General Issues
Governance & Political Institutions
Scope of Influence
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both



March 30, 2015 Sarah HHU
December 23, 2014 Sarah HHU
General Issues
Governance & Political Institutions
Scope of Influence
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both

Problems and motivations

Education strikes occurred across Europe as part of the Bologna process, i.e. the conversion of diploma and master's programs to bachelor's and master's degrees. So also in North Rhine-Westphalia. The Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (MIWF) subsequently offered the State's students, under Minister of Science Svenja Schulze, the opportunity to comment online on the study conditions from October 31 to November 21, 2011. With this online participation option, the state government would like to face the students 'criticism and thus inquire about the students' most important challenges and proposed changes.


The process of the online consultation project Besser-Studieren.NRW can be divided into five phases. These took place from November 2009 to March 2012. The actual online consultation for students in NRW took place between October 31 and November 21, 2011.

Phase 1: First memorandum

The first memorandum was issued in November 2009. The rectors of the universities and colleges sponsored by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia developed this in cooperation with the state government. It is a memorandum on the further implementation of the Bologna process. Particular attention was paid to the goal of better studyability and the acceptance of criticism by the students. In the First Memorandum, the Rectors committed to taking stock to find out where the problems of the students can be prescribed.

Phase 2: Questionnaire campaign, dialogues and Bologna status conference

From December 2010 to February 2011, this inventory of possible improvements was made. The Ministry of Science sent questionnaires to 37 universities in NRW. These were discussed with the students in a dialogue about the Bologna process. At the Bologna Status Conference, Minister Schulze discussed the results of the inventory and the progress towards successful university reform with the chairmen of the state rector conferences of universities and colleges, university management, representatives from university research and, last but not least, with students.

Phase 3: online consultation

The online consultation took place from 31 October to 21 November 2011. For the first time, the students in NRW have the opportunity to participate online on the topics of studyability. The online participation portal offered the students the possibility of a short survey of 5 questions about studyability in NRW as well as the possibility of rating and discussing 12 theses by the ministry. There was also the possibility to create and discuss your own theses.

Phase 4: evaluation, results and feedback

After the online consultation, the results were evaluated. These, including the proposed solutions, were written down in a results report as of January 30, 2012. Since it was a goal to ensure that students were able to influence the higher education reform, these results should be incorporated into a second memorandum and into the design of the higher education policy as well as into the legal framework of the universities and higher education institutions sponsored by the state.

Phase 5: Second memorandum

On March 1, 2012, Minister of Science Schulze and the Chair of the State Rectors' Conference of the universities, Prof. Dr. Ursula Gather and the Chairman of the State Rectors' Conference of the universities of applied sciences, Prof. Dr. Martin Sternberg the Second Bologna Memorandum "Studying Successfully in NRW". The results of the online consultation were incorporated into this. As part of the memorandum, measures to improve studyability were agreed.

Entities and funding

The Zebralog GmbH & Co KG was commissioned by the Ministry for Innovation, Science and Research of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia with the conception, implementation, moderation and evaluation of this online consultation.

Participant selection

There is no restriction of the participants. However, the online participation platform was aimed at students in NRW. Following the survey, the participants were able to provide personal information:

  • The majority of the participants (43%) are in the age group 18-23 years. 40% are between 24 and 29 years old. 5% belong to the age group 30-35 years. 10% of the participants did not state their age.
  • It is striking and rather atypical that the clear majority (53%) of the participants is female.
  • A total of 60% of the students are in the first six semesters of their studies. The proportion of students in the first and second semester is the largest at 22%.
  • The participants also stated that they were studying at 80 different universities and colleges in NRW. Most of them study in larger cities, but smaller universities, private universities and distance learning universities are also represented.

Considerations, decisions, and dealing with the public

As part of the online consultation from October 31 to November 21, 2011, NRW students had various options for influencing:

  1. A short, approximately three-minute survey of five questions and selected socio-demographic data provided an overview of student satisfaction and the structure of the participants. This survey was completed 19,829 times.
  • The first question was about general student satisfaction and showed that the majority of the survey participants were generally satisfied with their studies.
  • The second question concerned the assessment of the efforts of the own university to create good study conditions. Here, too, the majority of the students (44%) answered “rather applies”. However, it should be noted that overall only 61% of the students agreed with the statement "my university tries to create good study conditions" more or less.
  • In the third question, only 40% of the students indicated that full-time study was to be observed in the standard period of study. The greater part stated that they could not keep the high number of hours due to the job, the family or other reasons.
  • Question four revealed that as many as 47% of the participants did not plan or stay outside the country.
  • The fifth question showed that 46% of the Bachelor's students planned a Master's degree afterwards.

2. Following the survey, the sociodemographic content mentioned above was asked.

3. The "discussion" is the much larger and more detailed area of participation.
The Ministry of Science specified 12 theses, which are rated on a five-point scale (- / - / 0 / + / ++)
could. The submitted rating could then be justified in a comment
received 13,915 comments and 12,690 ratings. The topics of the 12 theses of the
Ministry of Science are:

  • Standard period of study and workload
  • Study organization, time planning, event overlaps
  • Professional qualification after graduation
  • Individual supplementary areas during your studies
  • Stays abroad / partnership agreements with foreign universities
  • Practice phases
  • Master’s places
  • Recognition of study achievements achieved elsewhere
  • Burden of proof in the recognition of achievements made elsewhere
  • Equivalent skills within the framework of recognition
  • Recognition of achievements abroad
  • Lifelong learning

4. Furthermore, the students had the opportunity to create their own theses and others
Let students rate and comment. 73 new theses emerged on the following

  • Financing your studies / BAföG / tuition fees
  • Quality of teaching / equipment at universities
  • Studying with a child
  • Studying with a disability
  • The situation of foreign students
  • Admission requirements to study
  • The role of the AStA
  • The allocation of SHK and tutor positions

The students had the opportunity to draw other students' attention to the survey and individual theses through social media links via Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Influence, results and effects

The high level of student participation shows that the topics of the given theses were correctly recognized by the Ministry of Science and are still up to date. According to the results report, the ministry theses are by far the most commented theses of the online consultation. Many additional theses were also written by students on the topics of the Ministry theses, which add a few more points to the topic. It is striking that the topics of standard study time and study organization / workload in particular were heavily discussed and supplemented by new theses. The students also wrote new theses on the topics of professional qualification and lifelong learning. Furthermore, the students supplemented the topics proposed by the ministry with new topics. The results of the online consultation were incorporated into the results report as of January 30, 2012 and were included in the second memorandum "Studying successfully in North Rhine-Westphalia" and in the design of university policy and in the legal framework of universities and higher education institutions sponsored by the state . One example of this is the inclusion in the University Future Act of September 11, 2014. The HZG eliminates the attendance requirements often complained of by students for courses with few exceptions (Article 1 §64 Paragraph 2a HZG NRW).

Analysis and criticism

It should be noted that this online consultation is not a representative participation of all students in North Rhine-Westphalia. However, as many students as possible should be reached. The participation figures show that this was also successful: 19,829 participants completed the survey, and around 14,000 written contributions were received in the “discussion” area. However, the report shows the opinion of the participating students in this online consultation and not the opinion of all students in North Rhine-Westphalia in the sense of a representative survey. If the evaluation speaks of "the students", this refers to the participants who took part in the online consultation and not representative of all students in North Rhine-Westphalia. The online participation platform "" was very user-friendly and gives interested parties a lot of information about the status of the project. Registration was not necessary for the survey. Furthermore, the connection to the social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Google+ was an easy way for the students to draw fellow students' attention to the project. The frequent use of the possibility of evaluating and discussing the theses of the ministry confirmed that the issues raised are of great importance to the students. The further possibility for the students to create and evaluate their own theses and to have them discussed further resulted in further starting points as well as proposed solutions by the student body for the MIWF. Looking at the results of the Besser-Studieren.NRW project, the goal of influencing the students in NRW was achieved, as the opinions and concerns of the students were actively incorporated into the design of the university reform and the HZG.

Secondary sources


This case study description is based on the information from the above sources. For more detailed evaluations of the online consultation, please read the above report.