Germany is a country that hosts over 80 million people and over 400 state-recognized higher education institutions offering around 20,000 study programs. With such a vast nation and abundant resources, Germany’s higher education system is not centrally organized and varies across its 16 states, with institutions enjoying a high degree of autonomy. This diverse system includes universities, universities of applied sciences, and schools of art, film, and music spread throughout the country.

With a multitude of higher education institutions, Germany offers top-notch and globally recognized quality in learning. One of the main factors influencing this quality is Germany’s dual education system, which skillfully blends classroom learning with real-world experience. This approach makes German higher education very desirable, especially when combined with a strong focus on research and development.

So, to introduce you more to Higher Education in Germany, this article will cover all the general aspects offering helpful advice for anybody considering enrolling in classes in this busy and highly educational setting!

Types of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Germany

1. Universities

In Germany, traditional universities offer an extensive range of subjects, including humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering. These institutions are fundamentally research-oriented, building an environment where theoretical studies and advanced research are highly valued.

Students at these universities can pursue bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, with a curriculum guided by the ECTS grading system. Notable examples include the Heidelberg University, esteemed for its programs in medicine and law, and the Technical University of Munich, which excels in engineering and technological disciplines. These universities not only provide comprehensive academic programs but also focus on technologically advanced laboratories and classrooms, contributing significantly to various fields of study both nationally and internationally.

2. Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen)

Universities of Applied Sciences in Germany, exemplified by institutions like Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences and Berlin School of Economics and Law, distinguish themselves through a practical and application-oriented educational approach. These institutions primarily offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fields such as engineering, business, and social sciences, following the ECTS grading system.

One of the distinctive features of Universities of Applied Sciences is their attention to practical application. Unlike traditional colleges, these types of institutions are excellent in combining practical experience with theory, frequently forming cooperative collaborations with businesses for projects and internships. This concentration on real-world application gives students a skill set that is directly related to the demands of the labor market, which makes their education extremely career-focused and relevant.

3. Colleges of Art, Film, and Music

In Germany, Colleges of Art, Film, and Music, such as the Berlin University of the Arts and Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF, adhere to encouraging their students’ originality and creativity. These universities provide bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in particular fields including fine arts, music, cinema, and design. Their courses are designed with great care to promote creative expression as well as technical skills. Through seminars and performance opportunities, these universities place a strong emphasis on practical experience, giving students the chance to hone their abilities in actual environments.

They frequently involve partnerships with foreign artists and industry experts as well, which enhances the educational process and equips students for exciting jobs in the creative arts business.

Types of Degree Levels in Germany

1. Bachelor’s Degree

In Germany, a bachelor’s degree typically spans three to three and a half years (6-7 semesters), requiring 180 to 210 ECTS credits to complete. This undergraduate degree offers a foundational education in a specific field of study. The duration and credit requirements can vary depending on the program and university. For example, technical or scientific programs demand more credits than those in the humanities or social sciences. This degree level provides students with the fundamental knowledge and skills for either advanced studies or entry into the professional world.

2. Master’s Degree

A master’s degree in Germany is a postgraduate academic degree that follows a bachelor’s degree, typically requiring 1-2 years (2-4 semesters) of study and the completion of 60-120 ECTS credits. This advanced degree allows students to specialize in their chosen field after their bachelor’s, offering a deeper understanding and expertise.

The specific duration and credit requirements vary based on the program and discipline. For example, a master’s in a technical field like engineering might require more credits or a longer duration than one in the humanities. These programs are designed to prepare students for specialized professional roles or further academic pursuits, such as doctoral studies.

3. Doctoral Degree

A doctoral degree in Germany, also known as a Ph.D., represents the pinnacle of academic achievement. It typically takes 3-5 years to complete, but this duration can vary based on the field of study and research complexity. Doctoral candidates engage in deep, independent research, culminating in a dissertation that contributes new knowledge to their field.

Unlike bachelor’s or master’s degrees, a Ph.D. program doesn’t have a fixed ECTS credit requirement. Instead, it demands a significant commitment to research and academic rigor. The focus is on creating original work that can stand up to peer review in the global academic community.

FAQS About Higher Education in Germany

What Grading System Do Higher Education in Germany Use?

The higher education system in Germany primarily uses the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). This system facilitates the recognition of academic qualifications and periods of study across European countries. ECTS credits quantify the workload of each course, aiding in understanding and comparing academic achievements. Each credit represents a certain amount of work, and a full year of study is typically worth 60 ECTS credits.

The benefits of this system include easier student mobility across countries, greater curriculum transparency, and simplified planning and recognition of study programs. This grading system is widely recognized across Europe, enhancing its utility and accessibility for international students.


The German higher education system, consisting of three distinct degree levels—bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral—and three diverse types of institutions, stands out prominently in the global academic environment. This autonomous and well-developed structure of Higher Education in Germany positions it in rigorous competition with other developed nations making it appealing to over 325,000 international students who recognize the value of this experience!


Hopefully, this article has provided valuable insights about Higher Education in Germany. To learn more about study options in the country, check out the Available Courses and Study in Germany for more articles and tips!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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