Ensure your German experience is tailored to your needs by identifying the right fit, right off the bat.
Edited by Stephanie Small
Published July 22, 2010
Uni, TU, FH…oh my! Deciphering the differences in German institutions
The three types of German higher education institutions are:
- University of applied sciences
- Colleges of art, film and music
Studying at a university is a good idea if your approach is more research-focused and if you’d like to eventually enter a doctoral program. Universities offer a broad range of courses and subjects. Some universities specialize in specific disciplines such as advanced technology or medicine. Nearly 70% of students in Germany attend universities.
Language lesson: these institutions are called Universität or Technische Universität (TU).
Universities of applied sciences are ideal if you are looking for a more practice-oriented education. These institutions provide students with a scientifically based education, tailored to the demands of professional life. The degree programs also generally have an internship component. Lena Hyatt, currently a MSc/PhD student at the International Max-Planck-Research School in Molecular Biology in Goettingen, Germany, calls her program “the perfect fit for me”. “It was an easy and natural choice to continue my higher education in Germany,” she says. “I’m excited about the years to come. I feel perfectly at home here, and the program is more than I could have asked for.”
Language lesson: these institutions are called Fachhochschulen (FH), Evangelische Fachhochschule (EvFH), or Katholische Hochschule (KathFH).
If you wish to study art or design, you may be the perfect candidate for a college of art, film or music. There you’ll find courses in the Fine Arts, Industrial and Fashion Design, Graphic Arts, Instrumental Music, Voice, etc. Applicants are asked to demonstrate their artistic talents in an aptitude test.
Language lesson: these institutions are called Musikhochschule, Kunschhochschule, or Filmhochschule.
Public or private?
Most universities and colleges in Germany are public, meaning they receive funding from the federal government. Some are also financed by the Protestant or Catholic Church. Only 3% of all students in Germany attend a private institution, likely due to the fact that private colleges and universities tend to charge high tuition fees that are comparable to private schools in the US or Canada. Private doesn’t mean better, though, and don’t be fooled into thinking higher tuition = higher quality. Public universities in Germany have tuition between 0 and 500 Euros per semester and are extremely competitive in the global market! “This makes it easier for anyone to access education, and to take as long as they need to complete their degree,” Julia Flood, a Munich and Berlin native, points out.
Similar to in the U.S., university education in Germany is not centrally coordinated. Each of the 16 states has its own higher education laws and guidelines. Just keep that in mind when looking at universities in different areas throughout Germany.