gms | German Medical Science

GMS Journal for Medical Education

Gesellschaft für Medizinische Ausbildung (GMA)

ISSN 2366-5017

Compatibility of Studies and Family: Approaches at the Medical Faculty Mannheim

Commentary medicine

  • corresponding author Jutta Becher - Medical Faculty Mannheim of the University of Heidelberg, Study and Teaching Development, Mannheim, Germany
  • author Harald Fritz - Medical Faculty Mannheim of the University of Heidelberg, Study and Teaching Development, Mannheim, Germany
  • author Eva Neumaier-Probst - Medical Faculty Mannheim of the University of Heidelberg, Equality Officer, Mannheim, Germany
  • author Antonia Scheib-Berten - Medical Faculty Mannheim of the University of Heidelberg, Equality Office, Mannheim, Germany

GMS Z Med Ausbild 2012;29(2):Doc16

doi: 10.3205/zma000786, urn:nbn:de:0183-zma0007869

This is the English version of the article.
The German version can be found at:

Received: April 19, 2011
Revised: August 10, 2011
Accepted: February 13, 2012
Published: April 23, 2012

© 2012 Becher et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.


The compatibility of studies or a career with children is becoming increasingly important. This is partly attributable to the fact that it is important for people of either gender to spend time with their families, their children. Not too long ago, raising children was almost exclusively the domain of the mother. On the other hand, more and more women study medicine. More than half of first year students are now female. Many of these young women, like their male counterparts, would like to start families. The possibility to both study and have children is particularly important during the “training” life phase.

The Medical Faculty Mannheim realises the need for action and wants to actively tackle the associated challenges in terms of advice, study design and infrastructure. This article represents the steps which the faculty - in close cooperation with the Equality Office, the Dean of Studies and the University Hospital - has taken so far or is currently putting in place to enable students to successfully combine the challenge of studying with that of having children. These include individual advice services on study organisation, information about support services, changes to the infrastructure and more intensive cooperation between the various departments.

Keywords: Information and advice services, study organisation, infrastructure, childcare, curriculum, family, women, child, children, education, study, medicine, crèche, finance, pregnancy advice, support, parents, MaReCuM, medical school


Only a few years ago, it was a widely held view that medical school and having children did not go together well. University life and family needs were and still are considered largely incompatible. Admittedly, a small child does not exactly make study organisation easy. Apart from an already challenging curriculum, including the learning content and exams, there are the additional needs of the offspring. This requires a high degree of organisation. Where can I find childcare? What should I do if the baby has a fever but I have to attend a lecture or even an exam? How should I design my schedule in light of these special needs? These are questions which young student fathers and mothers must face.

The Medical Faculty Mannheim wants to provide support because the compatibility of family and studies - or career - is a key issue which the Medical Faculty has signed up to.

Therefore various measures have been taken by the Faculty in the recent past, with more planned.

These family friendly measures are described in more detail under the following topics:

  • Information and Advice Services
  • Study Organisation
  • Infrastructure / Childcare
  • Contacts and Synergies

Information and Advice Services


Students with children are welcome: The Faculty emphasises this fact starting with its internet portal. On the homepage, students are informed about the services supporting the compatibility of work and family. The site has already been extended more links have been added. Information for student parents are summarised in a section of the portal which is easy to find via the institution’s web address

Currently, a brochure is being developed, lists contact details and provides basic information. In addition, slides have been prepared which may be projected prior to seminars and lectures, thus making the students aware of the various advice and information services.


Student counselling aiming to adjust studies to family life and need are provided as networked advice.

In close consultation between the Dean’s Office (in this case, the Officer for Study-Related Programs) and the Equal Opportunity Office (in this case, the Equality Officer) and with the involvement of the Student Council, students are offered various forms of advice (from general information up to individual consultation) right from the start of their studies until their graduation.

To begin with, interested students with questions can easily identify the right contact person on the website. For example, for questions about financial and social issues (student finance, childcare) they are directed to the Equality Office which in turn may refer them to contacts at the relevant authorities (youth welfare office, employment agency, social services). Regarding questions about studies and the curriculum, the Academic Dean’s Office is the point of contact. The relevant competences of each institution are made clear. Both bodies, the Dean’s Office and the Equality Office, work together and are linked closely to prevent interface errors through close cooperation. An evaluation of the requests for counseling and handling related issues is being considered.

The advertising of the existing range of psychosocial and socio-legal counseling services at the Equality Office is being increased.

Following measurements are offered:

  • Counseling for pregnant women
  • Referral for pregnancy conflict counselling
  • Low threshold psychosocial support in life crises related to pregnancy and parenthood (possibly, in cooperation with the Dean of Studies, referral to the co-operating psychiatric team at the Central Institute of Mental Health)
  • Assistance in finding suitable childcare
  • Information about financial support during pregnancy and parenthood
  • Referral to specialist counselling centres (Caritas, pro familia)
  • Support on compatibility of studies and family care
  • Provision of information material

Study Organisation

Individual Study Organisation

To enable young fathers and mothers to continue their studies as smoothly as possible, the Deanery of Student Affairs offers individual student advice sessions to students with children. The course progression is adapted to the individual needs and requirements as much as possible, thus taking advantage of the maximum flexibility of the degree course. As individual advice services are a priority in providing for students with children or intending to have children, special efforts are made to draw attention to this offer.

Furthermore, a representative of the Equality Team will be present at the introductory and information sessions for first year students to raise awareness of the offers. This opportunity will also be used to draw attention to other equality issues. This will represent a double success because there will be opportunities to also inform students without children about support measures in career planning, mentoring programs and other offers by the Equality Office.

In addition, the online “student bulletin board” provides information for interested students. The Equality Office and the Dean’s Office are working closely together on this issue too.

Infrastructure / Childcare

Since 2009, the Medical Faculty Mannheim of the University of Heidelberg has provided the MEDI-KIDS children’s day care center for staff and students, offering 20 places adapted to university life and financed by the university. The facility is closed only on ten working days during a calendar year, opening times are daily from 7am to 7pm on working days. In October 2010, MEDI-KIDS was extended to include a mixed-age kindergarten class. As of March 2011, six children of student parents are cared for by MEDI-KIDS [1]. MEDI-KIDS receives financial support from the Youth and Social Affairs Department of the City of Mannheim.

In order to support parents with children on the campus itself, one or more centrally located diaper changing facilities are planned. Also, a separate room offering a retreat for nursing mothers is under discussion. To ensure such an offer is efficient, the Equality Team has suggested to ensure available of these faciclities for faculty and hospital staff as well.

High chairs are available in the canteen, and the suggestion has been made to offer a free meal for small children accompanied by a parent. Talks on this idea are progressing well.

Contacts and Synergies

A trustful relationship with the Equality Team at the University of Heidelberg has been established, such being able to refer to an abundance of experience and excellent human resources.

It is a continuing aim to establish a good and trusting relationship with hospital management as well.

A representative of the Equality Team regularly participates in the working group on “Family Friendly University in the Metropolitan Region Rhine-Neckar”. This group is run under the auspices of the M-R.N GmbH and offers a chance to exchange experiences and plan collaboration. The group also offers opportunities to look “behind the scenes” of other universities and thus is a broad forum for exchange and synergy.


The study on “Family fiendliness at the Medical Faculty” by the University of Ulm [2] was the reason for the expansion and intensification of constructive exchanges between the Dean’s Office and the Equality Team at the Medical Faculty of Mannheim. While a number of measures to facilitate the compatibility of studies and family were already in place, the study made it clear that there were gaps especially regarding awareness and information about existing provision. It has enabled targeted measurements and relevant information is now distributed more widely and in a more targeted fashion.

In this context, the study was also used to put the issue of compatibility of studies and family on the agenda earlier than planned and thus accelerating the implementation of additional measures.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interest.


Scheib-Berten A. Familien- und Elternförderung an medizinischen Fakultäten am Beispiel der Medizinischen Fakultät Mannheim der Universität Heidelberg, Neues Handbuch Hochschullehre. Stuttgart: Dr. Josef Raabe Verlag; 2010.
Niehues J, Prospero K, Fegert JM, Liebhardt H. Familienfreundlichkeit im Medizinstudium in Baden-Württemberg. Ergebnisse einer landesweiten Studie. GMS Z Med Ausbild. 2012;29(2):Doc33. DOI: 10.3205/zma000803 External link