At the Academy of Law of the MfS (JHS), direct university studies included, without special training for the secret services and the composition of a diploma thesis, an educational program that lasted three years. This was two years shorter than a comparative regular law degree in the GDR.
At first, direct studies at the JHS were primarily directed at experienced Stasi employees, who received further qualifications at the JHS. Admission to studies was only granted after delegation by the respective service unit or the Main Department for Cadres and Training. In 1984, the old degree program was replaced by the introduction of a new form of studies called the “Officer’s School Program.” This changed the composition of the student body in direct studies, which now consisted primarily of high school graduates with the Abitur. The focus thereby shifted more and more to the training and education of leading and middle-level junior cadres who were supposed to work in the secret service as academics.
High school graduates were first employed in the MfS and had to go through six weeks of basic military training. This was followed by a one-year assignment to a service unit. Only after this “preparatory process for higher education studies” did the delegation to the JHS occur. This run-up phase served two purposes: it was an aptitude test and a period of ideological indoctrination. It encompassed only fields of activity related to the secret service. This also corresponded to the studies at the JHS. Although the Academy only issued law degrees, 20 percent of the law teaching fields were not intended to train jurists for service in the justice system.
From 1986 forward, the direct study program included 12 teaching fields with a total workload of 2,616 hours:
During the first three years of studies, basic education was provided through lectures, seminars and tutorials, supplemented by a mandatory professional internship. This profession-related internship focused on working with Stasi informants. Such work included the preparation for and participation in informant meetings, the assignment of tasks to informants, and the evaluation of their performance. Interns were also incorporated directly into operational work, such as the surveillance of individuals.
The fourth year of study included twelve weeks of special training. Studies concluded with the composition of a final thesis that had to be completed within five weeks, including an oral defense. Upon successful conclusion of the program, graduates were awarded a diploma in jurisprudence and were promoted to the rank of lieutenant.
The distance learning program bore a strong resemblance to the direct study program at the Academy of Law of the Ministry for State Security (JHS). This program was designed to train cadres in the middle and upper ranks. Training was conducted in JHS field offices and was available for students between 25 and 35 years of age. The distance learning students, who were on average ten years older than their counterparts in the direct program, had to have a higher education entrance qualification as well as three to five years of experience in politico-operational service in the Ministry for State Security (MfS), depending on the course of study. They also had to hold the rank of work group leader or higher, or belong to a cadre reserve for such official positions. Distance learning students completed their studies while working at the MfS, receiving time off for units of instruction and seminar days. Because this enabled the highest possible degree of integration between continuing education and work performance, this program was the most frequently selected form of study at the JHS.
The distance learning program also had a total duration of four years, including the composition of a final thesis. Hours of instruction, however, were significantly lower for the distance learning program at 954; the direct program demanded 2,616 hours of class time. This is why the distance learning program only offered seven subjects:
After the successful completion and defense of the final thesis within five weeks, the distance learning program also ended with the award of a diploma in jurisprudence as well as promotion to the rank of lieutenant.
The Vocational School (Fachschule) opened in 1970 and was an integrated component of the JHS. It was comprised of a main office and branch offices in the district administrations. Courses were taught by teaching staff from the JHS.
The Vocational School program was directed primarily at the lowest ranks of the MfS leadership, and it was very popular. According to some estimates, the School trained almost 20,000 graduates, 74 percent of them in a distance learning program. Admission requirements included a tenth-grade education and the successful completion of officer training at the MfS.
Studies were offered in 15 specialized subjects that were taught under the moniker of legal studies or political science. The choice of studies followed the student’s official position. The duration of studies varied according to the specialization and the subject; direct studies lasted 12 to 24 months, and the distance learning program took between two to three years to complete. The program concluded with a final thesis of about 30 pages.
After successful completion of the program, graduates in law studies were authorized to bear the title “vocational attorney,” and graduates in political science received the title of “political scientist.”
At the core of the external studies program at the Academy of Law of the MfS (JHS) stood the training and further education of especially experienced and proven leading officials (such as heads of main departments or district administrations, etc.). The number of trainees was limited to 10 to 15 participants. The studies lasted 18 months. Over this year and a half, a total of 18 mid-term and final exams had to be completed, and the final thesis also had to be composed during this time.