gms | German Medical Science

GMS Journal for Medical Education

Gesellschaft für Medizinische Ausbildung (GMA)

ISSN 2366-5017

Family Policies as a Competition Factor at Universities

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GMS Z Med Ausbild 2012;29(2):Doc28

doi: 10.3205/zma000798, urn:nbn:de:0183-zma0007981

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

Received: March 16, 2011
Revised: August 4, 2011
Accepted: May 24, 2011
Published: April 23, 2012

© 2012 De Ridder.
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 scientific community in Germany is undergoing major change. This includes the growing spirit of competition, increased further by the Excellence Initiative (and with it the international peers, who demanded more gender orientation) and the management of demographic change. The contribution of universities as an agent of social objectives is becoming more and more of a focal point. This entails the relevance of a new look at the university stakeholders who also expect “their” university to enable them to combine a career, studies and family life while at the workplace and while studying, whether through the need of parents caring for young children or the need of caring for one’s own aging parents.

Our own experience refers to many different aspects if family policies are taken as a university strategy.

First, a trend has been observed for young people, whether as students or as young scientists, to always move their family planning phase to that phase of life in which they hope to have planning security as children require resource, both in terms of finance and time. Parents with their first child over the age of 40 are therefore, despite all medical concerns, usually academics.

So in the competition for the best minds, what can a university do to attract and retain students and (scientific) staff with a family-friendly policy? First of all, a family-friendly policy must be see as a strategic task and therefore be given top priority. This would allow progress in child care through day care places, dedicated service facilities (which can also be offered in cooperation with municipalities and companies) or more flexible working in the incentive scheme and the internal allocation of resources. Family-friendly ultimately also means that universities understand themselves as potential-, resource- and future-oriented employers who consider the desire for planning security in the recruitment, development and retention of staff and cultivate a welcoming strategy towards young families.

The lack of a family-friendly approach is no longer workable, especially at university!

Competing interests

The author declares that she has no competing interests.