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.
How can I study in a German university?
Studying in Germany is a great opportunity to earn an internationally recognised degree and to improve your language skills. There are hundreds of universities, music academies, universities of applied sciences, art colleges and film schools in Germany. Choosing the right one is not an easy task. Before you start applying to individual universities, you should think thoroughly about what you want to study and what kind of degree you want to earn.
While more and more universities offer degree programmes in English, the vast majority of courses is still taught in German. Before you can apply to a university, you need to pass a language exam and to verify that the degrees you have already earned are recognised in Germany.
Types of Institutions
University of Applied Sciences (“Fachhochschule”)
Academies of Art, Music or Film (“Hochschule” or “Akademie”)
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”). You can find more information about this procedure here.
Most universities require applicants to present a language proficiency proof like TestDaF, telc or DSH. Ask the respective university which certificate and level you need to enrol. You can find various language courses at the DAAD database, the Volkshochschule, on the Goethe-Institut website or in private language schools.
You can do the TestAS to see whether you are ready to start university. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) takes over the costs of this test for registered refugees.