Higher education system in Germany

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Germany is a federal country. German higher education sector is regulated partly at federal, but predominantly at state level.

Types of institutions

In Germany, higher education are offered at three types of Higher Education Institutions.

  • Universities (Universitäten)
    These institutions offer the whole range of academic disciplines. In the German tradition, universities focus in particular on basic research so that advanced stages of study have mainly theoretical orientation and research-oriented components.
  • Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen)
    These institutions concentrate their study programmes in engineering and other technical disciplines, business-related studies, social work, and design areas.
    The common mission of applied research and development implies a distinct application-oriented focus and professional character of studies, which include integrated and supervised work assignments in industry, enterprises or other relevant institutions.
  • Universities of Art/Music (Kunst- und Musikhochschulen)
    These institutions offer studies for artistic careers in fine arts, performing arts and music; in such fields as directing, production, writing in theatre, film, and other media; and in a variety of design areas, architecture, media and communication.

Besides these three main types, which may be either state institutions or private institutions recognised by the state, some special categories exist, like church-maintained colleges, universities of cooperative education (Berufsakademien), colleges of education or colleges of public administration. In their operations, including the organisation of studies and the designation and award of degrees, all types are subject to higher education legislation.

Types of programmes

German higher education used to be offered in integrated "long" (one-tier) programmes leading to Diplom- or Magister Artium degrees or completed by a Staatsprüfung (State Examination).

German higher education is currently adapting to the three cycle degree system of the European Higher Education Area. Therefore, the old one-tier programmes are successively being replaced by a the new system. Bachelor and Master's programmes are now offered at most institutions instead of the integrated "long" programmes, except for most study programmes in law and medicine. The Bachelor and Master's programmes are designed to provide an enlarged variety and flexibility to students in planning and pursuing educational objectives and they also intend to enhance international compatibility of studies and thus international mobility. Increasingly, higher education institutions offer study programs taught in English to attract a larger number of incoming students. Doctorate or PhD programmes are for the most part not yet subject to state regulations, but there exists a clear trend towards more integrated programmes.

Overview degree structure

Degree structure-DE.gif

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