University System in Germany - Discover Germany
May 14, 2014

University System in Germany

The more choices you have, the harder it is to choose. This especially applies to your situation, as there are so many opportunities to study in Germany. 

There are 409 officially recognised institutions of higher education in 165 towns and cities throughout Germany. In total, German universities and colleges offer more than 14,500 degree programmes. And from all of these, you will have to choose one. In the following, we’ve put together some information to help ease the agony of making such a difficult decision.

What kinds of colleges and universities are there? 

Deciding on a college or university is somewhat easier as there are only three types to choose from in Germany:

  1. Universities
  2. Universities of applied sciences
  3. Colleges of art, film and music

Studying at a university is a good idea if you are interested in a scientifically-oriented education. Universities offer a broad range of courses and subjects. Some schools specialise in certain disciplines, such as advanced technology, medicine and education. If you would like to enter a doctoral programme in Germany, then a university is the perfect place for you.

Universities of applied sciences are ideal if you are looking for a more praxis-oriented education. These institutions provide students with a scientifically based education, tailored to the demands of professional life. The degree programmes generally include internships and a practical module. This enables students to apply their knowledge on the job at companies and businesses.

If you wish to study an artistic or design-oriented subject, you may be the perfect candidate for a college of art, film or music. At such colleges you will find courses in the Fine Arts, Industrial and Fashion Design, Graphic Arts, Instrumental Music, Voice, etc. Colleges of modern media train students to become directors, camera operators, screenwriters, technicians and producers for film and television. To be eligible for such a programme, candidates must possess a high degree of artistic talent which they are asked to demonstrate in an aptitude test. Therefore, you can expect special admission requirements if you wish to apply to a college of art, film or music.

What is the difference between public and private universities?

Most universities and colleges in Germany are public, i.e. they receive funding from the federal government. Some are also financed by the Protestant or Catholic Church. In addition to these subsidised institutions, there are now more than 100 private universities and colleges which confer officially recognised degrees. A majority of these are universities of applied sciences.

Most students in Germany are enrolled at public universities. Only three percent of all students attend a private institution, perhaps due to the fact that private colleges and universities tend to charge high tuition fees. The quality of instruction at both types of universities, however, is comparably high. Did you know that university education in Germany is not centrally coordinated? Each of the 16 states has its own higher education laws and guidelines. German universities are largely self-regulatory, which means that not all rules apply to every university. Therefore, always enquire about the particular regulations at the university of your choice.