts from partner companies and social institutions. All of the study programmes provided by the university are both nationally and internationally recognised degree programmes.