Higher Education in Germany - An Overview

In Germany, most of the higher education institutions are financed by the state and thus comes under its regulatory control. The higher education institutions are principally divided into universities, universities of applied sciences, and colleges of art and music.  However, there are also higher education institutions run by the protestant and catholic churches and by private institutions that are officially recognized by the state. Many private higher education institutions are universities of applied sciences.

Higher Education: Facts and Figures

Germany has 415 institutions of higher education. Of these, 207 are universities of applied sciences ,106 are universities, 51 are colleges of arts or music, , 16 are colleges of theology, 6 are colleges of education and 29 are colleges of public administration.

In total, there are about 9,500 different undergraduate programmes and a further 6,800 postgraduate degree programmes on offer at higher education institutions .

University of applied sciences, college of technology, university, and university of cooperative education – the higher education system has many facets, many different types of institution like university of applied sciences focuses on practical knowledge; on the other hand, university sets its focus on theoretical research. This diversity enables students to choose the best course of study as per their interest and future prospects.

Universities:  including various specialized institutions, offer a wide range of disciplines from theology, arts,  sociology, social sciences, medicine, natural sciences, computer science, engineering etc.
In Germany, universities emphasize on basic research so that advanced stages of study have mainly theoretical orientation and research-oriented elements. Universities have the right to grant doctoral degrees and provide  education and training further .

Universities of Applied Sciences attended by one third of students focus on engineering and other technical disciplines, business-related studies, social work, and design areas. These universities  emphasize on practical work and application.

Colleges of Art and Music: Colleges of art and music offers studies in artistic and  creative fields such as direction, production, writing, dramatics, cinema and other media.. Almost all colleges of art and music have the right to grant doctoral degrees and the post-doctoral ‘Habilitation’ qualification for the title of ‘professor’.

Besides these three main types, which may be either state institutions or private institutions recognized by the state, some special categories exist, like church-maintained colleges, universities of cooperative education (Berufsakademien), colleges of education or colleges of public administration.

Higher Education Qualifications

The qualifications you can attain at a university or higher education institution are as follows:


  • Field of Study: Natural sciences, business and engineering
  • Duration: 4 years for a Diplom (FH means University of Applied Sciences) and 4, 4.5 or 5 years for a Diplom / Diplom (Univ.)

Bachelor Degree

  • Duration: 6 to 8 semesters

Master Degree

  • Duration: 1 to 2 years
  • Completed following: Bachelor, Magister, Diploma or State Examination.


  • Succeeding: A Diplom (from a Universitat), Magister, Master's or Staatsexamen

As a study destination

Germany bears a very solid economy. The German government is one of the world's largest investors in research and development. It funds and supports a wide variety of universities and their research facilities. Besides, it offers high quality of life, low tuition fees, and extensive support and scholarship schemes for international students and decent employment prospects.


Quick facts

  • Germany the fourth most popular study destination worldwide.
  • Germany’s highest ranked University in the QS World University Rankings 2013/14 is Ruprecht-Karls-Universitat Heidelberg (ranked 50th in the world), followed by Technische Universitat Munchen (53rd).
  • In September 2012, according to the Federal Ministry for Statistics the number of international students graduating from German institutions had reached almost 38,300 in 2011 – up 2,900 or 8% from the previous year. By contrast, in 2000, graduating students from abroad had numbered less than 14,000.
  • Has more than 300 higher education institutions across the country.
  • Many  higher education institutions offer courses leading to an international degree. The range of study opportunities covers undergraduates, graduate and postgraduate degree courses (Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD levels). Courses and lectures are taught in English and German language.Top Universities in Germany for International Students

Universities in Berlin

Freie University Berlin: is a  top-ranking research university. The university ranked 87th on the QS world university rankings last year and it is particularly strong in arts & humanities and social sciences.
Humbolt University of Berlin :one of the oldest universities in Berlin consists of more than 10% of international students. Was ranked at 99th place in the world  in the times higher education world university ranking for 2012-13.

Universities in Munich

  • Technical University Munich:  TUM, is the  highest ranking university with 53rd position in the world university rankings. The university hosts some 5,000 international students, making up nearly 16% of its student population.
  • Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich: LMU is one of Germany's oldest universities and ranks 60th in the QS world university rankings. Nearly 15% of its student population is international students.

Universities in Baden- Wurttemberg

  • Heidelberg University: Oldest and most prestigious universities in Western Europe, known for its sciences field of study and ranks 55th in the world university rankings. More than 20% of the student body consists of international students from around 130 countries.
  • Schiller International University :  started as a study abroad program for Americans. It now serves students of more than 100 nations.
  • Hochschule Furtwangen University: focuses on the applied sciences and comprises of about 13% international students. It has more than 100 partner universities.
  • University of Freiburg:  has 16% of its student body coming from 120 nations besides Germany.
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