overcrowded universities

Overcrowded Universities



cope freshmen fledgling
crowd flexible unprecedented
option optimize work out (2)
jostle respond overflowing
crop lottery auditorium
insist standard sticking point
dread optimize workload
suffer scatter obviously
burst seminar admit (2)
fund line-up oversupply
chaos attend ceremony
share term (3) fall into place





No, it’s not a concert or a club night.

Here in Hannover, about 4,600 freshmen are attending the official welcome ceremony at their new university.

It’s an unprecedented number: 40% more than last year.

Do these fledgling students feel confident the university can cope with the numbers? Or are they a bit worried?

Student one: “Yeah, maybe a bit when you see these crowds. But it might work out. You never know.”

Student two: “These are just the freshmen; next week everyone else will be arriving. Then it will get really full. But it’ll be okay.”

The new economics students are even given gifts.

Anna is on her way to the welcome ceremony.

But she can’t even get in . . . the auditorium is already overflowing.

She and her friends consider their options.

The University of Hannover admitted almost twice as many first-year economics students this year, in response to demand.

Anna didn’t know until the last minute that she had been admitted.

Anna Zimmermann: “I’ve got in, but only through a lottery system, the day before yesterday. So before that, I was pretty worried.”

Anna is 18, and among the first crop of high school students in her state to have graduated after 12 years rather than 13.

So this year the universities were forced to admit two graduating classes. That’s in addition to all the young men going to university that no longer have to do military or civilian service.

But the universities insist that they’re prepared.

Erich Barke, Leibniz University President, Hannover: “We’ve been very careful in scheduling lectures, because obviously this is likely to be the main sticking point.

We could have rented extra lecture halls and scheduled lectures on Saturdays.

But we’ve shown that we can cope by optimizing use of the existing rooms. We’ve built an additional auditorium. And on occasion we might need to start at 7:30 in the morning, or not finish until 8:30 in the evening.”

That might come as a shock to some students.

The dining halls open at seven in the morning, and get busiest at lunchtime. There are 15 of them scattered across Hannover.

This one is already full . . . and these are only the freshmen.

The kitchen staff have their hands full.

Eberhard Hoffman, Student Union, Hannover: “The number of dinners we served last term, more than 3,000 at peak times, will be nothing compared to what happens once another thousand students are here.

I dread to think of the line-ups outside, and the workload my colleagues will be dealing with.”

But the university authorities are determined not to let this years oversupply of students affect academic standards.

Anna Zimmermann: “To begin with, I didn’t think it was so bad — but when we were all in the dining hall just now, there were really a lot of people and the lecture halls were pretty full too.”

Everyone was jostling and some people were told to leave.

I was shocked.”

She’s going to have to get used to it — an unprecedented half-a million freshmen enrolled this year at Germany’s universities.

The government has given the institutions an extra ten billion euros in funding.

That’s the only reason Anna managed to be admitted.

But many say it’s still not enough.

Julia Amthor, Student Council Leibniz University, Hannover: “Space is one of the biggest problems. Seminars which are supposed to be attended by 20 or 30 people will be bursting with up to 100 people in them.

The students will suffer.”

We want them to go to university to learn how to think and debate. That won’t happen in a lecture hall with someone standing at the front talking while everyone takes notes.”

Students have been advised to be flexible.

Smaller universities all over the country aren’t as crowded.

But despite the chaos, Anna is planning to stay in Hannover.
Anna: “What you don’t know, you don’t miss. And I’ve never been in an empty lecture hall. So to me, this is normal. It’s the way it is.

Some people who’ve been studying longer than me could obviously have other experiences.

But this is what I’m used to.”

First of all, Anna needs to find somewhere to live. She’s busy phoning around for an apartment to share.

And she’s hoping her life as a student will soon start to fall into place.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *


1. There are many more new, freshmen students attending university that year. True or false? Do the students feel overwhelmed?

2. Why are there so many more new students? Is there still conscription in Germany?

3. Does the university have lectures on Saturdays? How is it coping with the extra students?

4. Describe the lecture halls and cafeterias. How many students attend lectures? How many dinner are served?

5. The government has done something to help. True or false? How has the government responded?

6. According to the student, having lots of students in lecture halls isn’t very good for learning. Yes nor no? Why are large lecture halls not very effective?

7. Is it the same situation in smaller universities? Why is it different?
A. My university is or was very crowded. True or false? What about other universities in your country?

B. Are crowded universities a problem (or an opportunity)? It is good or bad, both, in the middle, sometimes?

C. Has this been changing? Are universities becoming more crowded? If yes, why are they becoming more crowded?

D. Too many young people study at universities and not enough train for skilled occupations such as mechanics, plumbers, electricians, and technicians. What do you think?

E. What will happen in the future?

F. What should the government do about? What should families, schools, teachers and students do?


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