Student body

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The student body or student body is understood in the narrower sense to mean the entirety of all enrolled students at a university . If such a merger regulated by law or university constitution, one speaks of a written student body or written student body .

Constituted student bodies are anchored in most of the German federal states and in some cantons of Switzerland as public law sub-bodies or member bodies of the respective university. In the federal states and cantons in which there are no constitutional bodies (any longer), there are often free or independent student bodies organized under private law at the universities instead (see regional features ). In Austria there are institutions that are comparable to the Austrian Student Union and the student union at the universities.

Colloquially , the term student body is also often understood in a broader, more general sense for “the students” as a social or historical phenomenon. This colloquial or sociological use of student body can also extend beyond the individual university and refer, for example, to the entirety of the students in a country. For this general (non-legal) meaning, the term studentism was also used until the first half of the 20th century .



The idea of ​​a uniform organization for all students was first formulated at the beginning of the 19th century by the original fraternity, which, however, was not yet pursuing any university-specific goals. Rather, she saw in the amalgamation of the old country associations a preliminary stage for the aspired national unity of Germany . The idea was later taken up by the progress movement and the free student body and linked to new goals (university reform, co-determination, social self-help). The General Student Committees (AStA), initially formed around 1900 on a voluntary basis, also used the adjective to document in general that they no longer only wanted to represent the representatives of the student associations , but also the increasing number of non-corporates. After a few forerunners (Tübingen 1821, Heidelberg 1885), at the beginning of the 20th century there was a "wave of founding" which in 1919 led to the German student body as the umbrella organization of the local AStA.

Weimar Republic and the Nazi era

Composed student bodies in the public legal sense were first introduced in Prussia in 1920 under the aegis of the later Minister of Education, Carl Heinrich Becker . A year earlier, the student committees of the German and Austrian universities in Würzburg had come together to form the German Student Union and made this their main demand. The Prussian ordinance on the formation of student bodies of September 18, 1920, which was adopted almost word for word by the other countries, entrusted the student bodies, in addition to the cultivation of culture and sport and participation in academic self-government, above all with social and economic self-help. The umbrella organization, the German Student Union, was, however, a non-legal association under private law.

After student self-help was separated from the actual student self-administration at an early stage and transferred to legally independent aid associations (today's student unions ), since the student bodies themselves were not legally competent under the Prussian ordinance , the focus of student self-administration was even more clearly than before on the area national political education. In the period that followed, the student bodies were increasingly dominated by nationalist, anti-Semitic and anti-republican forces. The German student body accepted only Aryan organized groups at German universities abroad in Austria and Czechoslovakia as members. In 1927 the Prussian government tried to rectify the situation in its area. However, the dispute ended with CH Becker himself dissolving the Prussian student body. However, this could not prevent the advance of the Nazi student union in particular , which finally took over the leadership of the German student body in 1931 . In 1933, the student bodies were reintroduced across the empire, defined in a typical National Socialist sense, for example committed to the idea of ​​racial struggle, and organized according to the Führer principle .

See also: History of Student Associations

post war period

After the Second World War , the German student body was banned as a Nazi organization. At the same time, the Allies promoted - at least at the West German universities - the rebuilding of democratically organized student bodies. The student youth should be given the opportunity to get involved in the democratic reorganization of the universities and to regulate their concerns independently. However, against the background of the Weimar experience, the occupation authorities made sure that the student bodies did not become the plaything of party political interests. In any case, the distress of the post-war period forced most ASten to devote themselves primarily to solving very tangible everyday problems such as the procurement of living space, clothing, heating or writing materials.

The legal form of the student body played no role for a long time; they simply assumed that the Weimar ordinances would continue to apply under customary law and left the student bodies, including compulsory membership and contribution rights, untouched. Only in Austria were they regulated by federal law from 1950 and now referred to as student bodies (since 2005: student bodies).

Discussion since the 1960s

In Germany , this question was only discussed again intensively from the beginning of the 1960s. The triggers for this were, on the one hand, the worsening dispute about general political activities of the student representatives (see below), and on the other hand, the demand made by the students themselves for equal participation in university bodies ( third parity ). Because - as has been argued by some federal states - the direct involvement of the students in the university's committees now makes a separate compulsory organization superfluous for them. It is true that the general third parity in the university committees was changed after a lawsuit by 398 professors and lecturers (mainly from the Georg-August University of Göttingen and the Technical University of Clausthal) against the preliminary law for a Lower Saxony general university law of October 26, 1971 by judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court of 29 Declared unconstitutional in May 1973. The student participation in the university committees ( group university ) was retained in principle.

In the university framework law of 1976, the written student body - as a result of a federal-state compromise and contrary to originally planned - was finally only included as an optional provision . This finally made it possible for the Union-led state governments of Bavaria (1973) and Baden-Württemberg (1977) to abolish the student bodies. In contrast, they were reintroduced in 1978 in Berlin , which had abolished them in 1969. In the new federal states, too, composed student bodies were introduced everywhere after 1990, but in Saxony-Anhalt since 1994 with an exit option for individual students.

In the summer of 2002, the then red-green federal government finally tried to make student bodies binding in the university framework law. However, this change was rejected by the Federal Constitutional Court on January 26, 2005 after a complaint by several federal states, because the federal government exceeded its framework with this regulation (AZ 2 BvF 1/03). However, the court did not make another substantive statement on the admissibility of composed student bodies after it had not expressed any fundamental doubts about this in the semester ticket judgment in 2000 .

Organs and supra-regional representations

Members of a student body are all enrolled students at a university. In Germany, these usually elect a student parliament , which in turn determines the General Student Committee (AStA) as the executive body. At smaller universities, the students sometimes vote directly for the AStA, in which case a student parliament usually does not exist. This unified system , in which the legislative and executive branches coincide in a single body, is also the basis of the student councils of many East German universities. In addition, there are - among others in Bavaria and at some universities in Switzerland - a number of different names for the student bodies. (see also regional features )

At the faculty or degree program level, the student bodies are often divided into student councils , which usually elect their own representatives, the student councils , to deal with subject-specific issues . In addition, there are separate control and electoral structures, some with full student councils.

In Germany and Switzerland - unlike in Austria - uniform national or national associations of student bodies are not or only partially regulated by law; they therefore usually exist on a voluntary basis. Only in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony and Thuringia are representations at state level legally stipulated. Furthermore, in Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt there are optional regulations for the formation of an association at state level.

In Germany, the free association of student bodies (FCS) has existed since 1993 as a nationwide representation of composed and unconstituted student bodies. However, only some of the German universities belong to it. In Switzerland, the Association of Swiss Student Unions (VSS) and the Association of Swiss University Student Unions (VSH) have been competing since 2002 .

Duties of the composed student body

The committees and organs of the constituted student body represent the interests of the students organized in it vis-à-vis the university, the university management and the public. The form in which the VS does this is regulated differently on the one hand by the federal state, on the other hand also from university to university. The VS organs and committees take decisions at the various levels at which they are active (university, institute, departments, faculties, state, federal government, etc.) and implement them. This ranges from student participation in professorial appointments to the administration of social contributions, semester tickets and cultural events to university and political representation of students.

The general political mandate, especially of the ASten and student parliaments, is controversial among conservatives . The Junge Union and parts of the RCDS speak out against the democratically legitimized participation of students. Nevertheless, in most of the federal states in which the constituted student body exists in addition to the constituted group university , a political educational mandate is also laid down in the statutes of the constituted student body. Even if the history of the VS goes back further, this political educational mission of the VS has its origin only in the post-war period, when the Allied occupying powers reintroduced the student body as a "school of democracy" at the universities. The student body also represents the professional, social, economic and cultural interests of its members. In addition to the opinion-forming and executive function, VS services such as semester tickets , legal advice, BAföG advice, loans and the joint acquisition of study materials (stationery, smocks, dissecting tools, scripts) have established themselves at most universities . At large universities, where the ASten have a corresponding budget, AStA speakers and other student representatives (StuPa presidents, etc.) often receive an expense allowance, which is usually based on the maximum student loan rate. In particular, at small universities and technical colleges there is usually no funding available for student representatives, and this also applies to student representatives in Bavaria. These also fulfill their tasks on a voluntary basis, but i. d. Usually without reimbursement.

Lack of self-management tasks

The term student self-administration is mostly used synonymously for the student body and its organs. Originally, however - in contrast to co-administration (i.e. participation in academic self-administration) and representation of interests - it only referred to a certain area of ​​responsibility of the student body. When the student bodies were set up in the 1920s, the following were primarily self-governing tasks:

  • the economic and social self-help of the students (which today is mainly supported by the student unions )
  • student health care (unlike today, students were not insured by law back then)
  • the maintenance of voluntary university sports (for which most universities today maintain their own facilities)
  • promoting the musical and cultural interests of the students.

After 1945, many student bodies also increasingly devoted themselves to establishing international exchange relationships , before this task was increasingly taken over by the university's international offices.

At the same time, these self-administration tasks, in particular economic and social self-help, were at the time a key argument in favor of granting student bodies a public-law status, combined with the right to levy contributions. Given the fact that most of these tasks but today perceived also by other institutions, is by critics, especially in the legal literature, doubts for some time that the Authored student body as a public service obligation Association still justified and with the Basic Law compatible be. However, the Federal Constitutional Court has so far rejected these doubts - most recently in 2000 - and expressly granted the legislature a margin of discretion in this matter.

Little involvement in academic self-administration

Unlike in Austria or Switzerland, for example, the student bodies are not (no longer) directly involved in academic self-administration. Instead, the student representatives (in the senates and faculty or departmental councils ) are determined in separate ballots and therefore often act largely in isolation. In any case, students are only represented in these bodies with 16% to 25% of the seats and votes; the professors, however, have an absolute majority.

As a result, many students feel that they have little or no influence on local university policy. With the ongoing reorganization of many universities, there is also a tendency to curtail the competencies of these bodies and to shift them to bodies that make decisions without any student involvement (e.g. university councils ).

Low student participation

The turnout for both student parliaments and university committees is therefore often low and usually only 10 to 20 percent. This is partly due to the lack of skills and the resulting low importance of the choice, but partly also to political fatigue and a lack of information among the students.

The student representatives are therefore often accused of lacking legitimacy. They would not represent the majority of the students, but only a small part. This is often used to justify further restrictions on competencies (see the example of Hessen ).

Many student bodies also lack interested and experienced members. Due to the tightening of the study conditions, especially in the course of the Bologna Process and the introduction of tuition fees , there are also fears that students will have to concentrate on their personal advancement and become less socially involved. This is especially true at universities without an established student body, where there is no provision for speakers to be paid and where the representatives are dependent on voluntary members.

Membership fees and housekeeping

Criticism is often directed against the compulsory collection of membership fees and the administration of funds. Given the low turnout, there are often fears that small but well-organized groups might find their way into the student council and enrich themselves with student contributions.

As a rule, the budget management of the student council is subject to multiple controls: on the one hand by internal control bodies of the student body, on the other hand by the university and the state audit offices. Alleged scandals about illegal use of student representation by Asten in the past also related more to mismanagement in connection with self-supported businesses than to the diversion of funds into “black funds” or the like. However, it is criticized from various sides that the Asten use their funds unilaterally.

General political mandate

The perception of general political interests by the student bodies has long been controversial.

Statements by student representatives on general political issues are often criticized. Conservative groups in particular accuse “left” ASten of misusing the student body's resources for general political work. Even conservative student representatives, however, sometimes express themselves on general political issues.

Compulsory membership and negative freedom of expression of the members are put forward as justification for a ban on expressing themselves in general politics. In several cases, Asten was sentenced to refrain from making general political statements.

The Higher Education Act of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia makes it clear that student bodies may also allow general political statements in the media they use (e.g. online forums on their own websites), but only if these are clearly distinguished from the statements made by the student body as such .

See also: General Political Mandate

Regional particularities


In Baden-Württemberg there were no written student bodies between 1977 and 2012. According to the then applicable university law, the student representatives in the university senate , their deputies and other student representatives formed a university body called the " AStA ". However, this was not a committee of the composed student body, so it had no statutory autonomy and no financial sovereignty. Both the AStA's rules of procedure and its budget, which was funded from the general university budget, were decided by the Senate with a professorial majority. According to the higher education law at the time, this “AStA” was exclusively responsible for “cross-faculty study matters” as well as for “promoting the social, intellectual, musical and sporting interests of the students”. Due to this legal situation, there were so-called independent student bodies with their own bodies in addition to the official AStA at several universities in Baden-Württemberg .

After the election victory of the green-red coalition in 2011, the student bodies were re-anchored in the University Act one year later.


In Bavaria, the student bodies were abolished as early as 1973. The student parliament and AStA have been replaced by a system of student representatives anchored in the Bavarian Higher Education Act (BayHSchG). However, since these bodies no longer represent a sub-body under public law, they also have significantly fewer competencies, in particular no longer statute and contribution sovereignty.

Student representation at Bavarian universities is regulated in the Bavarian University Act (Art. 52, BayHSchG). Even without an established student body , the student representatives elected in the annual university election participate in the university bodies. In the first step, the representatives of the students of a faculty are elected, they form the student representatives and have two or four seats on the faculty council. The first two elected representatives of the student council from each faculty of the university together form the "student council".

Analogous to the student parliament (StuPa), there is the student convention in Bavaria , which consists of one half of the student council and the other half of just as many directly elected candidates who can regularly be put up for election via associations ("lists") . The mandate holders of the convention then elect four members to a spokesman's council , which consists of six people and fulfills the function of the AStA. The two elected student representatives in the Academic Senate are also automatically members of the Student Convention and the Speaker Council.

As a result of the experimentation clause (Art. 106, BayHSchG), independent student bodies could emerge in Bavaria , which continued the previous work in a parallel model to the legal structures. The composition and designation of the bodies therefore vary considerably from university to university.



In Hesse , the CDU government made massive cuts in the rights of student bodies from 2006 onwards. A large part of the decided semester fees may not be charged if the voter turnout in the elections to the student parliament remains below the 25% threshold. The new Hessian Higher Education Act of December 14, 2009 enables the student body in Section 76 to abolish the 25% hurdle by amending the statutes. At the same time, the AStA is no longer mentioned as an organ of the constituted student body and thus enables in § 78 a theoretical abolition, but also a renaming of the AStA at the respective university.

New federal states

In the new federal states, the student body is anchored in law; in Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony there is a formal right to leave, which is used to varying degrees by students at the individual universities.

However, instead of the AStA and the student parliament , many East German student bodies have a student council (StuRa) , which in fact combines the functions of both bodies. Founded in the course of the fall of the Berlin Wall as an alternative to the former state youth FDJ , many student councils differ from their West German counterparts on the one hand through a different electoral system and on the other hand through a resulting, special understanding of politics and tasks (more on this in the article Student Council ).


At most Swiss universities ( Basel , Bern , Freiburg , Lucerne , Neuchâtel , St. Gallen and ETH Lausanne ), the student bodies are also organized as public bodies with automatic membership from enrollment onwards through the respective university laws. However, the “compulsory membership” has been criticized since the 1970s and has therefore been relaxed in many cases by an individual right to withdraw.

At the universities of Geneva and Lausanne , on the other hand, the local student councils are organized on the French model as an umbrella organization for several associations and initiatives. At ETH Zurich , an association under private law ( VSETH , since 1862) traditionally looks after the interests of the students.


  • Ludwig Giesecke: The composed student body. A no longer up-to-date organizational model from 1920. Baden-Baden 2001.
  • Konrad Jarausch : German Students 1800–1970. Frankfurt am Main 1984.
  • Andreas Keller: University reform and university revolt. Self-administration and co-determination in the full-time university, the group university and the university of the 21st century. Marburg 2000.
  • Lukas Kurz: The reintroduction of the composed student body. In: Tremmel, Jörg / Rutsche, Markus (Hrsg.): Political participation of young people. Wiesbaden, 2016, pp. 459–484.
  • Tim Peters , Ulrich W. Schulte: Article 2, Paragraph 1 of the Basic Law and the limited mandate of composed student bodies. In: WissR. 4/2003, pp. 325-343.
  • Ulrich K. Preuss : The political mandate of the student body. Frankfurt am Main 1969.
  • Uwe Rohwedder: Between self-help and “political mandate”. On the history of the composed student body in Germany. In: Yearbook for University History . Volume 8, 2005, pp. 235ff.
  • Helmut Ridder , Karl-Heinz Ladeur : The so-called political mandate of the university and student body: legal opinions. (= Supplement No. 1 on Democracy and Law ). Pahl-Rugenstein Verlag , Cologne 1973.
  • Friedrich Schulze, Paul Ssymank : The German student body from the oldest times to the present. 4th edition. Munich 1932 (reprint 1991).
  • Holger Zinn: The student self-government in Germany until 1945. In: Matthias Steinbach , Stefan Gerber (Eds.): “Classic University” and “Academic Province”. Studies at the University of Jena from the middle of the 19th century to the thirties of the 20th century. Jena 2005, pp. 439-473.
  • Sebastian Honscheck: The reintroduction of the composed student body in Baden-Württemberg , in: Verwaltungsblätter für Baden-Württemberg 2013, 294 ff.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ordinance on the formation of student bodies at universities and technical colleges of September 19, 1920 (ZBlPrUV p. 8) Digital copy of the library for research on the history of education
  2. ^ Arnold Köttgen, University Law. 1933, p. 160.
  3. cf. Incidentally, German student body
  4. ^ Professors: Linker als links ,, print article from December 4, 1972. Accessed March 24, 2012.
  5. BVerfGE vol. 35, p. 79, so-called university judgment
  7. State University Act - LHG of January 1, 2005 as amended on April 1, 2014 (Journal of Laws p. 99), Section 65a, Paragraph 8. Accessed on August 6, 2015 .
  8. University Act (HochSchG) as amended on November 19, 2010, Section 108, Paragraph 5
  9. University Act of the State of Saxony-Anhalt (HSG LSA) as amended on December 14, 2010, Section 65, Paragraph 5
  10. Trouble about JU's basic program: Asta la vista, student representatives in spiegelonline from October 8, 2012 (accessed on January 18, 2013)
  12. ↑ On this, for example, Marco Penz: Press activities of student bodies : Requirements and limits , Public Administration (DÖV), 2016, pp. 906f. or Lukas C. Gundling: On the political neutrality obligation of the student body , Journal for State Constitutional Law and State Administrative Law (ZLVR), 2018, p. 41.
  13. ^ Student Council: The Ten Biggest Wastes of the Asta , Zeit Online
  14. Lukas C. Gundling: On the political neutrality obligation of the student body , Journal for State Constitutional Law and State Administrative Law (ZLVR), 2018, p. 41ff.
  15. Law on the Universities of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, Section 53 Paragraph 2, Sentences 3 and 4. Ministry for Innovation, Science, Research and Technology of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, accessed on October 7, 2012 .
  16. More say for students: Votes are running in: Badische Zeitung from April 28, 2013. Accessed April 30, 2013
  17. Section 65 of the BW Higher Education Act as amended on July 14, 2012 ; see also Honscheck, VBlBW 2013, 294 ff.
  18. "Experimentation Clause", Art. 106 BayHSchG
  20. Change of the basic order possible according to Art. 31 Para. 1 Clause 2 No. 1, BayHSchG
  21. ^ Hessian Higher Education Act and Act amending the TUD Act and other legal provisions
  22. z. B. § 24 SächsHSFG