Student union

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Logo of the German Student Union

A student union or student union is an institution at universities for the social care of the students there. In Germany, the student unions are responsible for promoting the social, economic and cultural interests of students . Originally developed as student self-help institutions, they are now regulated by state laws and almost all of them are organized as institutions under public law .

The currently 57 student unions are spatially separated from each other by state law-stipulated responsibilities for one or more universities and cities. They vary in size, ranging from around 1,300 to 125,000 students in the area of ​​responsibility and from 11 to 790 employees. The student unions work together in the umbrella organization of the German Student Union (DSW) .


The first student unions came into being in the period after the First World War , when many students were impoverished by the consequences of war and inflation and were only able to finance their studies with difficulty. In 1921, the local student self-help associations, academic aid organizations, etc. joined forces at the 4th German Student Day in Erlangen to provide economic aid for the German Student Union. V. together. Due to the political development within the German student body itself, however, there was already an increasing alienation between the two organizations in the course of the 1920s, which finally resulted in the renaming of Wirtschaftshilfe in Deutsches Studentenwerk e. V. (DSW) precipitated.

During the time of National Socialism , the DSW was transferred as a Reichsstudentenwerk in 1934 to an institution under public law directly under the Reich, subordinated to the newly created Reichsstudentenführung and subjected to the political goals of the Nazi regime; the local student unions were dissolved and transferred as dependent sub-institutions to the Reichsstudentenwerk, based in Berlin.

After the Second World War , the Reichsstudentenwerk was dissolved and the local Studentenwerke were re-established in West Germany - mostly in the form of registered associations or foundations. These reunited in 1950 to form a loose association of German Student Services, which in 1956 was renamed Deutsches Studentenwerk e. V. (DSW) accepted. From 1957, the student services were entrusted with the processing of general student grants according to the Honnef model - a forerunner of today's BAföG - and since 1960 the construction of student dormitories has been promoted. Since both tasks were increasingly financed by public grants, the student unions lost their character as student self- help institutions. The then Association of German Student Unions and the West German Rectors' Conference turned against this and demanded that the student unions (again) be transferred more strongly to the care of the student bodies and universities. In the course of the introduction of the BAföG, the administration of which was also transferred to the student unions, these were transferred to institutions under public law almost across the board in the early 1970s.

Until 1990 there were no student unions in the GDR . Canteens, dormitories and other social facilities such as B. Crèches and kindergartens for the students were instead run by the colleges and universities. The state scholarship payments were also processed through the universities and technical colleges. In the course of reunification in 1990, student unions based on the West German model were also set up in East Germany, which also became members of the German Student Union. When setting up these new institutions, the DSW campaigned for students to have extensive say. They often make up half of the members in the bodies of the East German student unions.

In the course of the linguistic equal treatment of women and men , several federal states have renamed their student unions to student unions : Rhineland-Palatinate (2003), Hamburg (2005), Baden-Württemberg (2014), Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and North Rhine-Westphalia (2015), Berlin and Thuringia (both 2016) and Bremen (2018). In Hesse, the decision was left to the individual student unions by their name, whereupon those in Darmstadt and Kassel in Studierendenwerk renamed. The renaming met with repeated criticism, mainly because of the associated costs.


In practice, the Studentenwerke nowadays take on the following tasks:

  • Operation of canteens and cafeterias; At the end of 2013 there were a total of 875 catering establishments with 236,136 seats
  • Administration and operation of dormitories with approx. 184,000 dormitory places (end of 2013)
  • Study funding within the framework of BAföG (exception: Rhineland-Palatinate - here the BAföG offices are part of the university) and beyond
  • Supervision of foreign students (around 265,000 in the 2012 academic year)
  • psychological and social advice as well as legal advice
  • Granting of loans and social support
  • Child care for student parents
  • cultural offers (including sponsoring student clubs )

Legal form, financing and organization

Studentenwerke are legally independent institutions that are independent of the universities and usually work in the legal form of an institution under public law , whereby their work falls into the field of education and is therefore regulated by state laws (state university laws or independent student union laws). They are financed from government grants (mostly from the federal states, but also from the federal government), from social contributions that all students have to pay and from sales, e.g. B. Income in the cafeteria or rental amounts.

In addition to BAföG , which can be seen as direct individual study financing, student unions are another means of study financing through the state grant, which in this case is referred to as indirect study financing.

Student unions are run by full-time managing directors, however, in fundamental questions, decisions are made by voluntary bodies (board of directors, administrative board), which are also responsible for overseeing the management. Members of these committees are, depending on the federal state, representatives of the universities , the student body , the employees of the student union, the state governments or external persons.

German student union

The 57 student unions in Germany are part of the nationwide umbrella organization Deutsches Studentenwerk e. V. merged. Its task is on the one hand the exchange of experience and knowledge as well as further training measures for the local student unions. On the other hand, the DSW sees itself as a socio-political interest group for the students .

The DSW is particularly well known for its social survey , which has been published every three years since 1952, on the “economic and social situation of students” in Germany. It forms the basis for a large part of the work in the field of student social policy.

The German Student Union is based in Berlin . Rolf-Dieter Postlep has been President of the German Student Union since January 1, 2018.

International comparison

The economic and social care of students is solved very differently internationally, whereby the German system of independent care institutions separated from the universities is rather rare. In many countries, the tasks described here, in particular the administration and operation of canteens and dormitories, are taken over by the universities themselves. In other cases such facilities - in this case mainly dormitories - are run by the student councils.

The French system in particular is comparable to Germany. Here there is the Center national des œuvres universitaires et scolaires (CNOUS), which is also separate from the universities and is organized at national level. In addition, there is the Center régional des œuvres universitaires et scolaires (CROUS), which advocate the interests of students at the regional level. Its areas include student accommodation, the maintenance of canteens , financial support and scholarships , along with reception of international students that in France a study abroad graduate. There are annual meetings between the German student unions and their French counterparts as well as an exchange via working groups in order to enable an improvement in their own work through international cooperation and to underline the Franco-German friendship .

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Duden .
  2. Annual report of the Studentenwerk Braunschweig, 2015
  3. ^ Ordinance on the establishment of student unions of September 18, 1990 (Journal of Laws of I p. 1606)
  4. ^ Discontent about unisex , SpiegelOnline of August 22, 2014. Accessed on August 24, 2015.
  6. Student unions are storming against expensive forced renaming , from February 2, 2015. Accessed on August 24, 2015.
  7. a b c Reunion with old friends, in: Unicum , edition 11/2013, p. 10 f.
  8. website of the French CNOUS . Retrieved March 3, 2014.