Roadmap to German Higher Education | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 05.02.2009
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Roadmap to German Higher Education

In Germany, you can study almost anything -- and often in English. Many universities are switching over to Bachelor and Master degree programs, so studies completed in Germany are gaining in international currency.

Lecture hall at Karlsruhe University

Lecture halls in Germany are typically very full

Universities, technical colleges, teachers’ colleges, art schools, music schools, church-run and privately-run schools -- the options for studying in Germany are incredibly diverse.

A young Syrian student at the Jena University

In Jena, students from Syria study science

The number of institutions of higher education has grown a bit since the first private university was founded in 1982 in Witten/Herdecke. As of April 2008, Germany had some 71 accredited, privately-run universities and colleges.

Growth expected for private universities

Compared with some other countries, this is still a low number. Private education in Germany is just getting started, experts say, and they expect further growth.

The goal of the Excellence Initiative, run by the federal and state governments, is to support research and improve the quality of education at top German universities. The University of Karlsruhe, the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Technical University of Munich, and the universities in Goettingen, Heidelberg and Lake Constance have all been given awards for their future-oriented concepts. In the coming years, these “elite universities” will receive around 20 million euros ($26 million) per year to help achieve excellence goals.

In addition, there are other graduate schools that expect to get extra funds in the coming years. A number of university rankings offer insight into which course of study one can best complete in which school.

A constitutional court decision in early 2005 made it possible for universities to start charging fees. Depending on the university and state at which they study, students can expect to pay around 500 euros (663 euros) per semester.

Foreign students from non-EU countries pay an additional fee. Colleges charge these fees in order to improve the situation of foreign students. Many use the money to offer special courses to help foreign students learn to integrate and use the German system.

Help for foreign students

Law students in Hamburg

Selected "elite" universities are benefitting from extra funding

For a good start at university, it is important to have chosen the right course of study, as well as the right living situation. German universities offer support for foreign students in questions ranging from apartment hunting to legal advice. Programs like “Families for Friends” are offered by the Student Union to help foreign students integrate into German families. And the academic department at a given university can be an important starting point for foreign students.

Germany is seeking to attract more foreign students to its institutions of higher learning. Currently, foreign students make up around 17 percent of the student body at German universities.

A number of courses of study have been developed specifically for foreign students. Among some 12,000 possible courses of study, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has chosen 650 “international programs” that are taught solely in English.

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