Higher education

As per the 2013 summer semester, Germany had a total of 415 state-maintained and state-recognised institutions of higher education, which are of the following types:

• Universities and equivalent institution of higher education

• (Technische Hochschulen/Technische Universitäten, Pädagogische Hochschulen, theological colleges et al)

• Colleges of art and music

• Fachhochschulen (Hochschulen für angewandte Wissenschaften/Hochschulen für angewandte Forschung)

In addition, Germany's tertiary sector also includes either state-run or state-recognised Berufsakademien in some Länder (counties). The Fachschulen and the Fachakademien in Bayern are also part of the tertiary sector.

Universities and equivalent institutions of higher education

In addition to the traditional universities, the Technische Hochschulen or Technische Universitäten, that specialise in natural and engineering sciences also enjoy university status. Also equivalent to universities are establishments that only offer a limited range of courses of study, such as theological colleges and Pädagogische Hochschulen. The latter, which still exist only in Baden-Württemberg, have been incorporated into universities in the other Länder or expanded into institutions offering a wider range of courses.

What these institutions have in common, as a rule, is the right to award the Doktorgrad (Promotionsrecht). Academic and scientific research – particularly basic research – and the training of the next generation of academics are also distinctive features of universities and equivalent institutions of higher education.

Colleges of art and music

Colleges of art and music offer courses of studies in the visual, design and performing arts as well as in the area of film, television and media, and in various music subjects; both, in some cases, also teach the appertaining theoretical disciplines (fine arts, art history and art pedagogy, musicology, history and teaching of music, media and communication studies as well as, more recently, the area of the new media). Some colleges teach the entire gamut of artistic subjects, others only certain branches of study.


Fachhochschulen (universities of applied sciences) were introduced in 1970/71 as a new type of institution in the system of higher education in the Federal Republic of Germany. They fulfil their own specific educational function, characterised by a practice-oriented bias in teaching and research, a usually integrated semester of practical training, and professors, who have, in addition to their academic qualifications, gained professional experience outside the field of higher education.

In some Länder Fachhochschulen (universities of applied sciences) are called Hochschulen für angewandte Wissenschaften (higher education institutions of applied sciences) or Hochschulen für angewandte Forschung (higher education institutions of applied research). In Bayern some Hochschulen für angewandte Wissenschaften are entitled to call themselves Technische Hochschule (technical higher education institution).

A relatively high proportion of them, more than 50 per cent of 215 Fachhochschulen, are not state-maintained, but are to a large extent subject to the same legal provisions as state Fachhochschulen. They vary considerably in terms of size, number of students and number of courses of studies, and consequently the individual Fachhochschulen have a specific regional character or particular area of specialisation. A special role is played by the 29 Verwaltungsfachhochschulen (Fachhochschulen for public administration), which train civil servants for careers in the so-called higher level of the civil service. They are maintained by the Federation or by a Land. Their students have revocable civil servant status.

Establishments outside the higher education system – Berufsakademien, Fachschulen

Berufsakademien (professional academies) form part of the tertiary sector and combine academic training at a Studienakademie (study institution) with practical professional training in a training establishment, thus constituting a duales System (dual system). The companies bear the costs of on-the-job training and pay the students a wage, which is also received during the theoretical part of the training at the study institution. Berufsakademien were first set up in 1974 in Baden-Württemberg as part of a pilot project and are now to be found in some Länder as either state-run or state-recognised institutions.

As an alternative to the dual courses of the Berufsakademien, several Fachhochschulen have developed so-called dual courses of study.

Fachschulen are institutions of continuing vocational education and upgrading training in the tertiary sector that, as a rule, require the completion of relevant vocational training in a recognised occupation requiring formal training and subsequent employment. Fachschulen exist in the following fields:

• agricultural economy

• design

• technology

• business

• social work

Whether on a full or part-time basis, they lead to a professional continuing education qualification in accordance with Land legislation. In addition, Fachschulen can offer follow-up and further courses, as well as career development programmes. Those who complete training at the Fachschulen act as intermediaries between the functional sphere of graduates and that of skilled workers in a recognised occupation requiring formal training.

First Cycle Programmes

In a system of consecutive qualifications, the Bachelor is the first higher education qualification providing qualification for a profession and the standard qualification for study undertaken at a higher education institution. In the 2012/2013 winter semester, universities and equivalent institutions of higher education, Fachhochschulen and colleges of art and music collectively offered about 7,200 different courses of study leading to the Bachelor’s degree.

The following designations are used for Bachelor’s degrees at universities and equivalent institutions of higher education as well as at Fachhochschulen:

• Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)

• Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.)

• Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng.)

• Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.)

The following designations are used for Bachelor’s degrees at colleges of art and music:

• Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.)

• Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)

• Bachelor of Music (B.Mus.)

The following designation is used for Bachelor’s degrees acquired in the course of initial teacher training:

• Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.)

Admission to higher education institutions

With the entry into force of the State Treaty of the Länder on the establishment of a joint institution for higher education admission (Staatsvertrag der Länder über die Errichtung einer gemeinsamen Einrichtung für Hochschulzulassung) on 1 May 2010 the Central Office for the Allocation of Study Places (Zentralstelle für die Vergabe von Studienplätzen – ZVS) became the Foundation for Higher Education Admission (Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung – SfH). The SfH is a service facility for admission to higher education institutions that can be used by the institutions of higher education and applicants alike. It supports applicants in their choice of study place and higher education institutions with the admissions procedure. The Foundation is to develop an online application portal to provide information and advice to applicants, prepare applicant data, compare multiple admissions and allocate remaining free study places, in order to simplify and speed up the applications and admissions procedure.Under the State Treaty it has the task, on the one hand, of carrying out the central allocation procedure for courses subject to nationwide quotas on admission. On the other hand, the Foundation for Higher Education Admission supports those higher education institutions using its services in implementing admission procedures with local admission restrictions.

Second Cycle Programmes

The standard period of study for Master’s study courses can be two, three or four semesters. At universities and equivalent institutions of higher education, the standard period of study for Bachelor’s study courses is generally four semesters.

At Fachhochschulen the standard period of study for Master’s study courses is generally three to four semesters

Admission Requirements

The admission requirement for a Master’s study course is, as a rule, a higher education degree qualifying for entry into a profession. Under Land higher education laws, in clearly defined exceptional cases for Master’s study courses providing further education and for artistic Master’s study courses, an entrance examination may take the place of the requirement for a higher education degree qualifying for a profession. For quality assurance purposes or on grounds of capacity, additional admission requirements may be laid down for Master’s study courses. Admission requirements are subject to accreditation. The Länder (county) may reserve the right to approve admission requirements.

For admission to artistic Master’s study courses, the special artistic aptitude required for this must be demonstrated in addition to the Bachelor’s qualification. This can also be done by a special aptitude examination.

For admission to Master’s study courses providing further education, also evidence of qualified employment is required for a period of not less than one year as a rule.

Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Organisation of Doctoral Studies The paths to a doctorate in Germany are varied. The leading model in Germany is the individual, supervised doctorate. Doctoral studies are completed at universities, around a third of them in cooperation with non-university research institutes. There is also the option of cooperative doctoral studies programmes between universities and Fachhochschulen. At present, there are just less than 110,000 doctoral students in Germany. More than 27,000 obtained their doctorate in 2011.

In order to support the up-and-coming academics,Graduiertenkollegs, financed by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft – DFG), have been set up at institutions of higher education since 1990 to provide students with the opportunity to prepare their doctorate within the framework of a systematic study programme. There are currently 233 Graduiertenkollegs in Germany. Since 1998, there has been a larger number of other structured cooperative forms of training for doctoral students. These include international doctoral programmes, International Max-Planck Research Schools, Graduate Schools and graduate schools (Graduiertenschulen) promoted within the framework of the Excellence Initiative of the Federation and the Länder for the Promotion of Science and Research in German Higher Education Institutions (Exzellenzinitiative des Bundes und der Länder zur Förderung von Wissenschaft und Forschung an deutschen Hochschulen).

Admission Requirements

Admittance to doctoral studies is regulated in the doctoral regulations (Promotionsordnungen) of the universities and equivalent higher education institutions. Master’s degrees obtained at universities and equivalent higher education institutions, or at Fachhochschulen, always provide entitlement to doctoral studies. As a rule, a pass in the Erste Staatsprüfung (First State Examination) also provides entitlement to doctoral studies.

Particularly well-qualified holders of a Bachelor’s degree may also be admitted directly to doctoral studies without first acquiring a further degree by means of a procedure to determine aptitude (that is the theory at least. It does not happen in practice). The universities will regulate admission as well as the organisation of the procedure to determine aptitude and, if applicable, any cooperation with Fachhochschulen, in their doctoral regulations. In addition to their respective qualification, students are required to complete preparatory academic studies in the subjects to be studied at doctorate level and/or a supplementary period of study at the university in question or have to sit an aptitude test (Promotionseignungsprüfung).

Master’s degrees obtained at colleges of art and music entitle graduates to embark on doctoral studies only if the Master’s study course provided a sufficient qualification.

It is not possible to obtain a doctoral degree from a Fachhochschule, given that only universities and equivalent institutions of higher education are entitled to award doctorates. Increasingly, however, use is being made of the option of cooperative doctoral studies programmes between universities and Fachhochschulen.

Status of Doctoral Students/Candidates

Some doctoral students are employed, while others are funded by grants or finance their own doctoral studies. Grants and funding programmes are provided by the Federation, Länder, research and funding organisations, organisations for the promotion of young talent and political foundations. The rate of funding varies.

More detailed information and the source of the above information:

Top universities in Bavaria

The biggest state by size and the second-largest by population, Bavaria is home to 12.5 million people. With diverse industry in technology, engineering, beer and tourism (anyone for lederhosen?), the state’s top two universities two are Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and Technische Universität München (TU München), which both gain funding from the government’s Excellence Initiative and one of which, TU München, is a member of TU9.

Two of the top universities in Bavaria are located in München (aka Munich), the capital and largest city in the state. The top universities in Bavaria are:

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (52nd in the world; 2nd in Germany)

Technische Universität München (TU München, 54th in the world; 3rd in Germany)

Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (285th in the world; 20th in Germany)

Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (341st in the world; 26th in Germany)

Universität Regensburg (395th in the world; 29th in Germany)

Universität Bayreuth (481-490 in the world; 35th in Germany)

KaustavSaha Based on the latest QS World University Rankings, TUM is at 61st (1st in Germany) and LMU is at 62nd (2nd in Germany)

Please note that we have collected the information of other parts of the Internet together. We do not accept responsibility for the correctness of the information in this guide. Here are the ressources we have used. You can find the sources HERE!