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PLoS One. 2019 Jan 25;14(1):e0210160. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0210160. eCollection 2019.

The graduation shift of German universities of applied sciences.

Author information

Administrative Headquarters of the Max Planck Society, Division for Science and Innovation Studies, Munich, Germany.
ifo Institute, Munich, Germany.
TU Dresden, Dresden, Germany.


In research into higher education, the evaluation of completion and dropout rates has generated a steady stream of interest for decades. While most studies only calculate quotes using student and graduate numbers for both phenomena, we propose to additionally consider the budget available to universities. We transfer the idea of the excellence shift indicator [1] from the research to the teaching area, in particular to the completion rate of educational entities. The graduation shift shows the institutions' ability to produce graduates as measured against their basic academic teaching efficiency. It is an important advantage of the graduation shift that it avoids the well-known heterogeneity problem in efficiency measurements. Our study is based on German universities of applied science. Given their politically determined focus on education, this dataset is well-suited for introducing and evaluating the graduation shift. Using a comprehensive dataset covering the years 2008 to 2013, we show that the graduation shift produces results, which correlate closely with the results of the well-known graduation rate and standard Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA). Compared to the graduation rate, the graduation shift is preferable because it allows to take the budget of institutions into account. Compared to the DEA, the computation of the graduation shift is easy, the results are robust, and non-economists can understand them results. Thus, we recommend the graduation shift as an alternative method of efficiency measurement in the teaching area.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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