Copyright: Universität Konstanz

Discrimination at German universities: how widespread is it?

In the largest survey of its kind in Germany – the Student Survey in Germany – about a quarter of respondents reported experiencing discrimination during their studies. Konstanz researchers' analysis of the survey data revealed that women, non-heterosexual students, and students with a migration background face an increased risk of discrimination.

As sites of scholarship and reflection, universities are often regarded as places that provide equal opportunities. However, the Student Survey in Germany gives a different picture. The online survey took place in 2021 and included about 180,000 students from around 250 German universities. About 10% of them were asked about experiences they may have had with discrimination during their studies, ranging from a belittling of their achievements to insults and verbal abuse, physical threats and assaults.

Konstanz-based sociologists Jasmin Meyer, Susanne Strauß, and Thomas Hinz analysed the survey data in a recent DZHW publication (in German). The results: About a quarter of respondents (26%) experienced discrimination during their studies at least once, and almost half (46%) observed discrimination against others. Women are at higher risk of experiencing sexualized harassment and violence than men. LGBT+ respondents experienced sexualized assaults and physical threats more often than heterosexual students, and respondents with a migration background were more likely to report experiencing physical and verbal threats and assaults than other students.

The study also shows that students who have repeatedly experienced discrimination are less satisfied with the atmosphere in their study programmes and feel more stressed. The authors suggest: To better address discrimination, anti-discrimination advisory services should be available to students at all universities and more information should be provided about these services. Awareness should also be raised among teaching staff for non-discriminatory, respectful forms of communication.

About the survey
The Student Survey in Germany is a collaboration of the University of Konstanz’s Research Group on Higher Education, the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW), and the German National Association for Student Affairs (DSW).