In Germany, as in most other modern industrial societies, the overall process of expansion of higher education has led to a different, more heterogeneous compos ition of students in terms of social and family background, gender, age, life-style, motivation for studying, future vocational perspectives and other characteristics . As outlined in Chapter 1 (Schuetze and Slowey) of this volume, the definition of 'non-traditional students' has substantially changed with this transformation of higher education to a mass system . In this introduction, the meaning of 'traditional' students is explored in the German context. This leads on to a definition of the main features of 'non-traditional' students. In the following sections, an overview is given of the higher education system in Germany in general. It will be shown that the question of access is central in the German system to any discussion of traditional and , by contrast and extens ion, non-traditional students. But it is also clear that the rigid organisation of studies and especially the almost complete lack of distance-learning and part-time provision constitute barriers to all those who want to study in a more flexible manner. As will be shown, there has been little policy concern, debate, or action in Germany concerning specific measures in favour of 'non-traditional' students.