BUKSS - Determinants of Social Inequalities and Consequences of Higher Education Dropout and Change of Study Programme (completed 2021)

Running from

2017 - 2020

Funded by

Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung

Students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds have a higher risk of changing their study programme and dropping out of tertiary education. Since student dropout is associated with cost for the individual as well as for society as a whole and and since so far only a few theory-based empirical studies are available, the BUKSS project of INCHER aimed at answering the following questions:

  •  What causes social disparities in change of study programme and dropout?
  • How does the change of study programme affect the further course of studies?
  • What are the labor market consequences of the change of study programme or the final dropout?

The project aimed first at identifying those determinants of social inequalities in dropout and the change of study programme of study that can be changed by higher education practitioners. The second aim was to investigate the consequences of tertiary education dropout or change of study programme of study on labor market outcomes. This was expected to allow hinting at intervention measures within and outside institutions of higher education.

Using the data of the starting cohort 5 of the German National Educational Panel (NEPS) the extent of social disparities of dropout and change of study programme was estimated. The explanatory power of different theoretical approaches for socially different dropout risks - such as Tinto's integration model, Bourdieu's theory of social reproduction and the rational choice theory – has been investigated in multivariate regression models. The study also examined if and how the change of study programme can lead to a successful completion of studies or on the contrary increase the risk of a definitive dropout.

Matching procedures have been used to examine the success on the labor market for former dropouts and students who changed their study programme. The educational returns of the respective groups were compared with those of comparable persons without tertiary education experience.


Journal articles and book chapters

Klein, D., & Müller, L. (2022): Social Inequality in Dropout from Higher Education in Germany. Towards Combining the Student Integration Model and Rational Choice Theory. In: Research in Higher Education (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-022-09703-w

Klein, D., & Müller, L. (2021) Soziale, ethnische und geschlechtsspezifische Unterschiede im Studienabbruchrisiko. Welche Rolle spielen akademische Leistungen vor und während des Studiums? ZeHf – Zeitschrift für empirische Hochschulforschung, 1-2020, S. 13-31. https://doi.org/10.3224/zehf.v4i1.03

Mishra, S. & Müller, L. (2021). Role of resources and aspirations in influencing higher education dropout intentions of migrant students in Germany: the role of social networks and social capital approach. Studies in Higher Education*. Available online- DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2021.1948525

Klein D., Mishra, S., & Müller, L. (2021).  Die langfristigen individuellen Konsequenzen des Studienabbruchs. In M. Neugebauer, A. Wolter, & H-D Daniel (Eds.). Studienerfolg und Studienabbruch, 281-302. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-32892-4


Related publication

Mishra, S. (2020). Social networks, social capital, social support and academic success in higher education: A systematic review with a special focus on ‘underrepresented’ student. Educational Research Review*, 29. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2019.100307.

Policy brief/Kurzdossier

Klein, D., Müller, L., & Mishra, S. (2018). Soziale Ungleichheit bei Studienabbruch, (Kurzdossier 06/2018).


Klein, D., Müller, L., & Mishra, S. (2019). Studienfachwechsel und Studienabbruch, (Kurzdossier 07/2019).