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German Education System - An Overview


Germany is one of the favorite study destinations among Indian students for higher education. There are more than 350 state and private universities offering a variety of undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral programs. There are more than 250,000 foreign students currently studying in Germany, of which about 4,200 are Indians. German universities have affordable tuition fees, which is one of the prime reasons to attract Indian students in German universities.

However, there are still many Indian students who opt to study in countries like Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America and the UK. They feel that it is important to have a good knowledge of German to secure a place in the university. Though it is advisable to know a little German to sustain yourself in Germany, there are more than 500 International Degree Programmes which are taught in English and you need not be fluent in the German language. 

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Types of Universities:

1. Universities (Universität) or Technical University (Technische Hochschule)
2. Universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschule)
3. Colleges of art / Colleges of music (Kunsthochschule/Musikhochschule)
4. Private and Church Sponsored Institutions

For the list of universities, click here.

The New German Education System

As part of the Bologna process the German higher education system will be transformed to fit the Bachelor and Master structure by the year 2010.

What is Bologna Process:

Named after Bologna Declaration, signed in the Italian city of Bologna on 19 June, 1999, the Bologna Process aims to create a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) based on international cooperation and academic exchange which would be attractive not only to the European students but to other international students as well. The Bologna process hopes to unify the individual European countries to form an allied and more compatible European higher education system.

Features of the Bologna Process:

•    Comparable degrees organized in a three-cycle structure (e.g. bachelor-master-doctorate)
•    Quality assurance in accordance with the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG)
•    Fair recognition of foreign degrees and other higher education qualifications in accordance with the Council of Europe/UNESCO Recognition Convention

For details on Bologna Process, click here.


Though recognized and known the world over, the Bachelor degree is fairly new to Germany. To obtain a Bachelors degree you need to have 180 study points in European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). The study period is minimum 3 years. You can get the following degrees after completing your Bachelor’s Program.

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  • 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 Music (B.Mus.)
  • Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.)


A Bachelors degree forms the basis for the next academic step is a Masters degree. One or two year study program equals 120 ECTS points. A Bachelors degree is required to apply for a Masters study program. A Masters degree is valued the same as a German ‘Diplom’ or ‘Magister’ degree.

Master types:

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

Doctorate / PhD

You can apply for a PhD after completing your Master’s program. You would be required to write a dissertation and give an oral exam to attain the Doctorate title (PhD). Students that are working on their dissertation are called Doktoranden.

The Old German Degree System

The term ‘Diplom’ belongs to the old degree system (before the Bologna reforms), though some universities still have the Diplom program. The length of the Diplom program is 4 years.

This is also part of the old degree system, the most common degree program for the social sciences.

Staatsexamen (State exam)
This is a state organized exam and the degree is for jurists, doctors and teachers. One  usually two State Exams are needed to receive a degree.

For program details on different types of universities, click here.


Admission to various universities, depends upon the type of institution that you opt for. All Higher Education Institutions, have a Summer Semester which usually lasts from March to August or from April to September and Winter Semester is from September to February or from October to March.

For details on admission and eligibility criteria, click here.

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