Branches of Study
An overview of the courses that lead to a first qualification for entry into a profession is provided in publications such as Studienwahl (Choice of Studies) published annually by the Foundation for Higher Education Admission (Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung – SfH) and the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit – BA). The German Rectors' Conference (Hochschulrektorenkonferenz – HRK) provides a daily updated overview of study programmes offered by German higher education institutions in the form of the Higher Education Compass, which is accessible as a database on the Internet.
Branches of study, specialisation at universities and equivalent institutions of higher education
Universities and equivalent institutions of higher education offered a total of 4,736 undergraduate courses of study in the 2021/2022 winter semester that led to a Bachelor degree. The courses of study differ greatly from one institution of higher education to the next. The range of subjects includes languages, the humanities and sport, law, economics and social sciences, natural sciences, medicine, agronomy, forestry and nutritional science and engineering sciences.
The most common branches of study in the named subject categories are:
Languages and the humanities, sport
Archaeology and study of antiquity
Art studies/art history
Theatre studies/dramatic art
European and non-European languages and literature
Library science/documentation science/media studies
Law, economics and social sciences
Mathematics, natural sciences
Agronomy, forestry, nutritional science
Traffic and transport studies
Study courses in the disciplines law, medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy and food chemistry do not, as a rule, end with a Bachelor examination but with a Staatsprüfung (state examination). Some teacher-training courses also end with a Staatsprüfung.
International study courses, which have a special foreign focus, are also on offer within the named branches of study. The main subject focus in these courses of study at universities and equivalent institutions of higher education lies in the area of language and the humanities, followed by law, economics, social sciences and engineering sciences.
A Regelstudienzeit (standard period of study) is fixed in the Prüfungsordnungen (examination regulations) for each course of study. The regulations state the time in which a course of study with the intended examination can be completed. The total standard period of study for consecutive study courses leading to a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree is five years. The standard period of study for Bachelor’s study courses can be a six, seven or eight semesters. At universities and equivalent institutions of higher education, the standard period of study for Bachelor’s study courses is generally six semesters.
Branches of study, specialisation at colleges of art and music
Colleges of art and music in the 2021/2022 winter semester offered a total of 492 different courses which lead to a Bachelor’s degree. The courses of studies vary widely from college to college. In general, they may be divided up along the following lines:
- music with such studies as training for solo or orchestra musicians in various instruments, training in singing, conducting, composition or church music, music teaching at general education schools, music education and technical musical professions (e.g. sound engineering)
- visual arts with such studies as art, design, photography
- performing arts with such studies as drama, opera, musicals, dancing, directing and film-making
- applied art with courses of studies in architecture, design or the media
- art education and art therapy as well as courses in art teaching for school teachers
- the media with such courses as film, television, media studies, media art, animation and media management
In core arts subjects at colleges of art and music consecutive Bachelor’s and Master’s study courses may also be developed with a total standard study period of six years. In most cases the standard period of study for Bachelor’s study courses at colleges of art and music is eight semesters.
Branches of study, specialisation at Fachhochschulen
Fachhochschulen in the 2021/2022 winter semester offered a total of 4,012 different courses which lead to a Bachelor’s degree. Above all, study courses in the following areas of study are taught in the Fachhochschulen:
- Agronomy, forestry, nutritional science
- Engineering sciences
- Economics/economic law
- Social work
- Public administration, administration of justice
- Information technology, computer science, mathematics
- Natural sciences
- Information and communication studies
- Nursing and management in the public health system
There are also international study courses within the named areas of study. Most of these courses of study at Fachhochschulen are based in the area of law, economics and social sciences, followed by engineering sciences.
A Regelstudienzeit (standard period of study) is fixed in the Prüfungsordnung (examination regulations) for each course of study. The regulations state the time within which a course of study with the intended examination can be completed. For the total standard period of study in consecutive Bachelor's and Master's courses of study at Fachhochschulen, the description of the standard period of study at universities and equivalent institutions of higher education applies. At Fachhochschulen the standard period of study for Bachelor’s study courses is generally six or seven semesters including semesters of practical training.
Branches of study and specialisation at establishments outside the higher education system – Berufsakademien, Fachschulen
Courses offered at the Berufsakademien include, in particular, business, technology and social work. The length of study at the Berufsakademien is generally stipulated by the respective Land law as three years. As far as state-run Berufsakademien are concerned, it is in most cases the relevant Land ministry that determines the number of hours of attendance during the semester, adopting study and examination regulations for each course. Courses at Berufsakademien leading to the Bachelor’s degree are to be accredited. The length of study is a minimum of three years.
Fachschulen offer courses of education in the fields of agricultural economy, design, technology, business and social work and lead up to a state-administered examination. The subject areas are subdivided into a total of about 150 subjects. Besides social work, the most strongly represented subjects include electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, construction engineering and business management. The subject area of social work comprises the three subjects social pedagogy, assistance and education for the handicapped (Heilerziehungspflege) and curative education. State-certified youth and child care workers, Erzieher, are trained over a two to three-year period at Fachschulen for youth and community work to enter the socio-educational field of child and youth welfare services, i.e. day-care centres for children, Horte and youth welfare organisations.
Admission requirements to universities and equivalent institutions of higher education
Higher education entrance qualification
Admission to any course of study at universities and equivalent higher education institutions as a rule requires the Allgemeine Hochschulreife or the Fachgebundene Hochschulreife. The former entitles school-leavers to study at any institution of higher education in any subject or field, while the latter permits entry only into specified courses of studies.
The Allgemeine Hochschulreife or Fachgebundene Hochschulreife is obtained after 12 or 13 ascending school years on completion of the gymnasiale Oberstufe or certain courses of vocational education at upper secondary level.
The Allgemeine Hochschulreife can also be acquired at Abendgymnasien, i.e. evening schools for working people, and Kollegs, i.e. full-time schools for those who have completed vocational training. Other options are the Abitur examination for non-pupils or employed persons of particular intellectual ability.
In addition to the Hochschulreife, in certain subjects the applicant’s aptitude is determined through a separate test procedure. This applies particularly to sport and the arts.
Under certain circumstances, in addition to the Allgemeine Hochschulreife or the Fachgebundene Hochschulreife, a vocational qualification may also confer entitlement to admission to higher education. In March 2009, the Länder resolved standard preconditions under which vocationally qualified applicants without a higher education entrance qualification obtained at school are granted the right of entry to higher education (Hochschulzugang für beruflich qualifizierte Bewerber ohne schulische Hochschulzugangsberechtigung). The resolution opens admission to general higher education to master craftsmen, technicians, people with vocational qualifications in a commercial or financial occupation and people with similar qualifications, and defines the conditions under which vocationally qualified applicants without career advancement training are eligible to enter higher education restricted to a specified field of study following the successful completion of vocational training and three years of experience in their occupation.
Applicants who do not have German higher education entrance qualifications have to submit a secondary school certificate that qualifies them to attend higher education in their country of origin. If necessary, they also have to provide proof that they have passed an entrance examination at a university in their native country or proof of enrolment at the university. Applicants from some countries of origin must, moreover, provide proof that they have successfully completed some course modules at a higher education institution in the country of origin or, following attendance at a one-year core course, must take an assessment test at a Studienkolleg. Also, foreign applicants for study places must prove that they have a sufficient command of the German language. In accordance with the regulatory framework on German language examinations for studying at German institutions of higher education (RO-DT) the institutions of higher education specify the language requirements that are necessary for the course on the basis of an average applicant for each study programme in each individual case, whereby the role of the German language for a successful course of studies takes priority. Proof of a sufficient command of the German language during enrolment in the chosen study programme can be provided by the German Language Diploma of the Standing Conference – Level II (Deutsches Sprachdiplom der Kultusministerkonferenz – Zweite Stufe – DSD II), the German Language Proficiency Examination for Admission to Higher Education for Foreign Applicants (Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang ausländischer Studienbewerber – DSH) which is taken at the institution of higher education in Germany itself, the Test of German as a Foreign Language for foreign applicants (Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache für ausländische Studienbewerber – TestDaF) or by taking the German language examination as part of the Feststellungsprüfung (assessment test) at a Studienkolleg. Different levels of ability to study in the language of instruction can be proven through these examinations. In addition, the RO-DT regulates the conditions under which applicants are exempted from proof of ability to study in the language of instruction.
Foreign applicants for study places from countries where there is an Akademische Prüfstelle (APS) will only be admitted to a German institution of higher education if they can submit a certificate of the Akademische Prüfstelle.
In December 2015, the Standing Conference passed a resolution on access and admission to higher education for applicants unable to provide evidence of a higher education entrance qualification obtained in their home country on account of their flight (Hochschulzugang und Hochschulzulassung für Studienbewerberinnen bzw. Studienbewerber, die fluchtbedingt den Nachweis der im Heimatland erworbenen Hochschulzugangsberechtigung nicht erbringen können). Applicants who are unable to provide the original or a certified copy of their higher education entrance qualification for either graduate or undergraduate studies obtained in their home country on account of their flight will be allowed to provide documentation in a three tier procedure depending on their refugee and legal residence status.
In addition, the resolution contains regulations on the admission to higher education for restricted programmes and on student mobility.
Admission to higher education institutions
The State Treaty of the Länder on the Establishment of a Joint Institution for Higher Education Admission of June 5, 2008 (Staatsvertrag der Länder über die Errichtung einer gemeinsamen Einrichtung für Hochschulzulassung vom 5. Juni 2008 - R126 ) established the Foundation for Higher Education Admission (Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung – SfH). The 2008 State Treaty was superseded by the State Treaty on Higher Education Admission, which entered into force on December 1, 2019. According to this treaty, the SfH has the task of supporting higher education institutions in the implementation of local admission procedures and in the implementation of registration procedures in admission-free study programmes (services), as well as implementing the central allocation procedure for study programmes with nationwide admission restrictions.
Study courses with nationwide quotas
In some courses, in which the total number of applicants exceeds the number of places available at all higher education institutions, there are quotas. At present, courses of study in medicine, veterinary medicine, dentistry and pharmacy were subject to a nationwide restriction on admissions. Places on these courses are awarded by the SfH (Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung) and higher education institutions on the basis of a central allocation procedure (“Zentrales Vergabeverfahren”). With the State Treaty on Higher Education Admission, the "Central Allocation Procedure" was fundamentally reformed. In particular, the quota system for the allocation of study places was reorganized with the abolition of the waiting period quota: In a selection process, up to 20 percent of the available study places are to be reserved for certain preliminary quotas – e.g. hardship cases, second degree applicants, etc.
The study places remaining at each higher education institution university after deduction of advance quotas are allocated
- 30 percent by the Foundation for Higher Education Admission according to the result of the university entrance qualification (so-called Abiturbestenquote)
- 10 percent by the higher education institutions according to the results of a selection procedure in which only criteria independent of school grades are taken into consideration (so-called additional eligibility quota), and
- 60 percent by the higher education institution within the framework of the "selection procedure of the higher education institutions" (Auswahlverfahren der Hochschulen – AdH).
According to the State Treaty on Higher Education Admission, higher education institutions must take into account at least one selection criterion independent of school grades in the AdH in addition to the result of the higher education entrance qualification, and at least two in the case of human medicine. At least one criterion independent of school grades must be weighted significantly. A subject-specific student aptitude test is specified as a binding criterion for the selection decision. Details of the procedure and the content-related criteria to be applied are determined by the Länder and the higher education institutions.
The Länder shall ensure that the average Abitur grades within a Land and between the Länder are approximately comparable with regard to the respective requirements and assessments. As long as the approximate comparability of the grades among the Länder is not ensured, the selection of applicants is balanced across all quotas on the basis of percentage ranking procedures and the formation of Länder quotas.
The State Treaty on Higher Education Admissions, the higher education admissions acts (Hochschulzulassungsgesetze) and the regulations on the allocation of study places (Studienplatzvergabeverordnungen) of the Länder contain certain transitional provisions, e.g. with regard to the special concerns of old applicants and with regard to the technical requirements for the application of certain criteria and procedural principles.
Study courses with local restrictions on admissions
There are local restrictions on admission to just less than one third of all Bachelor's courses of studies. Each higher education institution decides whether to admit applicants in accordance with Land law. The higher education institutions can commission the SfH to operate a service for the relevant courses of study.
In May 2012 the Foundation for Higher Education Admission launched the so-called dialogue-oriented service procedure [Dialogorientiertes Serviceverfahren – DoSV] on its online platform. The procedure speeds up the allocation of study places in courses of study with local admission restrictions in a user-friendly and transparent manner. An online platform operated by the SfH records applications from prospective students and compares them in a joint data base. The multistage procedure ensures that once an admission offer has been accepted study places at other participating higher education institutions are no longer blocked by multiple applications, and the places freed up can therefore be allocated to other students more quickly. This avoids study places remaining unfilled at the start of the semester, even though there are still applications for those places. Since the success of the system largely depends on the participation of more higher education institutions, the Länder are working to persuade all of their higher education institutions which offer courses of study with admission restrictions to participate in the so-called “dialogue-oriented service procedure”. The Länder have therefore – while respecting the autonomy of the institutions of higher education – taken a variety of measures to achieve a higher participation of the institutions of higher education in the DoSV. In some cases, the Länder stipulate an obligatory participation. This is to be achieved through a corresponding directive, goals and performance agreements or within the scope of institutional contracts.
The above-mentioned State Treaty on Admission to Higher Education makes it possible to use the "dialogue-oriented service procedure" as a uniform IT procedure both for the study programmes that are subject to the central allocation procedure and for the study programmes with local admission restrictions.
Study courses without restrictions on the number of applicants
In study courses without restrictions on the number of applicants who can be admitted, all applicants who meet the above-mentioned entrance requirements are registered at the higher education institution for the course of study of their choice without having to go through any special admission procedures. In some cases there are so-called prior notification periods at higher education institutions even for study courses without restrictions. With the new State Treaty on Higher Education Admissions, institutions of higher education can now also include admission-free degree programmes in the dialog-oriented service procedure, which means that the effects of multiple admissions matching can be used to a greater extent.
Admission requirements to colleges of art and music
Colleges of art and music require proof of the Allgemeine Hochschulreife or the Fachgebundene Hochschulreife (higher education entrance qualification) and artistic aptitude. In most Länder, purely artistic courses, i.e. not for prospective teachers, also admit applicants without proof of higher education entrance qualification if they show unusual artistic talent.
Admission requirements to Fachhochschulen
Higher education entrance qualification
The prerequisite for admission to a Fachhochschule is either the Allgemeine Hochschulreife (general higher education entrance qualification) or Fachgebundene Hochschulreife (higher education entrance qualification restricted to a specified field of study) on the one hand or the Fachhochschulreife on the other, which as a rule is acquired after twelve ascending grades at a Fachoberschule. However, the Fachhochschulreife can also be obtained by taking additional classes at vocational schools, e.g. Berufsfachschulen and Fachschulen. In addition, previous related practical experience is required for admission to certain courses of study.
In certain subjects (e.g. design) proof of artistic ability is required in addition to a higher education entrance qualification.
Admission to higher education institutions
Many Fachhochschulen restrict the number of students admitted to individual subjects locally due to capacity constraints. As a rule, the Fachhochschule decides on the allocation of study places on the basis of the average mark, the result of a test to determine the applicant’s capability to study a specific subject or the result of a selection interview, the vocational education and training or employment of an applicant, or weighted individual marks in the higher education entrance qualification, which provide specific information on the applicant’s capability to study a specific subject. The Fachhochschulen can commission the SfH to implement a service procedure for the corresponding study courses.
Admission requirements to establishments outside the higher education system – Berufsakademien, Fachschulen
Applicants for courses at the Berufsakademien require a Hochschulreife or a Fachhochschulreife (general or subject-restricted higher education entrance qualification), depending on the regulations in force in the particular Land, and a training contract with a suitable training establishment. Depending on the Land legislation, applicants with professional qualifications but without the higher education entrance qualification can take an entrance examination or the regulations governing admission to higher education institutions for employed persons will apply. Once the training contract has been concluded, applicants are registered at the study institution by the company responsible for training them.
Admission requirements for the Fachschule vary, depending on the department. Admission to a Fachschule for agricultural economy, design, technology and business generally requires
- either a qualification in a recognised occupation requiring formal training that is relevant to the objective of the respective discipline and at least one year’s experience in a relevant occupation, as well as, if necessary, a qualification from the Berufsschule
- or a qualification from the Berufsschule or equivalent qualifications and at least five years’ experience in a relevant occupation.
Admission requirements for a Fachschule for social professions are generally the Mittlerer Schulabschluss and successful completion of relevant vocational training.
Curriculum at universities and equivalent institutions of higher education
The structure and contents of the courses of studies are specified in module descriptions, Studienordnungen (study regulations) or Studienplänen (study plans) and Prüfungsordnungen (examination regulations). Module manuals or module catalogues describe the individual modules in terms of student workload and the number of credit points awarded. The description of a module contains at least the following information:
- content and qualification objectives of the module
- teaching forms
- prerequisites for attendance
- applicability of the module
- prerequisites for the award of credit points
- credit points and marks
- frequency at which modules are offered
- student workload
- duration of the modules.
As a rule, the study regulations list the individual modules – including the credits to be awarded – required for successful completion of a course of study, and show which subjects are compulsory, elective and optional. Study regulations and module descriptions furnish guidance to the students, on the one hand, while serving as the basis for the planning of the curriculum in each department, on the other.
The Prüfungsordnungen (examination regulations), on the other hand, specify the Regelstudienzeit (standard period of study), requirements for entry to examinations, crediting of specific courses and examinations taken, time allowed for completion of a dissertation, examination standards, procedures and examination subjects. The study and examination regulations are often summarised in one charter.
Accreditation of study courses
In 2017, the Länder agreed on the State Treaty on the Organization of a Joint Accreditation System for Quality Assurance in Teaching and Learning at German Institutions of Higher Education – State Treaty on Study Accreditation – (Staatsvertrag über die Organisation eines gemeinsamen Akkreditierungssystems zur Qualitätssicherung in Studium und Lehre an deutschen Hochschulen – Studienakkreditierungsstaatsvertrag), which came into force at the beginning of 2018. The Länder determine the details of the formal criteria, the subject-specific content criteria and the procedure by means of legal ordinances. These ordinances are based on a model ordinance jointly developed by the Länder and are essentially in agreement. With the State Treaty on Study Accreditation, the existing system was further developed jointly by the Länder.
The aim of the accreditation of Bachelor’s and Master’s courses of study (programme accreditation) is to guarantee standards in terms of subject and content, compliance with structural guidelines and examination of the professional relevance of the qualifications through a formalised and objectively verifiable procedure. Accreditation can also be carried out in the form of system accreditation, the focus of which is the internal quality assurance system of a higher education institution. A positive system accreditation certifies that the higher education institution’s quality assurance system in the field of study and teaching is sufficient to guarantee the achievement of the qualifications objectives and the quality standards of the study courses.
The structural guidelines valid for all Länder adopted by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs in October 2003 form the basis for the accreditation. These serve as a framework for the planning and conception of study courses. The structural guidelines of October 2003, most recently amended in February 2010, refer, amongst others, to the structure and length of study. They stipulate that Bachelor’s study courses, as study courses which lead to a first degree qualifying for entry into a profession, must provide the academic foundation, methodological skills and qualifications related to the professional field corresponding to the profile of the higher education institution and the study course, and generally ensure a broad academic qualification. Bachelor’s and Master’s study courses are provided with a credit point system which is based upon the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).
For more detailed information on the joint accreditation system and the accreditation of study programmes, see chapter on quality assurance in higher education.
Foreign language teaching
To do justice to the importance of foreign language teaching in higher education, the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in 1991 issued directives on attainment of a technical language certificate ('Richtlinien für den Erwerb eines Zertifikats "Fachsprache"'). Foreign language training is optional; as a rule, this certificate can be obtained after four semesters' training for a total of 12 to 16 hours of attendance per week during a semester (a workload of 170 to 200 lessons of 45 minutes each in total) and after a final examination. German universities traditionally offer a wide range of foreign language courses, both general and technical in orientation. Classes are given in many European and non-European languages.
Curriculum at colleges of art and music
The observations on regulations governing studies and examinations at universities and equivalent institutions of higher education essentially apply to colleges of art and music as well.
Accreditation of study courses
With a few specific special regulations, the observations on the accreditation of study courses at universities and equivalent institutions of higher education apply to colleges of art and music as well.
The Education Ministers of the individual Länder decide whether to include the liberal arts study courses in cooperation with the particular higher education institution. For arts Bachelor courses at colleges of art and music the structural guidelines valid for all Länder provide for the promotion and development of artistic abilities, the teaching of basic scientific principles as well as methodical and professional skills.
Curriculum at Fachhochschulen
The observations on the accreditation of study courses at universities and equivalent institutions of higher education essentially apply to Fachhochschulen as well.
Accreditation of study courses
The structural guidelines for all Länder and the specifications for programme and system accreditation passed by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs also apply to Fachhochschulen.
Foreign Language Teaching
Against the background of growing internationalisation, the teaching of foreign languages is becoming increasingly important. Numerous courses of studies at Fachhochschulen include foreign language classes either as a compulsory subject or an elective within the framework of general education subjects. Furthermore, many Fachhochschulen offer optional foreign language courses for students in all departments. The observations on the acquisition of the technical language certificate at universities and equivalent institutions of higher education apply to Fachhochschulen as well.
Study courses at Fachhochschulen are highly application-oriented and of great practical relevance. Against this background, particularly Fachhochschulen, especially in the fields of engineering and business administration, also offer so-called dual courses of study (duale Studiengänge) in the form of study courses which integrate vocational training, work and practical placements. To this end the higher education institutions conclude cooperation agreements with companies which provide training or traineeships. The study courses which integrate vocational training link the study course with in-company training. The periods of study and work experience are distributed according to various models (sandwich or consecutive model) and subject to the Studienordnung (study regulations) or module description. Study courses at Fachhochschulen which integrate vocational training lead to two qualifications for entry into a profession: graduates are awarded the Bachelor's degree (in rare cases still the Diplomgrad, to which the word Fachhochschule is added), and, at the same time, they obtain the vocational training leaving certificate. In study courses which integrate practical placements, the students do more practical placements on a bigger scale, in addition to the practical semesters required in study courses at a Fachhochschule. Vocational integration study programmes combine the course of studies with a related professional activity.
In addition, Fachhochschulen in particular organise study courses that accompany training, work or professional practice that allow a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree to be completed alongside a professional activity with no structural or content-related interlocking.
A characteristic feature of duale Hochschulen is that they combine practical training in the company with higher education studies by offering practice-integrating courses of study. There is close cooperation with in-company training centres. The Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg (DHBW) was founded in 2009 and continues the dual model of the former Berufsakademie Baden-Württemberg, which was successful for over 40 years. The organisational structure of the DHBW, which is based on the US American state university system with a central and local level, is also unique in Germany. At its nine locations and three campuses, the DHBW offers a variety of nationally and internationally accredited Bachelor's degree programmes in cooperation with around 9,000 selected companies and social institutions, as well as career-integrating and part-time Master's degree programmes in the fields of business, technology, social work and health. With currently around 34,500 students, DHBW is the largest institution of higher education in Baden-Württemberg. In Thüringen, the former State Academy of Studies (Staatliche Studienakademie) with its two Berufsakademien was converted into the Gera-Eisenach Cooperative State University in 2016. This gave the establishment the legal status of an institution of higher education.
Curriculum at establishments outside the higher education system – Berufsakademien, Fachschulen
The students at the BERUFSAKADEMIEN complete parallel training with a company in trade and industry, with comparable establishments in other sectors – particularly in the case of the liberal professions – or at institutions maintained by social services. During the training, periods of study at the study institution (Studienakademie) alternate with periods of on-the-job training in the training establishments. Training is given on the basis of two kinds of study and training plans. Firstly, these are drawn up by the Berufsakademien together with participating companies and social services, and adopted by the ministries responsible in the form of ordinances. Secondly, these are also according to Ausbildungsordnungen (training regulations) and Prüfungsordnungen (examination regulations) of the Berufsakademien in accordance with general regulations of the responsible ministries.
Bachelor’s training courses at Berufsakademien should be accredited. With the fulfilment of certain requirements, Bachelor’s degrees obtained at Berufsakademien are thus equivalent to Bachelor’s degrees obtained at institutions of higher education and thus provide access to Master’s study courses. The requirements for the Berufsakademien apply in particular to teaching staff and to the scope of both theoretical and practical training components.
The requirements for admission to continuing vocational training courses and upgrading training at FACHSCHULEN are appropriate vocational training in conjunction with the relevant vocational experience. The compulsory component in the two-year Fachschulen comprises the multi-disciplinary and subject-specific areas in the five subject areas, as well as a practical in youth and community work or in healthcare support for the social services area. Instruction in the multi-disciplinary area serves primarily the acquisition of extended general knowledge, skills and competences. Instruction in the subject-specific areas serves the acquisition of extended vocational knowledge, skills and competences in one of the five subject areas.
Teaching methods at universities and equivalent institutions of higher education
Classes take the form of lectures, seminars, practical exercises, work placements and study trips. The main function of the lectures is to impart general and basic knowledge about the various fields of study. The seminars afford an opportunity to deal in depth with a more narrowly defined topic. Practical exercises and practicals, meanwhile, provide the opportunity to develop the theoretical knowledge gained in a practical manner. The Federation and Länder are promoting the use of digital media (multimedia and teleteaching) in the teaching offered which is continuously expanded. They are becoming increasingly important, also against the background of the Corona pandemic.
The classes are normally designed for students of a specific degree course and at a particular stage in their studies. However, interdisciplinary classes have been gaining in significance, especially in the more advanced stages. So-called Graduiertenkollegs (providing university graduate training programmes) for the promotion of young scholars, for instance, are also frequently organised along interdisciplinary lines.
Teaching methods at colleges of art and music
One distinctive feature of studying at a college of art or music is that artistic instruction is given one on one or in small groups closely supervised by a member of the teaching staff.
Teaching methods at Fachhochschulen
Particular characteristics of courses of study at Fachhochschulen include practice-oriented training and a variety of teaching forms including lectures, seminars, practical exercises, work placements and study trips in small groups. The seminars afford an opportunity to deal in depth with a more narrowly defined topic, whilst practical classes and work placements enable the theoretical knowledge to be consolidated in a practical context. A further special feature of courses of studies at Fachhochschulen is the integration into the course of one or two Praxissemester (semesters of work experience). The Fachhochschule lays down the rules for and content of these training periods, supervises them and provides parallel classes. They are spent in a company or in another place of work for a duration of at least 20 weeks.
The principle of teaching small groups creates close contacts between teaching staff and students and enables students to interact in the class.
Teaching methods at establishments outside the higher education system – Berufsakademien, Fachschulen
A characteristic feature of training at a Berufsakademie is the division of each semester into on-the-job training and a theoretical part of the course at the study institution that lasts between ten and 12 weeks. During the theoretical part of the course, as a rule, students are taught in small groups. In addition to lectures and seminars, active teaching methods like role play, experimental games or case studies are applied.
See the section on teaching and learning at vocational upper secondary level for teaching methods in continuing vocational training and upgrading training at Fachschulen.
Progression of Students
Progression of students at universities and equivalent institutions of higher education, colleges of art and music and Fachhochschulen
Students at universities and higher education institutions are not classified in terms of year groups, but rather according to the courses or modules required for the successful completion of the course of study. If a student fails in a module, he or she must repeat that module only, without falling a semester behind his or her fellow students. In practice, however, failing courses usually prolongs a student's stay at university. Studienordnungen (study regulations) and Prüfungsordnungen (examination regulations) lay down the requirements for admission to a certain stage of studies or a particular module. Module examinations can be repeated at least once, in some cases several times.
It is generally possible to change one's course of study even in later semesters. If it is a course of study with nationwide restrictions on admission, the proviso is that the student in question obtains a study place for the subject of his choice. Previous periods of study and the courses and examinations that have been passed in another study course are to be recognised if there are no significant differences between the competences to be acquired and those demonstrated. Higher education institutions must give reasons for decisions rejecting such applications.
Progression of students at establishments outside the higher education system – Berufsakademien, Fachschulen
For admission to the final examination at BERUFSAKADEMIEN it is required, as a rule, that students submit the certificates they have obtained throughout their studies, and that they have undergone practical training in the training establishment in accordance with the training plan. The final examination may be retaken once or twice, failed attempts at the dissertation may be repeated only once. The regulations of the Länder or the Berufsakademien apply for the retake of the examination and the dissertation.
The information given in the section on assessment at vocational upper secondary level essentially applies for progression at FACHSCHULEN.
Measures to facilitate the transition from university to working life
The universities' student counselling offices and the employment agencies' career guidance services furnish information and guidance to help graduates move from higher education into the professional world. Higher education institutions are also increasingly setting up so-called Career Centres which combine student counselling and the teaching of professionally-relevant key qualifications. Their prospects on the employment market may be improved by specialising in appropriate fields of study and enrolling in appropriate weiterführende Studiengänge (further study, supplementary and follow-up courses). Work placements afford an opportunity to gain an insight into the working world and establish contact with prospective employers. Proof of work experience (for four to six months, in some cases up to a year) acquired before or while studying is demanded in a number of fields, especially in natural and engineering sciences. To improve the employment prospects of arts and social science graduates, some higher education institutions have set up programmes in collaboration with employment agencies to place them in industry and equip them with key skills (e.g. a grounding in computing, elementary business skills).
The connections between higher education institutions and their former students (Alumni) can also facilitate the entry of their graduates into professional life.
Many institutions of higher education offer measures designed to prepare for self-employment and to encourage students to set up their own businesses.
Measures to facilitate the transition from colleges of art and music to working life
Many of those who complete artistic studies have difficulty finding suitable employment or earning an adequate livelihood from their own artistic endeavours. To improve their prospects, subjects have therefore been added to the curricula that qualify them for practical work (educational sciences/didactics, management in the cultural sector). The transition to working life can be eased by a suitable choice of courses and extra qualifications.
Measures to facilitate the transition from Fachhochschulen to working life
Student counselling offices at Fachhochschulen and the career guidance services of the employment agencies furnish information and guidance to help graduates move from higher education into the professional world. Their prospects on the employment market may be improved by specialising in appropriate fields of study.
The declared aim of a Fachhochschule education is that it should be closely related to professional practice. This purpose is served chiefly by incorporating one or two Praxissemester (semesters of work experience) into the course of study. In many cases the topics of Diplomarbeiten or Bachelorarbeiten (dissertations) derive from problems that students have encountered in the practical semesters. In some cases, they are prepared in collaboration with industry and trade. In this way, students can gain an insight into the working world and establish contact with prospective employers before graduating. The offices for practical training (Praktikantenämter) at the institutions of higher education and the careers advice service of the employment agencies provide help finding placements. In addition, it is also possible to look for placements in Internet marketplaces for practical training (Praktikantenbörsen).
In dual study courses or at duale Hochschulen vocational training or a vocational traineeship is already integrated into the study and is carried out in cooperation with suitable companies.
Fachhochschulen can also facilitate the entry of their graduates into professional life through connections with their former students (Alumni).
Measures to facilitate the transition from Berufsakademien to working life
Thanks to the combination of theoretical and practical training, graduates of the professional training courses based on a dual system offered by the Berufsakademien are prepared for working life during their actual studies. It is often the case that students are even taken on after obtaining their qualification for entry into a profession at the Berufsakademie by the very company that trained them.
Student assessment at universities and equivalent institutions of higher education
Bachelor’s and Master’s study courses are subject to quality assurance through accreditation. For the accreditation of a study course, it is to be established that the course is modularised; the examinations are in general performed as an accompaniment to studies. In addition, the study courses are provided with a credit point system. The credit points are related to instruction as such, as well as to the time needed to prepare and go over the taught content, preparation for examinations and the examinations themselves and, if applicable, to internships. For a Bachelor's degree, no less than 180 ECTS points must be submitted. A written dissertation (Bachelor’s thesis/ Master’s thesis) is obligatory for both Bachelor’s and Master’s study courses. Students are to demonstrate the ability to independently address a problem from their subject within a specified period of time using academic methods. The scope of the work for the Bachelor's dissertation comprises a minimum of 6 ECTS credits and must not exceed 12 ECTS credits.
The Prüfungsordnungen (examination regulations) prescribe the objectives of and subject-matter on the examinations, the required standards and the examining procedures for each study course. In modularised courses of study, the individual modules are to be determined, inter alia, with regard to course contents and objectives, the workload, the credit points to be awarded and the examination requirements.
Credit points and grades must be shown separately. Alongside the grade based on the German grading scale from 1 to 5, in the final grade a relative grade is also to be shown.
Student assessment at colleges of art and music
Certificates are issued for classes successfully completed at art colleges, too. In addition to written and oral examinations, it is above all artistic abilities that are tested.
For consecutive Bachelor’s and Master’s study courses with a total standard study period of six years in one of the core arts subjects a Master’s degree requires 360 ECTS points in principle including the previous course of study.
Student assessment at Fachhochschulen
For student assessment in Bachelor’s and Master’s study courses at Fachhochschulen, the observations on student assessment at universities and equivalent institutions of higher education apply.
Student assessment at establishments outside the higher education system – Berufsakademien, Fachschulen
Bachelor’s and Master’s training courses are subject to quality assurance through accreditation. For the accreditation of a training course, it is to be established that the course is modularised and provided with a credit point system; the examinations are in general performed as an accompaniment to studies. The general information on assessment of performance in Bachelor’s and Master's degree courses at universities and equivalent higher education instructions also apply to Bachelor's degree courses at Berufsakademien (professional academies). In the theoretical section of the training course, intermediate examinations consist amongst others of written examinations, seminar papers, oral examinations, presentations and scientific papers. In practical professional training, intermediate examinations for the most part consist of project papers.
For student assessment in continuing vocational training at Fachschulen, see the section on assessment at vocational upper secondary level, which explains the basic principles for performance assessment and the awarding of marks.
Certification at universities and equivalent institutions of higher education
With regard to higher education degrees, a distinction is drawn between academic, state and ecclesiastical examinations. As a rule, a higher education qualification for a profession is conferred on the basis of these examinations.
Institutions of higher education are authorised by law to administer Hochschulprüfungen (academic examinations). The Bachelor examination is an academic examination on the basis of which the Bachelor’s degree is conferred.
Bachelor's study courses lay academic foundations, provide methodological skills and lead to qualifications related to the professional field corresponding to the profile of the higher education institution and the study course. The Bachelor’s degree provides the same rights as Diplom qualifications obtained at a Fachhochschule.
The following designations are used for Bachelor’s degrees at universities and equivalent institutions of higher education:
- Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
- Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.)
- Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng.)
- Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.)
- Bachelor of Education (B. Ed.)
A Magister degree is awarded in full theology, non-graduated courses of study with a standard period of study of five years.
Universities and equivalent institutions of higher education add a diploma supplement to the leaving certificate, that describes, usually in English, the progress of the studies and the performance of the graduate.
On the basis of agreements with a foreign institution of higher education, some universities also award a foreign degree (double degree) or a joint degree in addition to the German degree.
Certification at colleges of art and music
The artistic qualification awarded on completion of a first-degree course of study is the Bachelor or the Diplom. In December 2004, as part of the structural requirements that are binding for all Länder, the Standing Conference passed a resolution for the accreditation of Bachelor’s and Master’s study courses at colleges of art and music. 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.)
Apart from artistic training, colleges of art and music also provide courses of teacher training, which entitle students to teach art or music at schools after passing their Staatsprüfung (state examination) or acquiring a Master's degree and undergoing Vorbereitungsdienst (preparatory service). In 2003 and 2004, the Standing Conference adopted general guidelines for training in the subjects art and music for all teaching careers. Information on teacher training courses conveying the educational prerequisites for teaching positions are available in the section on initial teacher education in the school sector.
The number of Bachelor’s and Master’s degree courses at Kunsthochschulen and Musikhochschulen (colleges of art and music) has rapidly increased over the past few years. Just less than 82.1 per cent of all study courses on offer at German colleges of art and music are Bachelor's and Master's degree courses.
Certification at Fachhochschulen
Fachhochschulen award the Bachelor’s degree and the Master’s degree as a final qualification at the end of the degree course; the Diplomgrad is also still awarded at present to a lesser extent. On the basis of agreements with a foreign institution of higher education, some Fachhochschulen, confer a foreign degree (double degree) or a joint degree in addition to the German Diplom.
Bachelor's study courses lay academic foundations, provide methodological skills and lead to qualifications related to the professional field corresponding to the profile of the higher education institution and the study course and lead to the Bachelor's degree. The Bachelor’s degree generally provides the same rights as Diplom qualifications acquired at a Fachhochschule.
The following Bachelor's degrees can be obtained at Fachhochschulen:
- Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
- Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.)
- Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng.)
- Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.)
The Fachhochschulen add a diploma supplement to the leaving certificate of the Diplom and Magister study courses, as well as to the Bachelor/Master study courses, that describes, usually in English, the study course, the progress of the studies and the performance of the graduate.
Certification at establishments outside the higher education system – Berufsakademien, Fachschulen
In October 2004, the Standing Conference has passed criteria for the accreditation of Bachelor’s training courses at Berufsakademien. The state-recognised Bachelor’s degrees obtained after the completion of training courses which have been accredited on this basis are equivalent to Bachelor’s degrees obtained at institutions of higher education. The academic equivalence of the Bachelor’s degrees is linked to their equivalence with regard to the right to practise certain professions. However, the designation does not refer to a higher education degree but to a state-recognised degree.
Depending on the discipline, successful completion of the two-year Fachschule entitles graduates to use the occupational titles state-certified agricultural economist (Staatlich geprüfter Agrarbetriebswirt), state-certified technician (Staatlich geprüfter Techniker), state-certified business economist (Staatlich geprüfter Betriebswirt) or, in the field of home economics, state-certified home economics manager (Staatlich geprüfter hauswirtschaftlicher Betriebsleiter), and state-certified designer (Staatlich geprüfter Gestalter), as well as other occupational titles in the social professions, e.g. state-recognised youth or child-care workers (Staatlich anerkannter Erzieher). It is also possible to obtain the Fachhochschulreife at the Fachschule.