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.

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
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.
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