Students expect their future employers to place more value on their credentials than their studies, a University of Cologne study has revealed.

The research was published in a recent study ‘The Expected (Signalling) Value of Higher Education’, which was conducted by the University of Cologne.

The students interviewed predicted that potential employers will favour individual skills more than the topics that were covered in their studies.

The report involved interviewing 6,306 students across Germany, who all participated via email.

These students were contacted via a popular nationwide job board, on which they completed a questionnaire.

Study explored subjects such as employers expectations and education experiences

A variety of different topics were covered within the study, including future labour market expectations, experiences of their current studies, and questions related to dropping out of university. 

As a result of this belief, the driving factor behind students’ wish to attend university was to obtain impressive credentials, rather than the chance to gain new skills and cover new material.

Students believe that these diplomas are an achievement that are more widely recognised amongst employers, and will bring more benefits to them in terms of their future career plans.

Students show ‘limited willingness’ to study material beyond what is on the exam

According to the survey, this attitude may explain the common trend of rigidity amongst students:

“This might explain the common complaint among professors regarding their students’ limited willingness to study material beyond what is on the exam. Our findings further indicate that students believe that a university diploma helps them to get a foot-in-the-door at high paying jobs, to obtain more valuable work experience, and to follow an entirely different career trajectory.”

The respondents to the study stated that they expect to receive substantial labour market returns once they have completed their studies. The current graduation premium stands at 24.5%, which corresponds to an additional salary bonus worth 7,400 Euros a year.

Furthermore, as a result of this substantial return of investment, the study indicated that an alteration of university tuition fees would be unlikely to affect student numbers. This provides some explanation as to why the temporary introduction of fees from Germany’s HEIs and the increase of UK university fees in 2012 did not impact enrolment in any significant way.

Pic: M. Monk

Josephine Walbank is a reporter for Global Education Times (GET News) with a focus on education in the UK, Asia-Pacific, and Americas, and student experience and lifestyle news.

Josephine is an experienced journalist who previously served as the Editor-in-Chief of The Falmouth Anchor. She is also the former Deputy Editor of Voices, the Falmouth & Exeter Students’ Union’s publication, and has written for various food and lifestyle publications.

You can reach her at

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