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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Higher education


7.Higher education

Last update: 27 March 2024

The tertiary sector includes, first and foremost, the various different types of institution of higher education and, to a limited extent, establishments outside the higher education system. Thus, in addition to institutions of higher education, some Länder also have Berufsakademien, which offer an alternative to higher education in the form of courses qualifying to practise a profession for those who have completed the upper level of secondary education and gained a higher education entrance qualification. The Fachschulen and the Fachakademien in Bayern are classified as post-secondary on the national level, but are assigned to the tertiary sector internationally.

Additionally there are a number of special higher education institutions which only admit certain groups, e.g. higher education institutions of the Federal Armed Forces and Verwaltungsfachhochschulen, and are not considered below.

General objectives

Teaching and study shall impart to students the particular knowledge, skills and methods required in a way appropriate to each course so as to enable them to perform scientific or artistic work and to act responsibly in a free, democratic and social state governed by the rule of law. These purposes of study are common to all types of higher education institution.

The mandate bestowed by the legislator, in line with the traditional principle of the unity of teaching and research, is to provide professional training to students in a way that directly involves scientific and academic research and artistic development. Whilst the unity of teaching and research applies to all institutions of higher education, a distinction may be drawn between the functions of UNIVERSITIES and other types of institutions of higher education in that university education is traditionally closely linked to basic and theoretical research.

COLLEGES OF ART AND MUSIC prepare students for artistic professions and teaching of music and art. Teaching and studying are closely related to the other functions of the colleges, i.e. to promote art through the development of artistic forms and means of expression and through the free pursuit of art.

The characteristic features of the design of the courses of study and the organisation of teaching and studying at FACHHOCHSCHULEN and HOCHSCHULEN FÜR ANGEWANDTE WISSENSCHAFTEN are the particular emphasis on practical application and the closer links with the requirements of the professional world. Frequently, the semesters spent outside the institutions to gain practical experience, known as Praxissemester, are a vital feature. The teaching staff and course contents at Fachhochschulen/Hochschulen für angewandte Wissenschaften are linked with applied research and development projects, which are characteristic of this type of institution. Many Fachhochschulen/Hochschulen für angewandte Wissenschaften increasingly offer dual study programmes. The Dualen Hochschulen in Baden-Württemberg and Thüringen exclusively offer dual study programmes.

As part of training at state or state-recognised Berufsakademien (professional academies) students receive academic training at Studienakademien (study institutions) and, at the same time, practical career training in a training establishment.

The aim of the continuing vocational training provided at Fachschulen is to enable skilled workers usually with job experience to take on management functions in firms, enterprises, administrations and institutions, or to independently perform responsible tasks. They contribute to the preparation for entrepreneurial independence.

Specific legislative framework

The legal basis of higher education in Germany is provided by the legislation on higher education of the Länder (Hochschulgesetze), as well as the legislation regarding colleges of art and music of the Länder as far as these types of institution are not included in the general Higher Education Acts. For the most part, higher education law falls within the legislative competence of the Länder (Art 30, 70 para. 1 Basic Law). The Higher Education Acts of the Länder describe the general objectives of higher education institutions as well as the general principles underlying the system of higher education, study, teaching and research, admission, membership and participation, as well as the staff of institutions of higher education. As a rule, the regulations apply to all institutions of higher education, including privately-maintained establishments, and provide a systematic framework for the higher education sector.

Training at Berufsakademien is governed by the Berufsakademie laws in force in the individual Länder and by the Ausbildungsordnungen (training regulations) and Prüfungsordnungen (examination regulations) of the relevant Ministry of Science or the Berufsakademie itself.

Continuing vocational education at Fachschulen is regulated by education legislation and by the training regulations and examination regulations of the individual Länder in particular.