The ArbeiterKind (working class children) initiative encourages school pupils from non-academic backgrounds to go to university and supports them en route to a successful conclusion to their studies.

In Germany, the likelihood of a child going to university can be ascertained from the level of education of the parental home. While 77 out of 100 children from academic backgrounds embark on a university degree, only 23 out of 100 children from non-academic families go to university (data from the 20th social survey conducted by the Deutsches Studentenwerk (German National Association for Student Affairs). This can be explained, firstly, by the information deficit with regard to a university education and, secondly, by concerns over the financial commitments that a degree course entails. The initiative, which has existed since May 2008, aims to reduce the information deficit and to encourage pupils from non-academic families of origin to go to university, regardless of their social background. The initiative will have achieved its goal when these proportions are balanced and there is equality of opportunity in terms of accessing educational advancement. has now become the largest German initiative for first-generation students. Across Germany, almost 6,000 voluntary mentors are working in 70 local groups, supported by the national office in Berlin and full-time regional coordinators in southern Germany and in the federal states of Hessen, Lower Saxony and North Rhine Westphalia.

The voluntary staff encourages pupils from non-academic families to embark on a university degree and provide practical assistance on everyday life as a student and on starting a career. The many activities of the local groups include regular drop-in sessions, information events at schools, attendance at educational trade fairs and university events, collaboration with the existing service and advisory facilities for pupils and students as well as personal support and mentoring. There is a dedicated social network at for the volunteers to swap ideas, as well as a virtual library.

The internet portal offers information appropriate to the target group on study and funding options. In addition, the info telephone offers free and low-threshold information for all those interested in a university education, four days a week from 2.30 to 7.30 pm. also has the following aims:

  • Via a local information and encouragement network, to tap into the educational potential of gifted pupils from non-academic families and thus counter the threat of a shortage of specialist staff
  • Via the multiple opportunities offered by voluntary work in local groups, to enable active civil engagement

The initiative and its founder, Katja Urbatsch, have established themselves in the wide-ranging landscape of social entrepreneurs. In 2009, Katja Urbatsch was admitted as an Ashoka Fellow 2009 to a worldwide network of social entrepreneurs. The initiative was also awarded the "Deutscher Engagementpreis 2009", the "Ausgewählter Ort 2009" (selected location 2009) engagement prize as part of the "Germany – Land of Ideas" competition, and the "Startsocial2008" prize.

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