The education system in Germany

Though well-known for its world class education and top ranking universities, the educational system of Germany is experiencing continuous changes and reforms. Among other reforms undertaken in the last years was also the reorganization of the Gymnasium. The nine year long education was changed into an eight-year education to get the Abitur.

Furthermore, the academic system has now changed since the recommendations of the Bologna Declaration are being applied as part of the educational reform. The degrees obtained are now called Bachelor and Master thus replacing all of the traditional “Diplom” and “Magister Artium” programs. This has been undertaken in order to increase the global employability of students from Germany.

Admission requirements

Students that want to study in Germany are required to possess the graduate degree Abitur or “Abi”, which is received after graduation from the gymnasium. Meanwhile, international students must show a similar graduate degree.

So far, the institutions in charge of the educational system in Germany have not been able to build a central organization for application and award of university places. As a result of which the applications still need to be sent to every university or advanced technical college. The admission requirements are also defined by the universities therefore, different universities can have different requirements for the same subjects.

Types of higher education institutions

The higher level of education in Germany is established in different kinds of advanced colleges or universities.  Colleges of Art, Music, and Film (Kunst-, Musik- und Filmhochschulen) offer practical education in the arts subjects and they have the equivalent status to universities.

Meanwhile, the advanced technical colleges, cover the scientific and social subjects and have a strong emphasis on practical work and application. The other category is that of the university where are offered all different kinds of subjects. University is the only higher education institution in Germany with the right to confer doctorates.  They are especially famous for their firm theoretical education, but practical experience is an important point as well. Some of the universities specialize in certain subject areas, as, for example, medical schools, technical universities, and colleges of education.

Many of them offer programs in English, besides Geman.

Public and private universities

There are two types of universities in Germany; public and private universities. Public universities are financed by the government and do not charge tuition fees as of October 2014 in the entire country, therefore they fall under its regulatory control. On the other side, students attending private universities often pay very high fees, since private universities are funded by these fees. As a result, only around 5.5 percent of students are enrolled at a private university.

In Germany, there can be found much more public universities than private ones. According to German law, education must be offered to everyone and every person should be able to afford adequate education. Therefore, Germany has decided to remove tuition fees from all public universities in the country. There is no tuition fee for international students either. Moreover, there are numerous possibilities to get help from the government, for example, Bafög-money. International students may benefit from different scholarship programs which are often fully funded. However, state-run or private, both types of universities have a comparably good quality of instruction.

There are around 427 state-accredited universities in Germany. Together they offer a total of over 18,000 degree programs for German and international students. Depending on the field of study, universities may last from three to six years.

Theoretical and practical education

In some aspects students in Germany have to learn more in theory than those in other countries. The professors present lectures in front of students of the same year, which means students of different years do not get mixed into the same lecture. There are a few exercise lessons in which the theoretical part can be practiced and proofed in reality. At the end of every term, the students get their grades according to their work and results of their final examination, speeches, assignments and practical projects.

Practical education can also be offered through internships. In some subjects, students are obligated to do an internship which may last for a few weeks or even months. During the internship, students have to work in a company or institution and use their theoretical knowledge in real life situations to gain experience. Internship experiences are often a good chance for students to find a job after university.

Degrees obtained

The graduate degrees from universities are accepted and estimated worldwide. The education at German universities is considered as a good one. The first graduate degree can be obtained after six to eight terms and is called Bachelor. The title of Bachelor differs according to the field of study as follows:

  • Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
  • Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.)
  • Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng.)
  • Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.)
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.)
  • Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
  • Bachelor of Music (B.Mus.)
  • Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.)

Some study courses in the disciplines of law, medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy and food chemistry do not end with a Bachelor examination but rather with a Staatsprüfung (state examination). Some teacher-training courses also end with a Staatsprüfung.

One can take the first State Examination after completing one of the above-mentioned study programs. After that, one begins a professional, practical training period to prepare for the Second State Examination and/or pursue a doctorate. This is not an academic degree – it’s a state-recognized degree which means that the examination regulations are determined by the federal states and not the university.

Afterwards, it is followed by the Master degree which lasts from two to four terms. Both degrees require passing several exams and writing a specific graduate thesis.  After the Master degree students can also pursue their studies further in order to get their doctor’s degree. The main purpose of the academic education in Germany is to give firm basic knowledge and theoretical background as well as specific details and practical application.

After successful studies, the alumni should be able to work successfully in every part of the working environment, no matter the university or the field they have studied in the past years.

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