Different University types in Germany - Detailed Guide

17, March 2023

Studying in Germany, Das Land der Dichter und Denker (the land of thinkers and poets)!

If you want to pursue your education and career prospects in one of the top foreign student destinations in the globe, Germany is perhaps the best place to go. International students benefit greatly from studying in Germany since German universities are well regarded and recognized across the world. Studying in a German university is an appropriate choice for many students, with little or no fees for most study programs. Their cutting-edge facilities, numerous funding options, research-oriented and state-of-the art curriculum, and diverse student community ensures the finest learning experience possible. These attributes make it a beacon for outstanding overseas students who want to strengthen their academic and professional expertise.

German universities are well-known for their extensive and diverse study programs, several of which are taught in English, making it sometimes difficult for overseas students to select the appropriate university and courses. If that's the case, we've put together a detailed guide to assist you in chasing your dreams. Because dreams do come true.

Types of Higher education’s institutions or Hochschule

While browsing for the various study programs in Germany, you would have stumbled upon terms like Universität, Hochschule für angewandte Wissenschaften, and other similar terms, and would have confused yourself about the many sorts of German educational institutions. Universities (Universität), Universities for applied sciences (Hochschule für angewandte Wissenschaften) and Academies of arts, music, and film (Kunst-, Musik- und Filmhochschule) are the three categories of higher education institutions in Germany. A proper understanding of the differences between each of these different types of institutions can ease your decision making on which course to take and at which type of institution based on your interests, passions, and talents.

University (Universität)

Universitat are research-oriented institutions that provide programs that place a greater emphasis on an equal blend of scientific and theoretical aspects of a discipline than on its practical applications. It offers all levels of degree programs for students, from Bachelors till doctorate degree programs (PhD), and all ranges of subjects, like science, engineering, medicine, law, pharmacy, etc. Furthermore, professors and heads of institutions have the highest scientific qualifications (doctoral and habilitation degrees) as well as remarkable research expertise. Universitaten are suitable for students, who want to develop a more research-oriented perspective, which equip to pursue a career, both as an industry professional or as a researcher or scientist.

Technical University or Technische Universität (TU) is a sub-type that focusses more on the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. However, TUs shouldn’t be considered as the only institutes that offer course with focus on STEM subjects. Currently, there are 17 technical universities in Germany and most of them starts with the title TU. However, there are other technical universities as well that do not tag along the TU with their names (e.g., RWTH Aachen, University of Stuttgart etc.). Many students are drawn to technical universities because of the connections and collaborations that exist between them in Germany. These institutions not only have a stellar reputation, but they also cultivate deep-routed networks with partner industries world-wide.

University of Applied Sciences

Hochschule für angewandte Wissenschaften (HAW), or University of applied sciences (UAS), or Fachhochschule (FH), is a type of university that focuses on a practical, scientific, and application-oriented curriculum of a field of study. These universities collaborate with a broad range of industries, enabling students to take part in industrial projects, mandatory internships, and lectures delivered by industry personnel. Specific subject groupings, such as engineering, economics, and social sciences, are the emphasis of these universities. Some disciplines, such as medicine and law, are not available at UAS. Except for a handful that provides doctorate studies, these universities solely offer bachelor's and master's degrees. Furthermore, professors at UAS are doctorate degree holders with significant industrial expertise.

Technische Hochschulen (TH) are a subset of UAS that focusses on STEM courses. The majority of THs are focused on application-oriented curriculum. Few universities, such as RWTH, are however research-oriented despite having a TH in their name. The study program at UAS is aimed at creating industry professionals of the highest caliber. Its mandatory internship features allow students to acquire hands-on experience in the industrial or corporate world while also building a strong network with professionals.

Kunst-, Musik-, und Filmhochschule

“Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are all noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for” - Dead Poet’s Society

If you have a passionate heart and a love for art, the Kunst-, Musik-, und Filmhochschule is the place for you to be in.  Students at the academies of arts, music, and film develop their artistic potential in diverse domains under the guidance of experienced professors and artists, rather than focusing on theory or application-oriented scientific training. As a result, one of the most common entry requirements is for applicants to demonstrate creative ability by submitting a portfolio containing work examples and/or completing an entrance exam.

These academies teach pedagogical or scientific arts-related disciplines in addition to fine arts subjects (such as design, architecture, or film), and some even provide doctoral degrees. Students often get bachelor's or master's degrees; however, some academies specialize on fine arts.

Private vs Public Universities

There are certain parallels between private and public universities in Germany, but there are also areas where the differences are enormous. Many students frequently fail to perceive these distinctions, which is undesirable since it may lead you to make a judgment you would not have made otherwise.

Tuition Fees

You would have probably heard that higher education in Germany is free for all students irrespective of their nationalities. This, however, is true only in the case of public universities. The majority of German public universities have no tuition fees, and students are only required to pay a "Semester contribution" each semester, which varies between 300 to 500 EUR depending on the location in which the institution is situated. Studying at private universities, on the other hand, would come at a cost. Private universities are funded by private institutions or people and so they rely on tuition fees to meet their expenditures and day-to-day functions. Engineering and Business-related programs are the most expensive in Germany private universities. However, despite the fact that the private universities come at a cost, it is quite affordable compared to other popular study destinations throughout the world.

Admission requirements

Regardless of whether you attend a public or private institution, German universities have high academic requirements. However, public colleges have a greater tendency to encounter pupils with stricter admissions requirements, due to the fact that public universities are more popular. They also keep in higher percentage cut-offs in terms of overall percentage or CGPA to admit only an excellent lot of applicants.

Private institutions, on the other hand, rely largely on tuition fees, so even if your qualifications don't fulfill all of their specific entrance requirements, your application would still be considered. Suppose, if your language abilities are below the acceptable minimum, a private institution in Germany, for example, would admit you but require you to first complete a preparation course, which is quite uncommon in a public university. This does not, however, imply that you will have no trouble getting into a private institution. To receive an entrance, you still need to have a good profile, both academically and in terms of course-related skills, because you must get your degree at the end of the day.


Public universities, to some extent, offer more scholarships that private universities, which are granted based upon your academic performance, voluntary experiences, or some times there are also nationality-based scholarships too. In a private university, however, chances are that only the best performing students may be offered scholarships. To summarize, your chances of receiving a scholarship at a public university are better.


The ultimate objective of your decision to study abroad is to obtain a degree that will assist you in finding a decent job and establishing a successful career. German institutions have a worldwide reputation, and its graduates are in high demand. Provided, you have a great academic record and work profile, your employability is independent of whether you studied in a private or public institution.

However, employers do have a tendency to put a bit more faith in graduates from public universities since they assume these students will have a higher academic quality. Private universities, on the other hand, have recently gained a greater reputation among companies, and their study programs may provide you with a lot of employability. Furthermore, private schools in Germany rate higher in specific subject areas for graduate employability. Nevertheless, CEOs nowadays, such as Elon Musk, are looking for talents who can bring something to the table rather than just a good grade on their transcripts.


Myth 01 : Everything is in German!

Certainly not. Every person has a strong attachment to his or her homeland, as well as to their mother tongue. It's German in Germany, and learning the language of the nation you're moving to is part of your integration mindset. However, not everything is German when it comes to studying; it is subjective and relies on the type of degree program you choose to pursue. While most undergraduate programs need you to have a basic comprehension of German, many also ask you to present a proof of German language competency as part of your application. Several universities, however, now offer entirely English-language programs. There are an increasing number of Master's and Postgraduate programs provided in English as part of the effort to attract more international students to Germany.

However, there are chances that few texts on the graphs, or few markings on figures and diagrams, are still in German (which have very negligible effect on your understanding of the concept underlying the figures), even if the course work is in English. But come on, since we are here to study, why make an attempt to learn a few German words?

Myth 02 : German universities are low ranked in popular ranking websites!

Universities are ranked in the international ranking websites based on a variety of factors, including their quality of education, faculty, research funding, graduate employability, and so forth. The marketability of these ranking websites for these universities, on the other hand, cannot be overlooked while prioritizing them.

In comparison to institutions in the United States or the United Kingdom, most European nations' academic systems are less business-oriented. Because much of it is publicly funded, tuition costs in most European nations are relatively cheap (zero in German public institutions). Education is seen as a public service, and it is ensured that everyone may afford it, regardless of their financial situation. In terms of quality, standards, and international recognition and acceptance, German education system is one of the finest and most sought out. As a result, Germany's public institutions make fewer attempts to market themselves and compete in international ranking platforms. Furthermore, the German job market is more concerned with an applicant's potential and talents than with the name or ranking of the university from which the candidate graduated. As a result, such university rankings have little bearing on your professional life. All that counts is that you study what you want to study.

Myth 03: German universities are a hard nut to crack!

Let’s start with the admission process. Admission to a German public university is hard because of their high reputation, public funding and consequent higher grade point cut offs. However, if you have a pretty good educational profile and meet other course specific requirements, then it is easier getting into a German university than an American university, thanks to German policies and laws that favor and welcome international students.

Now, regarding the difficulty in graduating, it depends on you and only you. If you have the skill and determination, it is not difficult. The German educational system evaluates the quality of your conceptual understanding and your ability to articulate it, rather than the number of words you put on your answer sheet. So, a last-minute study and just beating around the bush alone won’t help. It all comes down to appropriate preparation and striking a balance between your studies and leisure lives. Apparently, only a very less percentage of those who attend do not graduate, but only a tiny percentage of those do claim it was too difficult; the majority lose interest or drive to continue their chosen field. Furthermore, with the implementation of the European Credits Transfer System (ECTS) in Germany, students may now transfer their credits between institutions all over the world, especially in Europe. This improves student mobility, allowing them to study undergraduate courses in Germany but graduate degrees elsewhere, or vice versa!

So, don’t stress yourself, have a positive mind set, and just “work hard, play hard”.

Myth 04 : Finding a job after graduation is not easy!

Germany's economy is the largest in Europe and the fourth largest in the world, making it an excellent country to begin your career. Students with a residence permit from non-EU and non-EEA countries can request to have it extended for another 18 months while they look for work in Germany, after graduation. You are allowed to work at another part-time, full-time employment during this time while looking for a permanent position. Because Germany's economy is strong and secure, career opportunities for recent graduates are plentiful. With a German degree in hand, you will be a top option of recruiters whether in Germany or elsewhere.

The time it takes to find an ideal job is dependent on your skills and the job market. Candidates who are fluent in German may be given preference over those who are not. But, once again, it is subjective. For IT related jobs, language shouldn't be a problem. You'll be able to apply for a variety of entry-level positions and graduate programs as well. These jobs will provide you with the necessary experience to advance in your profession. What is important is to get started working in your field of study and gain some experience. Once you've found a job in your field of study, with a minimum one-year contract, you'll be able to apply for a settlement permit and an EU Blue Card, which will enable you to live and work in Germany, for a longer period.