November 19, 2014 Nick Preston

ArbeiterKind.de Germany’s Largest Community for First Generation University Students

ArbeiterKind.de gives first generation students a strength-focused positive identity in relation to higher education through 70 local groups run by centrally supported volunteers. This involves one to one and group peer learning and counselling.

Objectives of the Intervention

ArbeiterKind.de’s vision is that every suitably qualified child from a non-academic family (first generation students) should have the opportunity for educational advancement. ArbeiterKind.de envisions a Germany where more children from non-academic families attend university and fewer of them drop out before completing their degree.

Arbeiterkind does not have a quantitative targets and is serious about their vision as mentioned above. The results though are impressive since they started in 2009 with a group of volunteers and expanded in 5 years to 6000 volunteers in 70 locations throughout Germany serving 30.000 school students, parents and university students. There is obvisously a need that has not been identified until 2009.

As such, the organization has three main objectives:

  • to encourage students to pursue a degree;
  • to support them as they complete it;
  • and to advise them as they enter the workforce.

To do so, ArbeiterKind.de uses an extensive, accessible, and demand-oriented counseling network.

Arbeiterkind is not part of something larger. It is an independent ngo but the leadership of Arbeiterkind is involved in national and international networks. Through the work of Arbeiterkind Katja Urbatch asks for more attention for the needs of first generation students and issues that are related to class and the aspiration to go to higher education as well as the aspects of costs of higher education to students who are the first in their family to enter higher education.

Origins and rationale of this initiative

While the total level of education has risen in Germany and the number of academically qualified people is steadily increasing, the social background of students still determines whether individuals successfully pursue higher education. Indeed, it is striking that 77 out of 100 children from families whose parents have university degrees seek higher education while only 23 out of 100 children who would be the first in their families to attend university do so. (Data from the current 20th Social Survey of the Deutsches Studentenwerk).

In order to widen access to higher education, Katja Urbatsch founded ArbeiterKind.de in 2009. The initiative grew quickly from a website to Germany´s Largest Community for First Generation University Students.

Target groups intended as beneficiaries of this initiative

ArbeiterKind.de gives first generation students a strength-focused positive identity and a voice. Through ArbeiterKind.de, the students meet peers, share experiences and gain confidence. ArbeiterKind.de also sensitizes schoolteachers, staff at academic institutions, education service providers, journalists and policy makers for the specific potential and challenges of first generation university students.

Political and socio-economic factors that you believe have been important enablers for your initiative

Access to higher education in Germany is strongly based on parental educational achievement. Recent studies have shown that 77 out of 100 children from families whose parents have university degrees seek higher education while only 23 out of 100 children who would be the first in their families to attend university do so.

Facing a rapidly ageing population and a shortage of skilled workforce, there is strong political will and public support to widen access to higher education. However, ArbeiterKind.de sees two shortcomings in many of the existing initiatives:

  • Predominantly, support programs employ a deficit-based approach to first generation students.
  • ArbeiterKind uses a strength-based approach focused on the specific competences and skills of first generation students.

Many support programs and fellowships for first generation students are highly selective and competitive, therefore again creating a bias towards those who know how to sell themselves best. ArbeiterKind.de uses a low-threshold and local approach, offering advice and support to everyone without a selection process or fee.

ArbeiterKind did not started as part of Government policy. The enablers in fact are first generation students and their parents. Through social media ArbeiterKind got response and followers and that created the encouragement for the initiators to continue. There are foundations that support the work of ArbeiterKind. They have been instrumental in providing funding, a network and knowledge.

Overall Programme design and the methods and tools used to reach the goals

ArbeiterKind.de has three main objectives:

  • to encourage students to pursue a degree;
  • to support them as they complete it;
  • and to advise them as they enter the workforce.

To do so, ArbeiterKind.de uses an extensive, accessible, and demand-oriented counselling network.

Throughout Germany, almost 6,000 volunteers participate in 70 local ArbeiterKind.de groups. They receive support from full-time staff in the central office in Berlin and from four regional coordination offices. The volunteers—mostly students themselves who also hail from non-academic families—encourage other potential students through their own example. This peer-to-peer learning method is accompanied by a strength-based, not a deficit-based approach focusing on the specific competences and skills of first generation students.

In 2013, ArbeiterKind.de operated with:

  • an annual budget of 763,910 Euro,
  • almost 6,000 volunteers and
  • 8.1 full-time staff

The staff and volunteers held personal meetings with about 30,000 school students, university students and parents. ArbeiterKind.de held 240 information sessions in schools and universities, and provided more than 2,500 persons with email and telephone counseling. The website www.arbeiterkind.de recorded 500,500 visits.

Describe if the project ensured its sustainability

Katja Urbatsch founded ArbeiterKind.de in 2009. The initiative grew quickly from a website to Germany´s Largest Community for First Generation University Students with presently about 6,000 volunteers in 70 local groups. The volunteer´s commitment lies at the heart of ArbeiterKind.de´s successful growth and is the guarantee for sustainability.

Arbeiterkind has not been replicated in other countries mainly because the context for establishing the organization is very much specific for the German context. The issues Arbeiterkind made visible though are very recognizable in other countries neighboring countries.

Resources used in the initiative

In 2013, ArbeiterKind.de operated with an annual budget of 763,910 Euro, almost 6,000 volunteers and 8.1 full-time staff. As mentioned above, the volunteer´s commitment lies at the heart of ArbeiterKind.de´s successful growth and is the guarantee for sustainability.

Arbeiterkind.de receives generous support from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, several state education ministries, private foundations, corporations and approximately 250 individual donors.

Did the intervention reach its objectives?

A quantitative measurement of the effects of ArbeiterKind.de is a challenging task: Positive changes in the quota of first generation students in Germany are not only based on ArbeiterKind.de´s successful work, but also on the joint efforts of all stakeholders in the field.

ArbeiterKind.de performs an internal monitoring system and regularly assesses local volunteer activities, case contacts of the hotline and support measures of the regional offices.

The social impact of ArbeiterKind.de has been regularly evaluated by teams of renowned educational experts. Please see our 2013 annual report for details.

Signs of quantitative impact will be more visible in the coming years. For now the outcomes are very impressive given the fact that the organization is just so young.

In 2013, ArbeiterKind.de operated with:

  • an annual budget of 763,910 Euro,
  • almost 6,000 volunteers and
  • 8.1 full-time staff.

The staff and volunteers held personal meetings with about 30,000 school students, university students and parents. ArbeiterKind.de held 240 information sessions in schools and universities, and provided more than 2,500 persons with email and telephone counseling. The website www.arbeiterkind.de recorded 500,500 visits.

Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply