VORsprung: A digital head start for Engineering and Science studies in Germany
“VORsprung” is a digital preparatory programme for prospective students who are interested in STEM studies in Germany and would like to prepare themselves in their home countries beforehand. It is designed for international students who have a German language efficiency level of B2, but no direct access to study at a German university.
The course allows them to study whenever and wherever they please without restricting them to a tight schedule or mandatory presence. The participants will be trained in mathematics, computer science, chemistry and physics and take their language skills to the next level (C1). They will also learn about German culture in general and the learning culture at German universities along with other relevant skills. Although our programme promotes digital rather than face to face teaching, specifically trained tutors will be available online to help the participants along the way.
At the end of this course, which will last approximately eight months, the participants will be prepared to take the traditional assessment test (Feststellungsprüfung) or the Test for Academic Studies (TestAS).
VORsprung at a Glance
VORsprung: A Digital Head Start for Engineering and Science Studies in Germany
Duration of the project:
Start of the pilot phase:
Egypt, India, Mexico
German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst – DAAD) and Goethe-Institut
Funded by the DAAD with funds from the Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt – AA)
- Fachhochschule Aachen
- Technische Universität Berlin
- Ruhr-Universität Bochum
- Internationales Studien- und Sprachkolleg (ISSK) der Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
- Zentrum für Audiovisuelle Produktion der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität
- Gesellschaft für akademische Studienvorbereitung und Testentwicklung e.V. (g.a.s.t.)
Innovative measures that contribute to the digitalization of university preparation are being developed and tested within VORsprung and are designed to help prospective international students receive their German university entrance qualification. This research and development project focuses on overcoming the crucial (education policy) challenges that exist regarding access to higher education in Germany.
VORsprung aims to:
- facilitate access to higher education in Germany and make Germany a more attractive place of study for prospective international students
- decrease the educational heterogeneity and close curricular gaps of prospective students
- ensure equal opportunities as well as economical and flexible access to the German higher education landscape
- significantly reduce the drop-out rates of first-year students; these are currently at around 45% in bachelor’s programs
- prepare prospective generations for future challenges by using standardized and personalized processes
- promote technical and ecological innovation by supporting prospective STEM students in order to implement the sustainability goals of the Agenda 2030
- meet the growing demand for highly qualified and skilled workers within STEM fields in Germany
 Compare Pineda, Jesús and Rech, Maike: Studienvorbereitung und -einstieg internationaler Studierender in Deutschland: Massnahmen, Strukturen und Praxisbeispiele, published by DAAD, 2020, page 12.
Most prospective students from non-EU countries pursue studies in STEM subjects. At the same time the demand for well-prepared international students at German universities remains unabated. The existing offers for study preparation measures mainly rely on face-to-face teaching formats, which are either affiliated with universities in the form of preparatory courses or operate as independent units. However, these are naturally limited to a smaller number of possible participants.
VORsprung: Preparing for Your Studies – Digitally aims to take these developments into account by offering an eight-month digital preparatory program. After its successful completion, graduates can apply for a place at a German university in a scientific or technical subject.
The program relies on blended learning: digital study preparation is supplemented by virtual or analog attendance components. This increases the capacities for prospective students and lowers the financial obstacles that study preparation in the country of destination usually entails. However, in order to prepare participants not only for taking up a course of study, but also equipping them with everything they need to successfully complete their studies, VORsprung offers not merely subject-specific preparation and language lessons, but also provides further study preparation measures. Among other things it enhances the participants' time management and problem-solving strategies and offers the support of specifically trained tutors as well as a personalization of the program.
Throughout the eight-month program, students/participants will be prepared for both the traditional assessment test (Feststellungsprüfung) and the Test for Academic Studies (TestAS). During the pilot phase, the best participants will receive scholarships.
Content of the Program
The in-depth, standardized technical preparation for studying in Germany includes the subjects of the technology course (T-course) of a German preparatory college: mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science, and German. This core curriculum, which is being developed by the universities involved in the project, will be offered on a modular basis and will impart specialized knowledge that prepares students for the assessment test. These modules can be supplemented by further courses offered by the partner universities involved in VORsprung. Thus, the participants have the option to prepare specifically for STEM studies at one of these universities – if they are already looking at a possible university of their choice at this stage in their student journey.
Upon completion of the program, the language proficiency of the graduates will have reached C1 level. Thanks to the special technical language lessons that complement the general German lessons, they will not only be very well-prepared for social interactions in everyday life, but also for STEM studies at a German university.
The challenges international students are facing at German universities are as diverse as the international student body itself. In addition to financial and bureaucratic obstacles to studying abroad, personal and cultural aspects play a major role. It is not uncommon that one’s idea of studying abroad differs from the reality of life in the country of destination.
Therefore, not only linguistic and professional suitability or the basic ability to study are central to a student’s academic success, but intercultural sensitivity and knowledge are crucial. Only those who are aware of the cultural differences to be expected in the country of destination and know how to deal with them will be able to get settled and make the most of this opportunity. That is why it is an integral part of the program to raise intercultural awareness of participants and to prepare them for German teaching and learning culture.
Professional and linguistic ability is a good foundation for taking up a course of study in Germany. Other skills, however, will also play an important role in its successful completion. The requirements of a degree program, such as the ability to organize oneself, presentation and collaboration skills, as well as other learning methods often go far beyond what is taught at school. German students often have problems with the transition from school to university and the increased demands linked to this process as well, so supporting participants individually in a new situation is key.
VORsprung uses the advantages of digitalization to prepare the diverse subject-specific, linguistic and cultural learning modules. It allows the participant’s learning experience to be designed more individually and in a more needs-oriented way than in a purely face-to-face format. This puts the focus on the needs of the target group and develops new learning models.
A major advantage of digital study preparation is the accessibility of the program at any time and from any location. VORsprung relies on blended learning to complement the online preparation with selected face-to-face events that strengthen the social interaction among the participants.
Even so, the highest possible degree of individualization does not mean that participants are left to their own devices during the program. Different learning biographies and personal conditions require individual support. Consequently, specially trained tutors will accompany the learning progress, respond to individual needs of the participants and thus provide them with targeted support during this preparatory program.
As VORsprung is a digital offering, it is not subject to regional restrictions. In its pilot phase, it will initially be available in Egypt, India and Mexico, but can be expanded to other countries as needed. In the future, the project will be linked to the Digital Campus, which will increase the circle of higher education institutions that can benefit from well-prepared students and vice versa. In addition, there is a review taking place on whether it will be possible to take the assessment test digitally so as to further reduce the costs of taking up studies in Germany.