Universities are scientific-educational institutes that focus on theoretical education. Universities are thus generally less practical than, e.g. universities of applied science ("Fachhochschulen") or universities of cooperative education ("Berufsakademien"). At universities, one can study all subjects: in principle, there are faculties of linguistics and cultural sciences, law, natural sciences, medicine, agriculture and forestry, economics, social sciences, nutritional sciences and engineering at all universities. Linguistics and cultural sciences are, in particular, only taught at universities. In principle, along with their principal subject, university students are free to pick a minor subject of their choice. A university' s day-to-day teaching activities are generally not much controlled and regulated. That means each student is personally responsible for the organisation of their academic life. You will find a list of all the universities in Germany on studis-online.de.
How can I study in a German university?
The higher education system in Germany is very diverse. There are hundreds of universities, colleges, vocational academies, colleges of music and art and much more in Germany. The umbrella term for all these educational institutions is "Hochschule". Higher education institutions in Germany may be funded by the state, church or private sector. In private colleges, you usually have to pay tuition fees. Finding the right university is not quite easy. Here is a brief overview of the specifics of the different types of higher education institutes available in Germany. In the second section of this chapter, you will find out which degrees you can apply for at German universities. You can learn more about German universities in our chapters "University Application" and "Student Finance".
Which university is the right one for me?
University of Applied Sciences (“Fachhochschule”)
University of Cooperative Education ("Berufsakademie")
College of Arts and Music ("Musik- und Kunsthochschule")
Colleges of Theology ("Theologische Hochschule")
College of Public Administration ("Fachhochschulen für öffentliche Verwaltung")
As a member state of the European Union, Germany has had to adjust its university system to other European countries’. This is called the “Bologna Process”. The new bachelor’s and master’s degrees have now practically replaced the diploma (“Diplom”) and former master’s degree (“Magister Artium”). However, you might still come across them because not all universities have completed the Bologna Process yet. Both are equivalent to the new master’s degree.
Types of Degrees
Bachelor’s Degree (“Bachelor”)
Master’s Degree (“Master”)
State Exam (“Staatsexamen”)
Dual Vocational Degree (“duales Studium”)
In order to study at a German university, you need at least a high school certificate. Before you apply, you should verify that your degree is equivalent to a German advanced high school certificate (“Abitur” or “Allgemeine Hochschulreife”), if you want to study at university, or an advanced technical college certificate (“Fachhochschulreife”), if you want to study at a university of applied sciences. The recognition of high school certificates is called “Zeugnisbewertung" or "Schulische Anerkennung".
If you already studied at a university in your country of origin, but didn’t earn a degree, you might be able to join a German programme at the equivalent level. This depends on which of your courses or credit points are recognised in Germany (“Akademische Anerkennung”). On anerkennung-in-deutschland.de, you can find more information about the procedure.