The German higher education system

Different types of universities

The German higher education system

Different types of universities

In theory you can find two different “types” of universities in Germany – so called “classical universities” and “universities of applied sciences”.

While this difference was somehow important before the Bologna process took place, that distinction makes no difference any more today. For most subjects it makes no difference at all if you attend a “classical university” or a “university of applied sciences”. You can do a Master and/or a PhD in both institutes. The degrees you get are equally recognized by the industry as well.

In fact some institutes that were called “Fachhochschule” (= university of applies sciences) are now a “Hochschule” (=university) by name. Some of the subjects taught in the Fachhochschule have a higher part of more practical elements, this, however, can be of big advantage when looking for a job. Very often students from Fachhochschulen find it easier to get employment as they have more practical experience already.

There is also NO Ranking in Germany. A degree in a certain subject is equivalent to a degree in the same subject from any other university. The standard is set by the government and the difference lies in the specialisation of each university and not in the standard. This is very important to understand. Also, please do not mistake a big university that is well known and of which many people talk as a “good” university. There are many smaller universities at the same level, but not as many students that talk about them.

Then we have the “TU9”: These are 9 universities that got selected by the government to be somehow special. This, however, only becomes relevant at the PhD and research level. These 9 chosen universities get significantly more money than the rest of the universities in Germany for research. Therefore, these universities do research that is of importance or relevance for the government. Being in that group does not make them better or higher level.

Last but not least: there are some private universities in Germany as well. These universities charge fees (the public ones are free), but this is not the only difference. The private universities set their own entry criteria, which are usually lower than the criteria of a public university. As they charge a fee it is more important to them that you have the money as supposed to the right entry criteria. If the input is lower, it is clear that the output is lower as well.

Only students from a private university must mention this with the title they achieve. This distinction is not made with any title you have from a “classical university” or a “university of applied sciences”.