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Study in Germany

Higher Education in Germany

With more than 400 institutions offering thousands of degree courses, Germany boasts one of the best and most diversified education systems in the world. Why not join the over 250 000 international students in Germany to experience:

  • State-of-the-art facilities
  • Low or even no university tuition fees (at public universities)
  • Highly qualified staff
  • Leading researchers
  • Internationally recognised, top quality degree programmes

Degrees in Germany

The three layered German degree system consists of Bachelor, Master and Doctorate. A Bachelor degree is usually accomplished after three or four years and the Masters degree after one or most often two years. The degree system varies in medical and some arts disciplines. In some subject areas such as legal and educational, degrees require a state examination. Doctoral degrees can be attained either by individual doctoral projects supervised by a university professor, or in hundreds of structured PhD programmes or graduate schools where a team of supervisors are responsible for advising doctoral candidates.

Types of higher education institutions:

Universities

Public universities put strong emphasis on the combination of teaching and research. They offer courses in virtually all subject areas and often have a long-standing tradition, impressive libraries and excellent research facilities. However, some universities specialise in specific fields such as the Technische Universität (Technical University), the Medizinische Hochschule (Medical School), the Sporthochschule (Sport University), and the Hochschule für Politik (University of Politics).

Universities of applied sciences

Universities of applied sciences are decisively praxis-orientated. These institutions provide students with a scientifically based education, tailored to the demands of professional life. The degree programmes generally include internships and practical modules. This enables students to apply their knowledge on the job at companies and businesses.

Colleges of art, music and film

These colleges offer courses in the Fine Arts, Industrial and Fashion Design, Graphic Arts, Instrumental Music, Voice, Acting etc. Colleges of modern media train students to become directors, camera operators, screenwriters, technicians and producers for film and television. To be eligible for such a programme, candidates must possess a high degree of artistic talent which they are asked to demonstrate through an entrance exam. Therefore, you can expect special admission requirements if you wish to apply to a college of art, film or music.

Private universities

There are now more than 100 private universities and colleges which confer officially recognized degrees. A majority of these are universities of applied sciences. Most students in Germany are enrolled at public universities. Only three percent of all students attend a private institution, perhaps due to the fact that, unlike public institutions, private colleges and universities tend to charge high tuition fees. The quality of instruction at both types of universities is comparably high.

Ranking

Germany has a very diverse landscape of higher education institutions. You can find excellent programmes at small universities or universities of applied sciences. If you are interested in the reputation and evaluation of a programme, faculty or university, take a look at the website: www.university-ranking.de. The ways of finding your university can be very different. The university ranking offers a set of differentiated assessment criteria for each subject area which applicants can consider according to their own priorities.

Autonomy

University education in Germany is under the legislative authority of the 16 federal states and is thus not centrally steered. German universities are largely self-regulatory, which means that not all rules apply to every university. Therefore, always enquire about the particular regulations at the university of your choice.

Orientation and admission

Course search and application procedure

Academic entry requirements

As mentioned previously, each institution of higher education in Germany is self-regulated and thus has its own, individual entry requirements. As a formal requirement, South African school leavers must either have the German Abitur, available at the German International Schools in South Africa, or the South African National Senior Certificate (NSC) for entry into a German university. Within the NSC, applicants must have accomplished 7 subjects including Mathematics, 2 languages, Life Orientation and 3 further subjects among which one must be a Natural Science. Applicants may still be subject to passing an entrance exam or obliged to participate in a foundation / preparatory course (Studienkolleg): www.study-in.de/en/study/preparatory-introductorycourses. Students who have already been enrolled with a South African university prior to applying for admission to courses in Germany need to enquire with the German institution to what extent their previous credits are acknowledged.

Language requirements

If you are going to enroll in an English-language degree programme, you generally require no knowledge of German. However, you must have a good level of proficiency in English. For degree programmes taught in German, you will need a particularly high proficiency in German for the social sciences compared to the natural sciences.

When you apply for a degree programme at a German university, you will have to submit certificates confirming your German proficiency. The best route is to contact the International Office at your future university in Germany and ask for more information. Generally, you can demonstrate your proficiency in the German language with the following certificates:

  • Abitur from a German International School
  • TestDaF Level 4 (end of B2 or C1)
  • Kleines/Grosses Deutsches Sprachdiplom, Goethe-Institut
  • Zentrale Oberstufenprüfung,Goethe-Institut
  • Deutsches Sprachdiplom (Stufe 2) from the Kultusministerkonferenz
  • DSH Level 2 (end of B2 or C1)

The Test of German as a Foreign Language (TestDaF) was developed for the testing of the German language skills of prospective students. TestDaF is offered by the Goethe- Institut Johannesburg and the Goethe-Zentrum Cape Town, as well as numerous test centres in Germany and worldwide.

Application procedure

Prior to applying for a university degree course, it is crucial for you to consider your choice of subjects and particular courses thoroughly. As a rough guideline, the following steps towards your course selection are recommended:

  • Visit the DAAD course search: www.study-in.de/en;
  • Make use of the university ranking: www.university-ranking.de to help you decide
  • Visit the website of the course and university of your choice
  • Contact the university directly to find out about the admission requirements

All international students who wish to study subjects with no centrally restricted admission policy should apply either directly to the International Office or the Student Administration Office at the university where they wish to study or through uni-assist.

If you wish to begin your studies in the winter semester (October) the submission period is usually from the beginning of June to 15th July. If you prefer to start your studies in the Summer semester (April) the submission period is usually from the beginning of December to 15th January. Submission deadlines may vary at some universities, be sure to ask about the exact dates in advance.

Visa requirements

International students from a third country must – with a few exceptions – obtain a visa for entry into Germany. They can get this visa from the relevant German mission abroad. Basically, the process differentiates between two types of visas. The Schengen Visa is issued for a short stay (for example, tourism, participation in a summer language course) of up to three months per half-yearly period. Beware: Holders of a Schengen Visa must leave the country again after three months at the latest. This means the Schengen Visa is not a suitable instrument if you wish to study, do a doctorate or complete a research stay in Germany. A national visa is issued for stays lasting longer than 3 months.

TestAS

TestAS is a central standardised aptitude test for foreign students. TestAS gives prospective students information about their individual ranking compared to other applicants. With good results, they can improve their chances of being admitted for studies at a German university and thereafter of successfully accomplishing their courses: www.testas.de