Finding the right university
Germany has many different kinds of universities. They all offer excellent quality. But with so many universities to choose from, it's not always easy finding the one that best suits your needs. In the following, we help you understand what's what.
The German university system
There are over 380 officially recognised universities in 175 towns and cities throughout Germany, and they offer a total of over 15,000 study programmes. In principle, these universities are of equal rank. But each has its own strength and focuses. Common to all of them is that professors and lecturers are academically highly qualified, and you will acquire an officially recognised degree of a high academic standard. However, there are a number of differences you should be aware of.
There are three types of university:
- Universities for research-oriented study
- Universities of applied sciences for practice-oriented study
- Colleges of art, film and music for artistic courses
At Germany's 109 universities, the focus is on the transfer of methodical and theoretical knowledge. Research and teaching are closely linked to each other. Universities offer a wide range of subjects including law, the humanities and cultural studies, natural sciences and economics/business administration and medicine. If you want to do a doctorate in Germany, a university is the place to study.
Universities with special subject focuses
Some universities specialise in specific subject areas and consequently call themselves technical universities (TU), universities of technology (TH) or universities of teacher training (PH). A small number concentrate on one single discipline. These include the Hannover Medical School, the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover and the German Sport University Cologne.
The German University of Administrative Sciences in Speyer specialises in post-graduate study. In certain cases, foreign applicants from EU countries may also study at the Federal Universities of Administrative Sciences run by the federal government and federal states.
The education offered at the 216 universities of applied sciences has a strong vocational orientation. Students there are prepared for professions in specific fields of work, such as technology, business, social work or media and design. Study programmes include work placements and practical semesters.
Studying and working
"Berufsakademien", or Universities of Cooperative Education, have an even stronger practical focus: they offer courses in such subjects as business, technology and social sciences in combination with professional training. A potential obstacle for international students is that only students who have a training contract with a company are eligible to study here (List of "Berufsakademien" in Germany).
If you have an artistic talent you wish to turn into your profession, a course of study at one of Germany's 55 colleges of art, film and music may be the right choice. Whether you paint, play an instrument, sing, direct or act, to qualify for this kind of course you have to have an exceptional artistic talent which you are required to demonstrate in an entrance examination. Especially talented candidates may be admitted even if they do not fulfil the formal university entrance requirements.
Education in Germany is organised federally
Education in Germany is not centrally coordinated. There are 16 federal states in Germany. Each state has its own state government and higher education laws. Universities in Germany are largely self-regulatory. That's why it's important to ask which particular regulations apply at your chosen university.
State or private?
The majority of universities (240) in Germany are funded by the federal government. If you study there, you are usually required to pay no tuition fees or only a nominal amount. Most students are enrolled at state universities. There are also private and church universities. The quality of instruction at both types of university is equally high.
An increasing number of private universities have emerged in recent years. In the last ten years, for example, the number has risen from 24 to 100. The majority of these are universities of applied sciences. Currently around five percent of all students study at a private university.
Private universities are attracting a growing number of new students. This is because of the small study groups, close links to industry and the universities' strong international orientation. However, private universities tend to charge high tuition fees: a course of study can cost up to 30,000 euro.
Important: If you wish to study at a private university, make sure it is officially recognised. Without official state recognition, degrees will not be recognised on the international job market.
A small number of universities in Germany (40) are funded by the Protestant or Catholic Church. This is where priests and theologians, social education workers, special needs teachers, teachers of religion, experts in the health and care sectors and church musicians are taught. The Hochschule für Jüdische Studien Heidelberg is open to students of all denominations.
List of German universities:
On the following page "Finding the right study programme", we help you choose the right course at a German university.