The right university

Two students on a laptop in the great hall

Prospective students can choose between different types of higher education institutions in Germany: there are universities, universities of applied sciences, private universities and universities of cooperative education in many different German cities. Every type of higher education institution has particular areas of specialisation.

Types of higher education institutions

  • mainly teach theoretical knowledge and emphasise research. Universities normally offer a wide range of different subjects, but some have specialised and then call themselves technical universities (Technische Universität, TU) or colleges of education (Pädagogische Hochschule, PH). Some universities, such as the Hannover Medical School or the German Sport University Cologne, even focus solely on a single subject area.

  • Universities of applied sciences (HAW/FH) have a practice-oriented academic approach. They focus more on professional application than on theory. Their range of subjects comprises specific fields such as technology, economics, social work or media. In the practical phases, students at complete , longer project phases or entire practical semesters, often in businesses.

  • Colleges of art and music train young artists such as musicians, architects, fine artists and designers. Admission requirements include a specific talent which applicants must demonstrate in an entrance examination. Especially talented students may sometimes also be admitted without a .

  • A dual study programme combines academic studies with or practical phases in a company. This may be an interesting option for people who prefer to learn practically and start their careers quickly.

Funding bodies

There are several different funding models for higher education institutions in Germany. Most higher education institutions are state-run; others are operated privately, and some by the church.

  • Approximately 60 percent of higher education institutions in Germany are funded by the Federal Government and the federal states, meaning their is the state. The majority of students are enrolled at this type of higher education institution and mostly do not pay . However, the federal state of Baden-Württemberg requires tuition fees of students from non-EU countries.

  • There are also higher education institutions that are state-approved but privately operated. This applies to approximately 30 percent of higher education institutions in Germany. Most of these are that are valued for their close ties to industry and their international orientation. Some of them however charge high .

  • A further 10 percent of higher education institutions are run by one of the churches in Germany. They are state-approved and often also open to students of other denominations. They usually focus on a specific field such as theology, philosophy, social work or education.

TIP: A degree from a private or church-run higher education institution in Germany is only valid on the international labour market if the higher education institution is state-approved. The German Rectors' Conference maintains a current list of all state-run and state-approved higher education institutions in Germany.


Choosing the right location for studying is also important. Would you prefer a major university town such as Munich, Cologne, Berlin or Hamburg? Or a smaller city that nonetheless has many students among its population, like Heidelberg or Göttingen? Places that are not so very well known for their higher education institution often have the advantage that and professors are more accessible; finding accommodation is also easier.

DAAD - Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst - German Academic Exchange Service