The joint Federal Government-Länder Competition “Advancement through Education: Open Universities”


As a result of growing student numbers and their increasingly diverse learning and social backgrounds and career goals, higher education institutions (HEIs) face the mounting demands of lifelong learning now more than ever. Higher education institutions are tasked with the challenge of providing access to learners at all phases of their lives and meeting their diverse needs.


To respond to these issues, the Federal Government, together with the Länder, launched the “Advancement through Education: Open Universities” competition, providing a total of 250 million euros for the years 2011 to 2020. The first round of the competition began in 2011 and involved 50 HEIs (universities and universities of applied sciences). When the second round started in 2014, another 46 institutions joined the competition. All in all, funding is being granted to 122 institutions in 73 joint or individual projects at 95 HEIs and three non-university research institutions. The competition promotes innovative, demand-oriented and sustainable strategies in the higher education sector to:

  • Enhance permeability between vocational education and training and higher education;
  • Integrate new knowledge into everyday practice;
  • Ensure a permanent supply of skilled personnel;
  • Enable HEIs to develop distinct profiles in the field of lifelong academic learning and part-time study programs designed for professionals.


More than a hundred HEIs – a quarter of all HEIs in Germany – are currently developing and implementing programs for lifelong learners, such as:

  • Concepts for work-compatible study programs;
  • Other study programs and certificate courses, aimed at science-based lifelong learning;
  • Dual courses of study, study programs or study modules with enhanced practical phases.  

Federal Ministry of Education and Research