In general, universities in Germany can be classified according to type (universities, Universities of Applied Sciences, etc.) and funding bodies (state, private, or parochial). Here, you can find information about the different types of universities.
The word “Hochschule” has two meanings:
1) On the one hand, it is the generic term for universities, Universities of Applied Sciences, academy of arts, academies of music, and all other types of higher education institutions.
2) On the other hand, “Hochschule” is also equated with Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule), which offer a smaller and more limited range of studies than universities. For example, the Hochschule München is an university of applied sciences that offers study programmes in the fields of technology, economics, design, and social studies..
Types of universities
Universities are usually state institutions, where students can choose from a wide range of study fields and programmes. In contrast to Universities of Applied Sciences, the courses at universities focus more on theory and scientific working. With the A levels (Abitur) you may study at any university, with the Fachabitur or the Fachhochschulreife special regulations apply. At an university, as at Universities of Applied Sciences, you can obtain your Bachelor's and Master's degrees. Some subjects, such as teaching or medicine, can only be studied at an university. Furthermore, if you want to become a doctor or professor, you can only do so at an university, because only they have the right to award doctorates and habilitations. Due to the larger selection of study courses, the usually much larger campuses, and the higher number of (scientific) staff, the number of students is usually much higher than at Universities of Applied Sciences, which implies that you will be attending a course with sometimes hundreds of students.
University of the German Armed Forces
There are currently two Universities of the German Armed Forces (Universität der Bundeswehr) in Germany – one in Hamburg and one in Munich. Despite your student status, you are first and foremost a soldier at the University of the German Armed Forces. Before you can start studying, you have to go through a selection process. Upon admission, you will commit yourself to 12 years of service and will be prepared both for your leadership role in the troops and for civilian working life. The degree is equivalent to those of other universities.
Pedagogical Universities train teachers for primary, secondary, secondary modern, and special schools as well as for vocational schools. However, this type of higher education institution only exists in Baden-Württemberg; in the other federal states, teachers are trained at universities and Universities of Applied Sciences. Pedagogical Universities are similar to universities in their status and structure, but their focus is on the pedagogical training of teachers, which is “only” a minor subject at universities and Universities of Applied Sciences. Teaching studies are in pedagogy, psychology, sociology, didactics, foreigners' education, and health education. They also have the right to award doctorates and habilitations.
Academy of Music
Academies of Music offer musical education with the aim of teaching students to professionally sing or play a particular instrument. Here, there are not only courses with the instrument itself, but also subjects such as music theory. As a rule, Academies of Music are on an equal footing with universities in Germany and therefore usually have the right to award doctorates in the artistic and scientific field. At Academies of Music, you can earn a Bachelor, Master, diploma, or doctorate. Some academies also offer the academic degrees of stage maturity or concert maturity.
The training to become an actor is considered art studies and can be completed at public and private universities or by means of private lessons by individual lecturers. The degree can be a Bachelor, Master, or diploma, specifically “Diplom.-Schau.” (actor certified by diploma). For drama studies you have to pass an artistic entrance examination, which then decides on your admission.
University funding bodies
Universities can be funded by various bodies: state, private, or parochial. A state funding means, for example, that the university is financed by the state. While there are no tuition fees at state and many parochial universities, private universities usually charge tuition fees. Private universities can, but do not have to be officially recognised. State recognition means that private universities enjoy the same status as state universities and can therefore award Bachelor's, Master's, etc. degrees. At universities that are not state-recognised, you “only” receive a certificate upon graduation.
– No tuition fees, but semester fees averaging EUR 250 per semester, which usually include the ticket for public transport
– Large study groups and lecture halls with, depending on the university and study programme, usually more than 100 students
– Large selection of fields of study and study programmes
– Some subjects such as medicine and law are only offered at public universities
– Although the lessons have practical parts such as seminars, they are more theoretical
– Flexible timetable
– Since public universities are usually very old, the equipment is also rather outdated
Advantages and disadvantages
Hardly a financial burden, you almost “only” have to pay for your living expenses.
At public universities you tend to work independently. The large number of students could make it difficult to meet new people. In addition, overcrowded lecture halls can make it necessary for you to sit on the stairs during the lecture. The advantage, however, is that the professor usually does not know all his students by name (or has never seen some of them before). Therefore, you usually do not have such a bad conscience if you do not go to a lecture...
You can arrange your own timetable and choose from a relatively wide range of lectures and seminars. However, creating a timetable can be a difficult task, especially the first time, because you have to make sure that you choose enough and especially the right courses.
Myths and rumours about private and public universities
It is often said that companies or future employers prefer to accept graduates from public rather than private universities. However, this cannot be said in such a general way, as some companies appreciate the practical relevance of private students, while others find it more important that students of public universities work more independently during their studies.
In addition, one often hears that students of private universities are ”thrown“ their degrees ”at them“ – after all, they pay a lot of money to the university. It can be clearly said: nothing comes from nothing. Due to the close contact to the lecturers, it can of course happen that you get tips here and there on what you should concentrate when learning for the next exam. However, you have to invest a lot of time to pass the exams, write homework, and complete other practical tasks successfully in order to get your degree.