Study at university in Germany
If you want to study at university in Germany, one of the selection requirements you will face will be the type of school. In Germany, there are universities that provide education in almost every field, “Technical Universities” that provide technical education (engineering, natural sciences, etc.) and “University of Applied Sciences” called Fachhochschule. You should know their differences before making a decision. I will try to explain them comparatively below. ( You can find more detailed information about the Fachhochschule here.)
Universities in Germany are academic institutions with the right to award PhDs and are therefore the basis for research and development in various fields of education. Universities have the possibility to offer any program and/or degree in any field, i.e. Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Engineering, Media, Educational Sciences, etc.
Technical Universities are “Technical” as the name suggests and therefore focus their efforts and resources only on Engineering and Natural Sciences and do not offer all the programs you can find in a University.
Note: If there is a University and a Technical University in the same city, the University usually does not offer an Engineering or Natural Science program (there are some exceptions to this generalization), for example: If you want to study Mechanical Engineering in Hamburg, you have to study at the Technical University of Hamburg, as the University of Hamburg does not offer this program. On the other hand, the University of Bochum “Ruhr” offers a wide range of Engineering and Science programs. You can find the leading universities in Germany on the interactive map here.
Sometimes only one University (e.g. University of Duisburg-Essen) or only one Technical University (e.g. TU Kaiserlautern) offers similar programs and can be considered a “University”.
In other words, the concepts of University and Technical University are generally differentiated, but not very sharply.
What are the differences between a University/Technical University and a Fachhochschule?
Having explained that Universities and Technical Universities are more or less the same thing, we can compare the concept of Universität (University) with a Fachhochschule (University of Applied Sciences) and focus on the differences.
|Available( You may not be able to do a PhD afterwards )
|Possible ( Admission after master’s degree at Fachhochschule is difficult )
|It tries to train the student as a potential researcher
|Tailored for market needs and business requirements
|Theoretical and Research Oriented
The university’s focus is on maximizing the student’s knowledge of the field and developing their independent thinking skills, thus preparing them for a potential PhD degree.
They focus on providing in-depth theoretical knowledge while practical application is minimal.
Since FH is not allowed to grant PhDs, all cutting edge research and development is done in Universities
|There are Practical Studies that focus on Professional Practice rather than Theory
A ‘practical’ approach is applied in their curricula.
This does not mean that students are not taught theory, but they are given enough theory to understand the basics with a focus on teaching how it can be applied.
|Curriculum – Theory/Practice ratios
|80% Theory – 20% Practice
|50% Theory – 50% Practice
|While universities offer numerous programs in various educational disciplines,
Technical Universities focus on engineering and natural sciences.
|Fachhochschulen focus mainly on engineering, natural sciences and business management.
|Academics who decide to continue their careers in the academic field after completing their doctorate (Ph.D.) are employed.
Academics who teach at the University are not required to have relevant field experience.
|The academics must have at least 5 years of experience and 3 years in the field/industry.
This means that the academics must be former employees of large and leading German companies (e.g. BMW, AUDI, Siemens, etc.).
|Difficulty of Exams
|More Difficult – Due to the theoretical approach of the universities, exams are generally more difficult as more content is covered during the semester than in Fachhochschulen.
Exams are usually scheduled with gaps of 5-10 days between them and are spread over a large period of time. This gives you extra time to prepare.
|Easier – Relatively speaking, the exams are said to be easier as the program studies are less theoretical compared to Universities.
Exams are usually scheduled to be finished in 1-2 weeks with little or no gaps in between (this is also the case in our schools).
|Universities mostly accept students who have finished high school and have no experience.
|The FHs offer opportunities for students with no previous experience, as well as for those who have already worked in the field after completing a training program (Ausbildung) and want to expand their skills without going too far into the theoretical part.
|In Large Groups – in popular classes you will see 50-250 students together (in some cases it can be even more crowded)
|Small Focused Groups – groups of 20-60 students per lesson.
|Program Dependent – Some programs/degrees have compulsory internships (ranging from 8-13 weeks) in their curriculum, but many are designed without internships.
|Compulsory – 18-week internship or “Internship Period” is compulsory in all programs/degrees.
|More Flexible – Students have the freedom to choose which courses they want to take in a given semester or leave for later.
|Less Flexible – Students enroll in the courses available in the respective semester.
|It takes longer to complete – Regardless of how many semesters a program is planned for at Universities in Germany, almost everyone takes an extra 2-4 semesters to graduate. (If you ask students they will give the excuse that the exams are difficult, but this is usually the case)
|Timely completion – Although the curriculum is usually planned for a longer period (at least 1 semester longer due to the internship period), students usually complete their degree within the planned number of semesters.
Which one is better for me?
University : If you want to learn the basic theoretical details of your chosen field and see yourself doing a PhD in the future. Then the University is the right option for you.
Fachhochschule : If you like to work in the field, do not have a PhD goal, want to easily find a job and work in Germany after university and, moreover, are not confident in your German language skills: Going to a Fachhochschule is a better choice as it will better prepare you for the market requirements and allow you to avoid the demanding exam programs of the University. You can find my other article about these schools here.
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