Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Family Support Centre

A Family-Friendly Learning Environment

office supplies
Photo: Familienbüro


Humboldt-Universität offers information, consulting and support to lecturers, examination offices and administrative bodies regarding the implementation of a family-friendly education. The following section will give you a detailed overview of this topic. Please get in touch with the Family Support Centre at any time if you have questions or wish to make an individual appointment.

Humboldt-Universität sees itself as a family-friendly university. It has firmly anchored in its constitution the goal of making university studies and careers compatible with family life. The Commission family appropriate University  (Kommission Familiengerechte Hochschule) was created as a permanent committee of the University Senate in order to support the President’s Office and inform the University Senate’s decisions. The principles for structuring a family-friendly university agreed by the President’s Office adhere to the overall commitment and objectives of Humboldt-Universität.

The Family Support Centre oversees and coordinatesHumboldt-Universität’s family-friendly concept. On top of that, the HU has participated in the “audit familiengerechte hochschule” auditing procedure since 2009.

The Work Agreement and Guidelines for Respectful Coexistence (Dienstvereinbarung und Richtlinie zum respektvollen Miteinander [(PDF) German Only]) is an important tool for promoting the compatibility of academic and family life at Humboldt-Universität. What’s more, individual institutions of Humboldt-Universität have drawn up additional guidelines or parameters for teaching, i.e. for guiding interactions between lecturers and students. Here are two practical examples:

• The Teaching and Studying working group of the Centre for Transdisciplinary Gender Studies has developed an Anti-Discriminatory Teaching Guide (Leitfaden zur Diskriminierungskritischen Lehre). Although the guide does not explicitly mention students with family commitments, the proposals, information and ideas it puts forward can be easily applied to them.

• The Elementary School Education department established guidelines for interactions between teachers and students in an interdisciplinary committee. Furthermore, they designed a model mediation procedure if these guidelines are not observed.

In order to ensure this balance in teaching and studies, it is of utmost importance to provide comprehensive information about the existing policies and their implementation. The lecturers, administrative offices, department advisors and examination offices play a key role in spreading this information. We ask that you proactively communicate the following measures to your students.


Compensation for disadvantage

In accordance with section 109 of the General Study and Examination Regulations (or ZSP-HU), students with children under age 14 or with relatives in need of care have the right to compensation for disadvantage (Nachteilsausgleich). If, for example, you are unable to meet the minimum attendance requirement of 75% of the lectures for family reasons, you can request this compensation (see section 93 of the ZSP-HU). Once you have been granted compensation for disadvantage, you can apply for deadline extensions, change exam dates or request an alternative type of exam. Students file their requests related to course work directly with the lecturer; requests related to exams must be sent in writing to the examination committee or examination office. The response to a written request must also be in writing, and a reason must be stated should the request be refused (including information on the available legal remedies).

Preferred assignment for required courses

Students who need to attend a specific required course at a specific time for family reasons can file a request for preferred assignment (section 90-91 of the ZSP-HU). One of way to implement this could be to set aside a certain amount of spots (e.g. 5%) for students with preferred assignment. There are certainly other ways of doing it, and the Family Support Centre would be happy to advise you on the subject.

Bringing children to class

Different circumstances might require you to bring your child(ren) to class: when the lecture period overlaps with school holidays, Kita holidays or other childcare restrictions. In general, this should be seen as a matter of course at the HU. It is essential for everyone involved to show respect towards one another and communicate openly. If you have any doubts, please get in touch with the Family Support Centre.

Family-friendly course scheduling

Required courses, office hours, colloquia or other important fixed appointments in everyday university life should be scheduled, whenever possible, during typical childcare centre hours to give students with children the chance to attend. If it is not possible to do so, the Family Support Centre makes an effort to provide childcare. There are many family rooms at the HU that can be used for childcare and play bags can be loaned.

Childcare during events, workshops and conferences

The Family Support Centre is happy to inform you about how to make childcare arrangements during conferences, symposia or block seminars. This childcare is provided at the HU by external partners; the family rooms can be used and play bags can be loaned. Childcare costs need to be individually covered by each institute/department.


Digitalisation opens up many new possibilities in education. It also makes it easier for students with family obligations to pursue their studies. Thanks to webcasts, lecture notes and other digital resources, students can still participate in courses even if they have family impediments. There are already a number of pilot projects fostering this sort of learning at the HU. For exhaustive information on digitalisation in education, check out the website of the bologna.lab Part-Time Study project.