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Study in Germany
Time: 2013-06-05    BY Amy   From:   Clicks: 5139
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Germany's universities are recognised internationally; in the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) for 2008, six of the top 100 universities in the world are in Germany, and 18 of the top 200. Most of the German universities are public institutions, charging tuition fees of only around 60 EUR per semester (and up to 500 EUR in the state of Niedersachsen) for each student. Thus, academic education is open to most citizens and studying is very common in Germany. Although the dual education system, that combines practical and theoretical educations and does not lead to academic degrees, is more popular than anywhere else in the world - while it is a role model for other countries.

The oldest universities of Germany are also among the oldest and best regarded in the world, with Heidelberg University being the oldest (established in 1386 and in continuous operation since then). It is followed by Leipzig University (1409), Rostock University (1419), Greifswald University (1456), Freiburg University (1457), LMU Munich (1472) and the University of Tübingen (1477).

Most German universities focus more on teaching than on research. Research is mostly exhibited in independent institutes that are embedded in academic clusters, such as within Max Planck, Fraunhofer, Leibniz and Helmholtz institutes. This German specialization is rarely reflected in academic rankings, which is the reason why German universities seem to be underperforming according to some of the ratings, such as ARWU.

Fachhochschule (Universities of Applied Sciences)

There is another type of post-Abitur university training in Germany: the Fachhochschulen (Universities of Applied Sciences), which offer degrees similar to those at a traditional university, but often concentrate on applied science (as the English name suggests). At a traditional university, it is important to study "why" a method is scientifically right: however, this is less important at Universities of Applied Science. Here the emphasis is placed on what systems and methods exist, where they come from, their advantages and disadvantages, how to use them in practice, when they should be used, and when not. Students start their courses together and graduate (more or less) together and there is little choice in their schedule (but this is not compulsory in several studies).
To get on-the-job experience, internship semesters are a mandatory part of studying at a Fachhochschule. Therefore the students at U-o-A-S are better trained in transferring learned knowledge and skills into practice while students of traditional universities are better trained in method developing. But as professors at U-o-A-S have done their doctorate at traditional universities, and such universities are have regard to the importance of practice, both types are coming closer and closer. It is nowadays more a differentiation between practice orientation and theoretical orientation of science.

After 4 years a Fachhochschule student has a complete education and can go right into working life. Fachhochschule graduates traditionally received a title that starting with "Dipl." (Diploma) and ends with "(FH)", e.g. "Dipl. Ing. (FH)" for a graduate engineer from a Fachhochschule. The FH Diploma is roughly equivalent to a 4 years Honours degree. An FH Diploma qualifies the holder for a Ph.D. program directly but in practice many universities require an additional entrance exam or participation in theoretical classes from FH candidates. The last point is based on history. When FHs or U-o-A-S were set up, the professors were mainly teachers from higher schools but did not hold a doctorate. This has completely changed since the end of the eighties, but professors of traditional universities still regard themselves as "the real professors", which indeed is no longer true. Due to the Bologna process, bachelor and master degrees are being introduced to traditional universities and universities of applied sciences in the same way. Despite that professors at a Fachhochschule use to have profound work experience which they gained in leading positions in multinational companies while university professors use to specialise on researching earlier in their career.

All courses at the roughly 250 traditional universities and universities of applied sciences used to be free - like any school in Germany. One might also say the government offered a full scholarship to everyone. However, students that took longer than the Regelstudienzeit ("regular length of studies", a statistically calculated average that is the minimum amount of time necessary to successfully graduate) did have to pay Langzeitstudiengebühren ("long-time study fees") of about 500 EUR per semester, in a number of states. Today there are a few private institutions (especially business schools) that charge tuition fees, but they do not enjoy the same high recognition and high standards as public universities. Another negative impact of private institutions in Germany is that they usually offer only a few subjects - a situation that results in their failure to achieve high recognition in international competition.

A student has to pay for board and lodging plus books. Above a certain age, student health insurance (65 EUR per month) is compulsory, and there are always other service charges (100-400 EUR per semester). Students often enjoy very cheap public transport (Semesterticket) in and around the university town. Inexpensive accommodation is available from the Studentenwerk, an independent non-profit organization partially funded by the state. This may cost 200 EUR per month, without food. Otherwise an apartment can cost up to 500 EUR in cities such as Munich and Hamburg, but often three to five students share an apartment. Food is about 250 EUR (figures for 2012). Many banks provide free accounts to students up to a certain age (usually around 25).

The German Constitutional Court recently ruled that a federal law prohibiting tuition fees is unconstitutional, on the grounds that education is the sole responsibility of the states. Following this ruling many state legislatures have passed laws that allow, but do not officially force, universities to demand tuition up to a limit, usually 500 EUR. In 2012 tution fees at statefunded universities exist in two States of Germany (five in 2010). In preparation to comply with several local laws aiming to give universities more liberty in their decisions but requiring them to be more economical (effectively privatising them), many universities hastily decided to introduce the fees, usually without any exceptions other than a bare minimum. As a direct result, student demonstrations in the scale of 100 to 10000 participants are frequent in the affected cities, most notably Frankfurt in Hesse, where the state officially considered introducing universal tuition fees in the 1500 EUR range.

Most students will move to the university town if it is far away. Getting across Germany from Flensburg to Konstanz takes a full day (1000 km or 620 miles). But, as mentioned above, there is no university-provided student housing on campus in Germany, since most campuses are scattered all over the city for historical reasons. Traditionally, university students rented a private room in town, which was their home away from home. This is no longer the standard, but one still finds this situation. One third to one half of the students works to make a little extra money, often resulting in a longer stay at university.

Figures for Germany are roughly:
1,000,000 new students at all schools put together for one year
400,000 Abitur graduations
30,000 doctoral dissertations per year
1000 habilitations per year (possible way to qualify as a professor)

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