Educational System in Germany
Germany’s institutions of higher education are internationally accredited – according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), 6 of the top 100 and 18 of the top 200 universities in the world are German. Studying here will place you among some of the oldest and most established universities in the world, as well as some of the newest and most innovative.
The basic structure of the German education system is very similar to that of several Western countries. It is made of basic (primary), secondary (lower and upper) and tertiary/higher education. It is in the detail -- especially in relation to the selection of institutions that provide tertiary/higher instruction -- where the differences lie. Most of these are public (government). There are a few privately run institutions; but, public education is the first option for most (over 90%).
Public and Private Universities
There are 400 public universities in Germany, which are attended by 95% of the university student population. These institutions are state funded, meaning that students do not pay tuition fees (apart from a small administrative cost at the start of each semester). There are also around 120 private institutions which do not receive government funding and are not state regulated, meaning that they set their own tuition fees.
The Bologna System
Higher education in Germany recently converted to the three-tier degree system of the European Higher Education Area established under the Bologna System. Rather than the old one-tier ‘long’ programs, Germany now offers undergraduate courses which result in a Bachelor’s degree, and postgraduate courses which result in a Master’s or PhD (Doctorate). This system is designed to be the same throughout Europe, facilitating international educational mobility and enhancing flexibility in educational objectives.
The German higher education system differentiates between different types of universities for different disciplines:
- Technische Universität (Technical Schools) teach science, technology and engineering
- Fachhochschulen (Universities of Applied Science) specialize in business, engineering and social science
- Kunst- und Musikhochschulen are universities of fine and performing arts, music, media and communication
Master’s degrees are taught courses (unlike PhDs which are research-oriented), and usually last two years (four semesters). They are either ‘consecutive’ or ‘non-consecutive’. Consecutive Master’s programs build upon an obtained Bachelor’s – they follow on from a related undergraduate degree and do not ordinarily charge fees. Non-consecutive programs focus on a more specialized area of study. These courses may charge fees and are more likely to require professional or practical experience on top of an undergraduate degree.
Types of Universities in Germany
- Universities - These are called technical universities or colleges of education. At a university, you can also study for a doctorate.
- Universities of Applied Sciences - These universities offer practice-oriented academic courses. The focus is more on professional application than theory, and the training is adapted to the requirements of professional life. At a university, you can also study for bachelors and masters. The range of subjects comprises fields such as technology, economics, social work or medicine.
- Colleges of Art, Film and Music - In art, film and music colleges you can study artistic subjects, such as music, architecture, visual arts, drama, dance, industrial and fashion design. At universities for modern media, directors, cinematographers, screenwriters and other film and television professionals are trained. Admission requirements for these courses include a specific talent which you must demonstrate at an entrance examination.
- Dual Universities - Alongside a classic University of Applied Sciences course, a cooperative study programme gives you the opportunity to link your academic training more closely to your entry into professional life.
- State and Private Universities - The majority of universities in Germany are financed by the state. Some are run by the church, and there are more than 120 private colleges offering state-approved degrees. Many private universities are universities of applied sciences.
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