University (“Universität”)

German universities, including various specialised institutes, offer a wide range of academic subjects. Most universities are either state-funded or state-accredited institutions. In addition, you will find higher education institutes run by the Protestant and Catholic Churches, as well as private institutes which are recognised by the state. Following the German educational tradition, most universities focus on research, so that higher degree courses are often theoretical and research-oriented.

University of Applied Sciences (“Fachhochschule”)

Universities of applied sciences specialise in less theoretical and more practical subjects. If you want to study engineering, business or social sciences, this will be the place for you. Most study programmes include integrated and supervised internships or traineeships in German or international companies. In German, universities of applied sciences can have various names, “Fachhochschule” being the most common one.

Academies of Art, Music or Film (“Hochschule” or “Akademie”)

If you want to study subjects such as visual arts, music, performing arts or film, you will have to apply to a specialised academy. In most public institutions, the application process is strict. You will have to submit a portfolio with samples of previous artistic work or pass an audition. For admission purposes, your artistic talent will be more decisive than your high school degrees.


As the educational system varies across the sixteen federal states, you will find a number of other university-like institutions. For example, Baden Württemberg has specific universities of education (“Pädagogische Hochschule”) that offer teacher training programmes. Furthermore, the Catholic and Protestant Churches run their own institutions of higher education. They offer a wide range of subjects that are not solely religious in nature. You will also find a number of private universities which are officially recognised by the state. The degrees they offer are equivalent to degrees you can earn at public universities.