Being an employee and student at the same time – the dual model at the DHBW

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.