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“You can do MORE!” - Ability to study as an assessment criterion for university admission: Validation process between subjective interpretation and university gatekeeping


The article discusses validation procedures for university access based on professional qualifications. This area of ​​tension is dealt with using the entrance examination procedure (§38 HmbHG) of the University of Hamburg, in which the ability to study of professionally qualified people is assessed. The qualitative reconstruction of subjective educational decision-making processes in temporal transition periods is of interest. For this purpose, the results of a survey with professionally qualified students are presented, which is methodologically based on grounded theory and uses a method triangulation (participant observations; group discussions; quantitative questionnaire survey). It turns out that the validation procedure is seen as a legitimate and practicable instrument for measuring the ability to study and is equally evident in its function of reproducing discursive orders in transitions in the life course.


The paper tackles the issue of procedures for the validation of competences, which are used in the tertiary education sector in order to evaluate an individual’s study ability on the basis of his / her vocational qualifications. This contested terrain will be explored by means of the University of Hamburg’s validation procedure (the so-called Incoming inspection procedure, §38 HmbHG). The focus of interest will be put on a qualitative reconstruction of individual decision-making processes during these periods of transition. For this aim, the paper introduces findings of a qualitative research project on students with such vocational qualifications background, using Grounded Theory Methodology and a triangulation of methods (participatory observations; focus groups; a quantitative questionnaire). The findings show that the validation procedure is indeed perceived by the sample as a legitimate and feasible instrument for assessing an individual's ability of study — and serves, however, as an instrument for (re) producing discursive orderings of society in periods of transition during the life course.


As a strategic instrument in the system of lifelong learning, validation at European political level is understood as a procedure "in which an approved body confirms that a person has achieved the learning outcomes measured using a relevant standard" (Council of the EU 2012, Annex (i)) ). In the contribution, such an authorized institution is a university. It assesses whether prospective students with a professional qualification but without a higher education entrance qualification (HZB) and without a further training examination (e.g. master’s examination) have the so-called "ability to study" (as Learning outcome) is fulfilled - and admission to the pool of applications for a study place can be granted. The rating continues as relevant standard the Abitur and measures it using the criterion “ability to study”, which is operationalized in a specific way for the validation process (UHH 2014). The ability to study is therefore considered to be a prior check (and verifiable) learning outcome.

The scientific debate about validation is therefore discussed in the context of the university. Empirical data from a qualitative survey with professionally qualified students (the so-called §38 students) at the University of Hamburg put the subject's perspective on access routes to the university in the foreground. Of interest is the qualitative reconstruction of subjective educational decision-making processes in temporal transition periods, which educational transition research marks as “zones of uncertainty and vulnerability” (Walther and Stauber 2013, p. 30). The question of the study is to what extent the university-institutional gatekeeping processes of university entrance via §38 HmbHG are assessed by applicants of the University of Hamburg as blocking or supportive for educational decision-making processes regarding the goals of university entrance. In this respect, potential breaks between university and subject-based evaluation logic in the context of the validation process are assumed. These breaks reflect and allow conclusions to be drawn about the underlying tension: consisting of the structural level of a written transition system in the educational sector using the example of the transition policy of the university organization (executed by university gatekeepers), from discursive orders of social norms of normality to life-course-related transitions as well as from subjective-biographical decisions and Actions in transitions, as differentiated by Struck (2001) and Walther (2015).

The aim of the article is to contribute to the discussion, which is only slowly developing, about questions relating to the third educational path to higher education (Freitag 2010; HBV 2011; Elsholz 2015; Wolter et al. 2016) and about so-called non-traditional students or students. second chance learners (Slowey and Schuetze 2012) with a theoretical connection to educational transition and transition research. This promises both to further differentiate the few available qualitative research results on this topic and to open up a connection to the current debate on validation (such as Kil 2016 and Schlögl 2017 with regard to Austria).

Alternative access routes to the university: framing, theoretical access and research status

For the goal of a qualitative reconstruction of subjective educational decision-making processes in temporal transition periods, the essential educational policy, university and conceptual frameworks must first be presented along with explanations on the transition system in the educational sector (Section 2.1) and on the discursive orders of learning in the life course (Section 2.2). as well as on the subjective-biographical level (Section 2.3). In understanding “transitions”, we follow on from Walther and Stauber (2013), who emphasize “the interaction between changed external action requirements and role expectations and changing self-concepts of the subject” (ibid., P. 29) as central; Transitions represent such “crystallization points of social reproduction” (ibid.), Which we consider particularly from the perspective of the university sector in the system of lifelong learning.

Transition system of education and transition policy from university

The scientific and educational debates about alternative access routes to higher education can be found in the restructuring of the European higher education area since the end of the 1990s in the course of the BOLOGNA process. They are intended to ensure that the potential of the European population is fully exploited in the competition in the international and global educational area - “no talent should be left behind” (European Commission et al. 2012, p. 83). As a result, the current ET2020 strategy of the European Union (EU) (“Education and Training 2020”) includes the benchmark according to which at least 40% of 30 to 34-year-olds in the EU member states should have a university degree by 2020 (Eurostat 2018).

As a result, educational policy measures have been installed at both the EU and national levels that aim not only at a purely quantitative increase in participation, but also at a qualitative expansion of the heterogeneity of the student body (Orr and Hovdhaugen 2014). This is to be achieved through modified access structures to universities, both on the basis of formal legal regulations and through an expansion of the university's advisory and support services for prospective students. The Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK 2009) on “University admission for professionally qualified applicants without a higher education entrance qualification” (HZB) also opened up opportunities in the German context for studying without a high school diploma. The key is the distinction between a general HZB based on a professional advanced training examination (e.g. master craftsman's examination) and a (often subject-related) HZB for those who have completed vocational training, have gained at least two to three years of professional experience and have successfully completed an aptitude assessment procedure (if necessary . replaced by a trial course lasting at least one year). The KMK decision also allows country-specific Regulations of the HZB (ibid.) (See Section 3.1).

This applies to the current agenda setting to promote validation of non-formal and informal learning. The EU Council recommendation of 2012 (Council of the EU 2012) provides for binding regulations for the validation of non-formally and informally acquired competences, consisting of the steps, until 2018 Identification, documentation, evaluation and Certification, to be introduced in the EU member states. Such a validation of learning outcomes should, so the argumentation, promote employability and mobility and "especially motivate socio-economically disadvantaged or low-skilled people to pursue lifelong learning" (ibid., (1)). This also includes access to the university system for so-called non-traditional students. The aim is to be able to exchange learning outcomes from non-formal and informal learning and thus university and non-university preparatory work for a "currency" (CEDEFOP 2016, p. 15) that is valid for the continuation of an educational path or on the labor market (ibid.).

The article specifies this with regard to access regulations to universities via the so-called third educational path, i. H. by prospective students without traditional HZB (e.g. Abitur). The German transitional system is characterized not least by the educational sovereignty of the federal states, which requires different translations of the European and national regulations, sometimes down to the level of the individual university (KMK 2009, 2014). In this respect, the examined example of the University of Hamburg is fundamentally comparable, nevertheless specific, which promises a high gain in knowledge for the question due to the construction of the validation process there. The university-institutional gatekeeping system for university access installed there consists of legal bases (Hamburg University Act, HmbHG; HmbHG 2014), procedures (including validation procedures for the entrance examination according to §38 HmbHG) and people, so-called gatekeepers - and those interested in studying . The gatekeepers include the advisory staff as well as internal and external examiners, administrative staff in the study and examination offices of the faculties or university lecturers in their function as so-called study advisors, responsible for an examination component of the validation. The gatekeepers are characterized by the functions, tasks and scope of decision-making powers; according to Struck (2001), they have the authority and the specific enforcement power to legitimize decisions as appropriate, procedural and appropriate to distribution (ibid., P. 45 f). In this way they become “key persons with decision-making authority” about scarce goods (university access) (ibid., P. 37), “who represent the requirements for traversing these spaces in an assertive and powerful manner at the boundaries of social subspaces” (ibid.). Transitional policies therefore decide on opportunities, risks and room for maneuver in the learning biography and life course (ibid., P. 33).

The education sector is thus a transitional system in the form of a written “institutional framework for transitions” (ibid., P. 32) and designed and opened and limits life-course-related room for maneuver for individuals. Connections as well as breaks are (re) produced in transitions - not least along the discursive order of society.

Learning in the course of a life as (re) production of discursive orders

The work of i.a. Walther (2015) show that in the system of lifelong learning the assignment of qualification tasks to temporal age phases produces powerful inclusions and exclusions as well as (re) labels that are based on discursive orders of society. Biographical transitions are called too early (e.g. parenthood, Gundlach and Sylla 2017) or as too late (e.g. age limit of the Federal Training Assistance Act, BAföG). The latter applies in particular to so-called non-traditional students who are on average older, but who are often no longer eligible for BAföG funding. Already the normative setting as Not-traditionally reflects a social conception of normality by students. It is evident that they are of a higher age, come from groups that are rather underrepresented in the university system or give priority to part-time studies (e.g. Friday 2010; Elsholz 2015). Ultimately, however, it remains a heterogeneous group (just like that of the so-called traditional students), Lübben et al. (2015) rather criticize an “inflation of delimitation criteria” (ibid., P. 48).

Discursive orders of the social world of the "universe of meaning university" (Alheit et al. 2008, p. 584) are equally recognizable. This also includes a university habitus that historically and consistently has “symptoms for a latent symbolic closure of the German higher education system“(Alheit 2014, p. 206; Herv. I. Orig.) And, for example, a“ meritocratic self-image of science ”(Krawietz et al. 2013, p. 652) (re) produces through academic rituals. Humboldt’s university model continues to claim symbolic validity, with the high school diploma being charged as a legitimate and at the same time indispensable foundation for the ability to study. This explains the persistent disbelief of the university public in relation to the validity of alternative access routes (Otto and Kamm 2016; Lenz and Schmitt 2016), even if empirical data (NEPS data set) on the ability of non-traditional students to study cannot support this (Dahm and Kerst 2016) . The symbolic charge of the Abitur is also manifested in the information provided by the University of Hamburg on the validation procedure for university admission for vocational qualifications, which is available in the version valid for the cohort examined (UHH 2014) as well as in a slightly updated version (UHH 2017). The equal appreciation of the vocational training system and higher education expressed through the KMK resolution of 2009 (KMK 2009) (see Section 2.1) is decided in favor of the latter. In the updated version, the reference to meaning becomes the relevant standard High School in the “Goal of the entrance examination” explicitly: “The assessment by the examiners is based on the expected performance level of high school graduates” (UHH 2017, p. 7). While this explicit sentence is still missing in the 2014 version, the criteria of the goal of the incoming inspection process, namely the Determination of the ability to study, but remained the same. Ability to study is operationalized using the following criteria:

  • "Ability to think and judge,

  • Understanding of scientific questions as well as of structures and relationships,

  • the ability to present thoughts orally and in writing in an understandable manner and

  • the command of the spoken and written German language required for a successful degree ”(UHH 2014, p. 6).

This should allow a judgment to be made as to whether “people who do not have a university entrance qualification, but based on their professional activity and qualifications, can be expected to be capable of university studies” (ibid., P. 3). In line with the symbolic charge, the notes on exam preparation remind you to “deal with high-quality newspapers, magazines and other media” in good time (ibid., P. 7) - currently “sophisticated” has been replaced by the term “demanding” (UHH 2017, p. 11), which does not change the underlying concept of normality.

Subjective-biographical decisions and actions

In accordance with the goal of a qualitative reconstruction of subjective educational decision-making processes in the temporal transition period of a validation procedure, the subject's perspective is of central importance in the present article (see also Sect. 2.4); here transitional systemic frameworks and discursive orders are bundled in subjective-biographical decisions and actions.Schäffter and Schicke (2016) agree that in the current “transformation society”, the “validation of competencies is a functional requirement to support the professional biography of discontinuous or transitory employment histories” (ibid., P. 26). The technical-administrative process of validation is, on the one hand, about ensuring validity, reliability and also authorization of the instrument and the evaluation results achieved; on the other hand, competences acquired in non-formal and informal ways should be made visible and be able to be exchanged for a valid “currency” (CEDEFOP 2016, p. 15). Only in this way can such validation procedures become “transitory productive” and allow “subjective self-authorization in risky situations” (Schäffter and Schicke 2016, p. 29). According to Schlögl (2017), the latter requires a "substantial appreciation [also] of extra-curricular learning", which addresses deeply rooted areas of tension in the debate about equal appreciation of the vocational training system and higher education (see above) as well as of formal and non-formal and informally acquired learning outcomes.

In the present context, relevant standard a learning outcome of the formal education system is explicitly set (high school diploma / ability to study). In the options for crediting non-university preliminary work, a certain opening towards non-formally and informally acquired learning outcomes can be seen in that, in the admission requirements, “periods of child-rearing, care work or military, substitute or voluntary service” are credited to the duration of the evidence of professional activity is offered (UHH 2014, p. 2, 2017, p. 5). Overall, however, the examined validation procedure reflects a validation that is more oriented towards the formal education system, not least due to the highly selective procedure. This raises the question of the extent to which it can be counted as a reflexive validation procedure that is conducive to learning (Schäffter and Schicke 2016, p. 29).

Theoretical connections

Despite the installation of formal legal access to the higher education system, the diagnosis of a consistently low participation rate of students in the third education pathway in the higher education system remains evident (author group educational reporting 2016, p. 127 f), nationwide "one percent of all students are admitted to study due to a professional qualification" (Middendorff et al. 2017, p. 29) (also internationally e.g. Watson et al. 2013). Against this background, it is the thesis of the contribution that the qualitative reconstruction of the subject-biographical perspectives can provide important insights to help explain this gap between educational rhetoric, the constitution of the transition system and the use of the offer.

The guiding principle for this is an action-theoretical link back to educational transition research with a focus on an adult educational perspective. Biographical research work (especially Alheit and Dausien 2000; Field et al. 2012; Truschkat 2013; Hof 2013), which in terms of action theory focuses on the question of a “doing biography” (Dausien 2004) in recognition of subject-based design potentials and needs in Set “zones of uncertainty and vulnerability” (Walther and Stauber 2013, p. 30). In this respect, the design of transitions in the life course always relates, according to Truschkat (2013), to a “reciprocity of subjective processing of social structures on the one hand and the biographical construction of social structures on the other” (ibid., P. 47).

As the social framework (Truschkat) of the transition, the university is to be identified in the contribution, which defines an already pre-structured space of experience and action for the subjects, which nevertheless does not release the subjects from their creative responsibility. With the transition phenomenon of access to the university via §38 HmbHG, there is a self-initiated transition into the field of investigation, which is often based on years of decision-making and weighing processes (see Section 4), and one deliberately requires brought about transition. Nonetheless, and this is what makes the §38 validation process so interesting in the present context, even after the decision has been made to apply for admission to the validation process, the outcome remains for a period of around six months, both on the part of the university and on the part of the subjects uncertain. The university has installed several selection steps in the process, and the subject can and must make further decisions in the course of this. The question of decisions allows insights into the scope for action in the “relationship between freedom, determination and contingency” (Dausien 2014, p. 41).

In our opinion, a double temporalization of the transition takes effect in the course of the validation process. On the one hand, the temporalisation of the procedural steps over a period of several months, which is enforced by the university and which sets specific timed decision-making situations (Dausien 2014, p. 40). On the other hand, this is embedded in the dimension of lifetime (ibid.), Which is based on a subjective temporalization of educational decision-making processes in the course of the transition phenomenon. Alheit (2003) emphasizes that biographical constructions “as biographical temporalization of social structures must be understood ”(ibid., p. 25; Herv. i. orig.). This clash of two dynamics of temporalization opens up important explanatory approaches for the survey (see also Field et al. 2012, p. 79) and, following Dausien, corrects situationist decision-making models of a mere sequence. A “complex, multi-layered temporal form is recognizable, which is constructed by the obstinacy of the subjects in the horizon of experience and expectation and which refers to the entanglement of objective and subjective, institutional and individual time logics” (Dausien 2014, p. 56).

Empirical research field and design of the survey

First of all, the specificity of the empirical research field of §38 HmbHG access procedure to the University of Hamburg must be briefly outlined in order to ensure the embedding of the research design and the results achieved (Section 4).

Access procedure to the University of Hamburg via §38 HmbHG

Since 1979 there has been the possibility of access to university studies in Hamburg for those with professional qualifications who do not have an Abitur; the then University of Economics and Politics (HWP) merged in 2005 with the University of Hamburg as the Faculty of Social Economics of the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences (cf. Schreiber-Barsch 2014). What is essential here is the differentiation between access via a study place in the Faculty of Social Economics (with a less complex entrance examination procedure); via §37 HmbHG on the basis of an existing advanced training examination (e.g. master craftsman examination) and thus without an additional entrance examination procedure; as well as §38 HmbHG, which is characterized by the restrictive entrance examination procedure and is therefore of particular interest for the question of educational decision-making processes. Because conscious and persistent decisions are an absolute prerequisite for going through the validation process. Studies on professionally qualified students of the Bachelor's degree in Social Economics, as presented by Brändle and Ordemann (2014), are not compatible because the framework conditions for access are significantly less complex and therefore cannot be compared.

The §38 entrance examination procedure is opened once a year with an application period of four weeks (February); admission is then granted for the following winter semester (WS). In response to the consistently low admission rates, and also to specific courses, a quota system was introduced for the first time in the winter semester 2014/15 (and thus for the study cohort). Since then, between 3 and 10% (depending on the exhaustion of other quota regulations) of all study places to be allocated in a faculty have to be kept open for students according to §37 and §38. As a result, in the winter semester 2014/15, for example, six places in psychology were awarded to §38 students for the first time.

The §38 entrance examination procedure is (until today) a multi-stage procedure that provides for three selection points.

  • Application for admission to the procedure: References and certificates, written report (professional career and experience, justification for the choice of course), evidence of a course counseling in the desired course; Payment of € 204.50; → selection

  • Written exams: Exam 1 (topic from the occupational field or desired course of study), exam 2 (topic from public life), the written report is also assessed (see above); → selection

  • Oral exam: “The oral exam is not a question of knowledge, but rather has the character of a conversation” (UHH 2014, p. 7). The aim is to determine “whether the applicant appears suitable, based on his or her personal maturity and ability to think and judge, to take up the desired course” (ibid.). → selection

Against this background, the following picture emerges for the cohort of study applicants examined for the winter semester 2014/15 (see Table 1), that of the admission cases in front the introduction of the quota system is compared.

Survey research design

The starting point of the survey was the thesis that with the study applicants according to §38 HmbHG there is a group of people who represent a specific transition phenomenon with the validation process. The phenomenon is characterized by the coupling of very conscious, subjective educational decision-making processes with a high biographical risk (duration of the entrance examination procedure with long uncertainty of the outcome and, if a university place has been awarded, the need to change at short notice (e.g. termination of the job)). Prospective gains (expansion of knowledge, increase in social / professional status, etc.) are closely linked to possible losses (secure job, financial losses, etc.). The research interest was less on the case-by-case reconstruction of longer-term life courses of §38s, but rather the transition phenomenon as such with assumed breaks and ambivalences between university and subject-based application logic in the context of the validation process. The question was to what extent the university-institutional gatekeeping processes of university access via §38 HmbHG are rated by applicants at the University of Hamburg as blocking or supportive of educational decision-making processes for the goals of university access.

As a result, an empirical survey was carried out at the University of Hamburg (end of 2014 / beginning of 2015; Schreiber-Barsch; Ute Meyer; see endnote of the article). The following investigation structure and timeline of the survey situation must be given (see Fig. 1).

The methodological goal was to examine the validation procedure and to determine a variance in the evaluation logic, which justifies the primarily qualitative approach. In this respect, the ability to study was not examined as a general challenge in the introductory phase of all students (e.g. Bosse and Trautwein 2014), but rather as a challenge that had to be checked beforehand (and verifiable) learning outcome. For the focus on the subject's perspective, biographical analytical theoretical approaches were found to guide knowledge, but the research interest was not on the individual case level of §38 prospective students, but on recognizing them as a collective (although neither as a milieu nor as a generation). Mangold's work (1960) has proven to be compatible at this point. Mangold derives such a collective on the basis of the structurally identical layers of experience of those involved (experience of the entrance examination procedure). These layers enable those involved to articulate “informal group opinions” (ibid., P. 68) that go beyond individual perspectives. The methodology followed was grounded theory (following Strauss and Corbin 1996; Strübing 2014).

The sampling followed theoretical and pragmatic points of view and the so-called. theoretical sampling (Strauss and Corbin 1996; Strübing 2014), which resulted in two steps of data collection successively from the iterative evaluation process of grounded theory and led to a triangulation of qualitative and quantitative methods (Flick 2011). The data evaluation of the qualitative data methodically used the coding process of Grounded Theory according to Strauss and Corbin (1996) and Strübing (2014) (coding using MAXQDA); the quantitative data were evaluated using SPSS (pivot tables).

The data was collected firstly through participant observations from two one-day workshops on the topic of "Starting studies for students without a high school diploma" at the University of Hamburg (September 2014) (recorded using handwritten observation protocols). These workshops were a voluntary offer for all §37 and §38 first-year students who had been given a place in the cohort (n = 60), before the start of the winter semester 2014/15. During the workshops (participants in total n = 34), the §37s and §38s were briefly assigned to different formats, so that a group discussion (Mangold 1960) could only be held with all the §38s present (each workshop was almost 40 minutes long; workshop 1, n = 6; Workshop 2, n = 2; digital capture). The key question was: “You will soon begin your studies - at this point we would like to take a step back to the entrance examination procedure. How did you experience the incoming inspection process? " The iterative evaluation process of this qualitative survey brought the effectiveness of the subject advisory services as embodied representatives of the university gatekeeping to the fore. For this reason, a second data collection was carried out in March 2015, a quantitative online questionnaire survey (full survey; lime survey) from all subject advisory services involved in the entrance examination process or officially designated contact persons from, for example, the study and examination offices (n = 133; Rewind n = 52).

Regarding the scope of the survey, it should be noted that a bias can be seen in the fact that only those prospective students were surveyed who had completed the validation procedure successful completed; this undoubtedly influences the retrospective reconstruction of the experience stratifications. The recording of rejected prospective students was planned, but could not be done directly for data protection reasons and was finally decoupled in the course of the data evaluations due to this complexity. It would also have been conceivable to introduce two survey times (start and end of the procedure); however, access to the field was only given selectively at the time of the workshops. Research desiderata arise here; nevertheless, the results achieved enable extensive knowledge of a university validation procedure under the criterion of academic aptitude.

Presentation of the results

The presentation of the results follows the evaluation process in that first the qualitative results (Section 4.1) and then the quantitative results (Section 4.2) are listed.

Evaluation of qualitative survey: Participant observations and group discussions with new students

The results of the qualitative survey flow into a heuristic model which, in the explanation of the transition phenomenon, Educational decision-making processes of professionally qualified persons in temporal transition periods from validation procedures to university entrance systematized (see Fig. 2). It is based on the categories determined in the course of the evaluation and identifies the core category subjective incorporation of the university logic of study ability.

The categories shown in the model are based on certain properties and, in turn, their dimensionalizations, which show the variance of the properties determined in the statements. In addition, it should be noted that due to the course of the surveys in the two workshops, the statements from the participant observations (TB I; II) from both §37s and §38ers originate and support the saturation of the data; However, the focus is on the group discussions (GD I; II) with only §38s. This is marked (according to the line numbering (Z) of the protocols orthe sequences (SQ) of the group discussions (with the identification of the respective persons, e.g. P2)).

Decision-making for / against studying

The data show that the upstream decision-making processes for / against a degree have a complex, long-term structure. This is emphasized by the §37 and §38 in the participant observations as well as the statements of the §38 group discussions. The troubles of decision-making become recognizable: "I have been working towards it for the past 1 ½ years. The point of making the decision cost me the most"(TB.II_Z_17-18) (TB.II_Z_87-89; TB.I_Z_14). This is reinforced by skepticism or ignorance in the social environment ("How does it work, you don't have a high school diploma and can study?“TB.II_Z_32-33; also TB.I_Z-22-23; GD.I.P3_00: 37: 53-4) or from parents ("My parents said you have a great job and now you are on Hartz IV level!“TB.I_Z_26-27). Something similar arises from the confusion and the formal legal form of the information, which has a deterrent effect and requires a high level of personal commitment (TB.II_Z_50; GD.II.P1_00: 02: 34-7; 00: 05: 04-8). The procedure works "like a huge forest where I don't know where to move to get what I need " (TB.II_Z_60-61). Once the decision has been made, direct implementation is not always possible due to the one-time approval per year: "Made the decision 1 year ago and thought it would start right away - shit, wait another six months“(TB.II_Z_37-38).

These upstream decision-making processes show two essential properties: the Genesis of the desired course of study and Motives for continuation / resumption of a formal learning context.

Genesis of the desired course of study: Between biographical perfection and rational weighing of existing options and room for maneuver

The statements show that the desired course of study can often not represent a spontaneous idea, but also a kind of biographical perfection: "have been struggling with this topic for many years, that I dropped out of high school after eleven ’, that I did not study’. That always made me very sad"(GD.II.P1_00: 23: 54-6). It is not always clear which subject it should be exactly, but the urgency of the desired course of study increases, also in view of the risk of not being able to find enough enthusiasm for it at some point (GD.II.P2_00: 10: 30-1) (GD .I.P6_00: 23: 08-7). This can lead to a "Key situation"Culminate:"I ’made the teacher's assistant, uh, and when she wasn't there, I was allowed to do a little something", Which further matures the wish:"and this thought has always accompanied me, you can do that too, man, now do it ..."(GD.II.P1_00: 25: 45-8). Support from the social context, e.g. B. by the partner, plays an important role (e.g. GD.II.P1_00: 25: 59-7). Under the motif of a biographical perfection, it can be of secondary importance whether the degree can ultimately de facto lead to a different or improved professional situation (GD.II.P2_00: 10: 44-9).

In contrast, the desire to study can also result from a more rational weighing of existing options and room for maneuver. In the participant observations (§37er and §38er) it was emphasized that a degree improves chances on the job market and promotion opportunities (TB.I_Z_10; TB.I_Z_12; TB.I_Z_13; TB.II_Z_36-37) and thus also the financial situation ( TB.I_Z_11), d. H.: "The investments pay off in the overall package“(TB.II_Z_28). Concrete impulses for change, such as a "generous severance offer“(TB.I_Z_16), used to implement the application. This form of genesis, as well as the group discussions (§38), results less from emotionally charged biographical milestones, but from rational considerations ("it has all its pros and cons", GD.I.P3_00: 37: 04-5) to, for example, suitable biographical time windows (GD.I.P1_00: 37: 16-9) or from more random constellations:"Well, for three years I (..) uh, a teacher was my landlord ... and we often discussed it over a cold drink“(GD.I.P2_00: 23: 37-2) (also: GD.I.P5_00: 24: 03-1; GD.I.P5_00: 24: 03-1).

Motives for the continuation / resumption of a formal learning context: Between passion for learning and the idea of ​​studying as a way of life

For the decision-making for / against a course of study, motives are also effective, which justify why there should be a continuation or resumption of a formal learning context. These justifications can be classified on a dimensionalization between a general one Passion for learning or for a specific subject as well as the Idea, studying in the sense of a certain way of life to realize.

The observations of the participants (§37s and §38s) show that the former motifs are guided by statements that reflect the passion for learning, also in the sense of an intellectual challenge: "It is not enough for me what I can and what I know“(TB.II_Z_16) (also: TB.I_Z_6; TB.I_Z_8). In the group discussions (§38) it is said that "unchallenged"Felt,"I just wanted to learn again“(GD.II.P1_00: 24: 00-4). This assumption is carried over to the whole group ("it is simply united by this desire to always want to learn something "; GD.II.P2_00: 24: 12-0) and identified as a collective characteristic: "it is then laid out in one, it will go on like this"(GD.II.P2_00: 24: 29-3). Such a passion can also be related to the specific subject of study in the field of study (GD.II.P2_00: 26: 40-2). It explains why, for example, the guest student status is no longer viewed as satisfactory (GD.II.P2_00: 11: 14-0).

The inclusion of a formal learning context can also take place by striving for the idea of ​​studying as a way of life. In the participant observations (§37s and §38s) this becomes evident in statements that one finally wants to "do something useful"(TB.I_Z_5) or in the emphasis that one has"always studying"Want (TB.II_Z_24). This is further elaborated in the group discussions (§38): The course is referred to as "fun"(GD.II.P2_00: 13: 26-0) and with the idea of ​​studying as a way of life of the"Seclusion"(GD.II.P2_00: 13: 33-2) and the goal,"understand other worlds“(Ibid.). This also justifies the change from a part-time study to full-time study in order to study in the sense of a normality concept ("so study, completely normal"; GD.I.P6_00: 38: 52-0) to experience: "I want to be able to concentrate on it and (.) yes also want to (.) experience it pure somehow"(GD.I.P6_00: 36: 01-2).

Collective experience of gatekeeping

The statements, both from the participant observations and from the group discussions, refer to collective experience with the university gatekeeping elements. Firstly, it shows the experience that is constitutive for the validation process Exam situations as essential, secondly, the embodiment of the university transition policy by individuals Gatekeeper, thirdly, the ambivalence of the "Administrative act“Of the validation process and fourthly the Duration of the procedure. The latter emphasize the relevance of the temporal dimension in the subjective storage of meaning (see Sect. 2.4).

Experiencing exam situations: Between shame - fear - satisfaction

The experience of the exam situation depends to a large extent on how previous expectations and then the real process can be reconciled. In this way, subject advising can become a shame-filled experience ("so I was really ashamed of myself"; GD.I.P1_00: 17: 56-1), since the person expected to be able to ask questions himself, but: "it was just the other way around. He asked me QUESTIONS and I sank into the ground“(Ibid. 00: 17: 36-6). The result was critical feedback from the subject advisory service to the person ("argue that you have to LEARN again, it does NOT work that way"(Ibid_00: 18: 06-8)) and then with the same frustration ("I thought to myself, okay, I am completely incapable and none of this will work“(Ibid. 00: 18: 23-4)). In addition to shame, fear and insecurity are triggered. Examinations with demanding content are named as causes ("So it got down to business", GD.I.P4_00: 27: 51-5; "it was really felt on a TOOTH", GD.II.P2_00: 18: 13-8) or those in which own competencies (e.g. foreign languages) were questioned (GD.II.P1_00: 09: 10-6; GD.I.P3_00: 09: 33-8). In the same way, the openness of the content of the oral and written examination elements provoked uncertainty in the preparation.totally mad"(GD.I.P5_00: 13: 38-6; GD.I.P1_00: 03: 43-5) and"Just read the newspaper for weeks“(GD.I.P6_00: 04: 01-6; also GD.I.P3_00: 04: 01-6); the same triggered a lack of feedback on examinations (GD.I.P5_00: 10: 40-3; GD.I.P6_00: 09: 02-0; GD.I.P1_00: 10: 19-0).

It is interesting that although shame, fear and insecurity are attributed to these situations, they can also be reinterpreted retrospectively. On the one hand about the completion of the examination situation ("everything [was] very simple and not as complex as I had imagined"(GD.I.P1_00: 04: 00-5) (GD.I.P6_00: 04: 05-4; ibid_00: 27: 23-7)). On the other hand, the reference criterion of the relevant standard (Abitur) is used as a comparison: "it was easier than expected (...). And in comparison, well (..) I don't have a high school diploma and compared to the uh high school graduates, (..) yes you think about what they have to do for such a high school diploma, because we had to do relatively little"(GD.I.P1_00: 12: 48-6). The initially negative exam situations can therefore also retrospectively overlap positively with a feeling of satisfaction. The latter arises from the feeling of recognition of one's own experiences and competencies (GD.I.P3_00: 25: 46-9), but above all from mastering the examination procedure as a final confirmation. It have "INSPIRED to know, BUT you can too"(GD.II.P1_00: 03: 55-2); "my partner almost cried" and "I was freezing“(Ibid. 00: 22: 33-9). This satisfaction leads to "gratitude“, „that I can do that at all“(Ibid_00: 04: 06-6). Another person reports:

my son stood in front of the door with a small bottle of champagne and the joy was endless, with him and with me. I had the feeling that I had climbed the Himalayas. And that was such an exception to do something good for yourself. So at that moment I did something good for myself. Not because of the champagne, but because I faced this situation (GD.II.P2_00: 10: 18-0).

And later again: "yes, it was worth it, exactly. And then the day with the exam, unforgettable, a blue sky, my son by the door. A dream. It would only have been missing in the news“(Ibid. 00: 22: 11-8).

Perception of gatekeepers in their transitional function: between deterrent tactics and interested / positive attitude

While exam situations are interpreted very differently, the assessment of empirical values ​​in the validation process also depends on how each specific gatekeeper is perceived as the embodiment of the university transition policy in the exercise of their function. This varies between "Deterrent tactics“And one interested / positive attitude.

With regard to the subject-specific advice, for example, the "Deterrent tactics"(GD.I.P6_00: 19: 37-9) reports,"so first of all, a little uh NEGATIVES tells about a lot of DEFECTS about the course"(Ibid.) - which, however, is interpreted as a function of subject-specific advice and as ultimately helpful for the person:"I think a student advisory service is actually responsible for that, to know again, is this really what I want to do? " (ibid. 00: 19: 53-2). Another study advisory service was perceived to be similarly ambivalent, in which the concern of an entrance examination procedure was clearly "SURPRISE"(GD.II.P2_00: 15: 16-9) caused,"I felt like it isn't done that often“(Ibid. 00: 14: 28-1). However, the responsibility for the situation of not knowing is not transferred to the subject advisor, but other explanations are offered and one's own persistence is emphasized: "it ONLY depends on which subject it is. So if you take Kyrgyz or something like that, you probably have similar experiences"(Ibid_00: 14: 38-8) or"I don't want to offend anyone, maybe it's me too? In any case, I want to say that NO ONE stopped me from university! " (ibid. 00: 15: 52-2).

The majority, however, have positive experiences in personal contacts. It was informed about risks (GD.I.P3_00: 20: 19-1), but the wish to study was ultimately positively confirmed (GD.I.P4_00: 22: 26-0; GD.I.P6_00: 22: 50-5 ; GD.II.P2_ 00: 15: 34-1). Useful information and knowledge were also offered ("I went out there with a lot of knowledge", GD.II.P2_00: 12: 12-6; also GD.I.P5_00: 28: 49-3; GD.I.P6_00: 22: 13-3; GD.I.P3_00: 20: 31-8) and there was a pleasant atmosphere (GD.II.P1_00: 07: 46-2; ibid_00: 03: 23-1).

"Administrative act" of validation: between the need for revision and the interpretation as a test of one's own organizational skills

The experiences from the examination situations as well as from the personal contacts with the gatekeepers are complemented by feedback on the formal-administrative level of the validation process as a "Administrative act"(GD.II.P2_00: 32: 19-7). That one is interpreted differently and there is a similar twist in the evaluation: There will be