Types of universities: Very high quality at all universities

In Germany you can study at universities, universities of applied sciences and colleges of art, film and music. Choosing the right type of university largely comes down to what you would like to study. Universities are also divided into private and publicly funded institutions. The quality of instruction, however, is comparably high at all institutions of higher education.

by the Editors

Students in front of the university © Hagenguth/DAAD
Students in front of the university . © Hagenguth/DAAD

There are 427 state accredited universities in some 180 towns and cities around Germany. Together, these universities offer a total of over 18,000 degree programmes.


There are three types of higher education institutions in Germany:

  • Universities
  • Universities of applied sciences
  • Colleges of art, film and music

Choosing the right type of university largely depends on what you want to study.

International students © Hagenguth/DAAD
International students . © Hagenguth/DAAD


Universities offer strong theoretical and academically-oriented degree programmes and a broad range of disciplines. Some universities have specialised in certain subject areas, for example, technical universities, medical schools and colleges of education. If you would like to pursue a doctorate (earn a PhD) at some point, a university is the right place for you.

Facts and Figures

In the winter semester 2014/2015, almost 2.7 million students were enrolled at 427 state-accredited institutions of higher education in Germany: 1.7 million students at 107 universities, 930,000 students at 246 universities of applied sciences, 35,000 students at 52 colleges of art, film and music, 2,500 at 16 colleges of theology and 25,000 at six universities of education Source: Federal Statistical Office

Universities of applied sciences

Instruction at universities of applied sciences is strongly practice-oriented. The course work provides the theoretical background and prepares students for the real-world requirements of professional life. Internships and practical semesters form an integral part of the degree programmes.

Colleges of art, film and music

Colleges of art, film and music offer instruction in artistic subjects, such as Fine Arts, Acting, Dance, Industrial and Fashion Design, Graphic Art, Instrumental Music and Singing. Students enrolled at colleges for modern media are trained to become directors, camera operators, screenwriters and film and television professionals.

University policy

Education in Germany is not centrally regulated. Each of the 16 states is permitted to issue its own university regulations and guidelines. German universities exercise a great deal of independence. For this reason, rules do not always apply to all universities in the same way. Therefore, we recommend inquiring about the specific requirements at the university of your choice before you apply.

To gain admission to such programmes, you have to demonstrate special artistic talent, normally by means of an aptitude test. There are also special admission requirements for these colleges. Please note that most art, film and music colleges only provide instruction in German.

Public and private universities

Most universities in Germany are publicly financed. A few universities receive their funding from the Protestant or Catholic Church. However, there are 120 private universities – most of them universities of applied sciences – whose degrees are recognised by the state.

Most students in Germany are enrolled at public universities. Only around 5.5 percent attend a private university. This is because private universities often charge high tuition fees. The quality of instruction at both types of universities is comparably good.

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