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Higher Education

The Federal Government supports institutions of higher education adapt to meet today’s challenges. These challenges include the internationalization of higher education, increased competition for funding, providing a good education for an ever growing number of new students, and opening higher education to people with diverse qualifications and skills.

As places of high-quality training and research, institutions of higher education provide key impetus for innovation in Germany and make a crucial contribution towards securing progress and prosperity. Germany has 415 institutions of higher education. Of these, 106 are universities, 6 are colleges of education, 16 are colleges of theology, 51 are colleges of art, 207 are universities of applied sciences, and 29 are colleges of public administration. According to figures from the Federal Statistical Office, there were around 2.4 million students in the 2011/2012 Winter Semester, approximately 47 per cent of whom were women. Approximately two thirds of all students are registered at universities or similar institutions, while one third of students are enrolled at universities of applied sciences and colleges of public administration.

It is a goal of the Federal Government to further improve the performance and competiveness of research and instruction. This means meeting societal needs while providing the individual institutions with as much room to maneuver as possible. The Excellence Initiative, programme allowances, and many other federal funding programmes for projects sustainably strengthen research at German institutes of higher education. The joint Federal-Länder programmes “Higher Education Pact 2020,” “Quality Pact for Teacher,” and the competition “Advancement through Education: Open Institutes of Higher Education” are examples of the Federal Government’s dedication to high quality academic training. The triad of BAföG, student loans and scholarships meets the demand for individual student financing while ensuring equal opportunities in higher education.

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    Excellence Initiative for Cutting-Edge Research at Institutions of Higher Education

    Funding decisions for the third and final round of the Excellence Initiative have been made. In June 2012, the Grants Committee selected a total of 39 universities from 13 Länder: 45 graduate schools and 43 clusters of excellence made it through the science-based selection process, while the institutional strategies of the FU Berlin, HU Berlin, Bremen, Dresden, Köln, LMU München, TU München, Konstanz, Heidelberg, RWTH Aachen, and Tübingen won over the Committee in the third funding line.
     read more: Excellence Initiative for Cutting-Edge Research at Institutions of Higher Education
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    The Bologna Process

    Within the context of the Europe-wide Bologna Process, Germany’s Federal Government, Länder, and institutions of higher education are conducting the largest higher education reform in decades. Since its 1999 inception in the Italian university city of Bologna, this reform process has aimed to establish internationally accepted degrees, improve the quality of courses of study, and enhance employability. The number of students in Germany has also increased as a result of the reforms. Furthermore, it has clearly enhanced the international mobility of German students and the attractiveness of German institutions of higher education for students and young researchers from abroad.
     read more: The Bologna Process
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    Bilateral Exchange Programmes in Vocational Training

    The internationalization of industry and the working world is increasingly calling for qualified personnel with foreign language skills, intercultural competence, and knowledge of other economic regions and business practices. It is never too early to start acquiring these skills, which is why the Federal Ministry of Education and Research has supported bilateral exchange programmes for vocational trainees with the Netherlands, Norway, and Great Britain since the mid-1990s. The Franco-German exchange programme in vocational training was established over 30 years ago.
     read more: Bilateral Exchange Programmes in Vocational Training
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    Internationalization of Higher Education

    With the rise of globalization, institutions of higher education need to become more international in order to operate effectively in the global education market. This also calls for more student and scientist exchanges. As a result, international exchange has become an even more important requirement for modern universities, top-quality research and innovation.
     read more: Internationalization of Higher Education
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    The German Federal Training Assistance Act (BAföG) provides educational opportunities

    Today, good education is more important than ever before. This holds true for every single one of us as well as for society as a whole. Knowledge and the application of knowledge are Germany's greatest assets. The German Federal Training Assistance Act (BAföG) guarantees that adolescents and young adults can undergo training to suit their aptitude and interests - irrespective of their families' financial situation.
     read more: The German Federal Training Assistance Act (BAföG) provides educational opportunities
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    Junior Professorship

    The introduction of the junior professorship established a new career path which provides young scientists with a new avenue towards a professorship. The aim is to provide young scientists with an opportunity for independent research and teaching while they are still in their early 30s.
     read more: Junior Professorship
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    Research at Universities of Applied Sciences

    The Federal Ministry of Education and Research is providing universities of applied sciences with funding for applied research in engineering, natural sciences, economics and in social work, health and nursing care in several funding streams under its "Research at Universities of Applied Sciences" programme.
     read more: Research at Universities of Applied Sciences
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    Continuing Academic Education

    Institutions of higher education and other educational institutions offer continuing academic education in a number of different forms – ranging from individual courses to study programmes lasting several years and leading to a degree (cf. National Education Report 2012, particularly p. 149f.). Participation is not only open to people who have already completed a university degree but also to people who meet the conditions for admission in other ways. Continuing academic education serves to develop people's own potential to secure their jobs and careers within the framework of lifelong learning and is a decisive precondition for translating research into innovations and employment. It strengthens Germany's position as an industrial nation.
     read more: Continuing Academic Education

Additional information

Deutsche Version dieser Seite


  • Framework Act for Higher Education

    [PDF - 143.9 kB]

    in the version published on 19 January 1999 (BGBl. I p. 18), last amended by Article 1 of the same law on 28 August 2004 (BGBl. I p. 2298), taking into consideration the ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court of 27 July 2004  (URL:


The German Academic Exchange Service DAAD has published the english version of its university ranking, encompassing 35 subjects in 280 universties.

Useful Links

You would like to study or do research in Germany?
Here is what you ought to know.
Studying, research and living in Germany: Campus Germany 

Our German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) provides you with more useful data.

What about German language tests?

and more information on higher education institutions, courses, programmes (Hochschulkompass).


© 08/28/2015 00:07 Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung