The Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) has taken on sponsorship of the next phase of the ANKOM Initiative, called ‘Transitions from vocational education to higher education’.

ANKOM (a German language acronym for ‘Credit transfer of occupational competences to higher education courses’) is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), and its aim is to improve access to higher education for those in possession of vocational qualifications. Twenty projects have been established to investigate and test ways of improvingthe general conditions forthose in active employmentwishing to commence higher education studies.

The projects themselves will run until the end of 2014. The main focuses of the BIBB in the ANKOM initiative are: improving the information and guidance available to workers interested in pursuing higher education; identifying opportunities for linking vocational education and higher education schemes; and structuring dual courses of higher education in a way which is tailored to occupational practice.

‘The ANKOM Initiative builds strong bridges between vocational education and higher education’, explains BIBB President Friedrich Hubert Esser. ‘Our aim is to make it possible for more people who are in possession of VET qualifications and wish to enter higher education to actually do so.’

The conditions for using credit transfer procedures to make occupational learning count towards higher education studies have neverbeen so favourable. ‘Anyone who is well qualified vocationally has every chance of successfully completing a course of higher education’, emphasises Esser, who goes on to say that significant intersections between vocational qualifications and higher education requirements for which a credit transfer can be given have now been identified.

One positive effect is that the proportion of higher education entrants holding vocational qualifications has practically quadrupled from just under 0.5% in 2001 to around 1.9% in 2010. However, ‘in order to attract more vocationally qualified students to higher education, appropriate consideration needs to be given to the specific needs of those already in employment, both as regards courses of study and in the institutes of higher education’, Esser continues.

It is important for institutes of higher education to open up and develop provision which can be undertaken in an in-service manner or in a way which is integrated with the occupation itself. Within this context, the BIBB President also indicates the necessity of establishing more provision to enable the learning of higher education study techniques. ‘I am of the firm view that the improvement of permeability between vocational and higher education is an important measure for increasing the attractiveness of VET and therefore for securing the supply of skilled workers’.

The ANKOM Initiative was launched by the BMBF in 2005 to foster transitions between work and higher education. The initial phase concentrated on the development of models for the overall or individual recognition of vocational qualifications for higher education study. These credit transfer procedures have now been introduced at some institutes of higher education.