Germany - Universities

Research is an essential part of more than 395 German higher education institutions, especially in the over-110 universities and technical universities (TU), but also in the over-220 universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen or just Hochschulen) and in dozens of higher education schools of music, arts, design, and cinema, etc., as well as theology, pedagogy and public administration.

The country has about 2.6 million higher education students. Of this total, more than 300,000 (about 11,5%) are from other countries. Currently, almost 25,000 foreigners are enrolled in doctoral programs and more than 35,000 academics from other countries work in German universities. This makes Germany, in the international scenario, one of the most attractive countries for researchers and students from abroad.

Most higher education institutions in Germany are public, maintained by the state. Almost 90% of German university students are enrolled in these institutions. The private institutions that are approved and recognized by the government are mostly of applied sciences.

Since the first universities founded in the fifteenth century, Germany has shown a long tradition in academic excellence. Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835) reformulated the higher education system and established the link between research and teaching at German universities. The result was the creation of universities that not only teach but also conduct basic and applied research. In the decades of 1960 and 1970, the system was expanded, especially the Fachhochschulen, facilitating access to higher education and meeting a demand of the labour market. In addition, students now have more freedom in the definition of the subjects they wish to study.

Another important and extensive change in Germany’s higher education system was brought by the Bologna Process. To raise competitiveness of European universities, the governments of 29 European countries met in the Italian city of Bologna in 1999 and agreed to create a single European Higher Education Area by 2010. Among its objectives figure also the international recognition of German’s higher education courses (graduation, post-graduation, doctorate, etc.), as well as to increase its quality and the graduates’ employability.

Ten years passed since Bologna Process implementation and it is possible to observe that both the number of students in German higher education system and its international mobility have increased. The attractiveness of higher education German institutions to foreign students and researchers has also increased. According to the most recent numbers from the Ministry of Education and Research, during 2015, 140,000 German students were abroad, which is almost three times higher than the number registered in 1999, before the Bologna Process. On its turn the number of foreign students in Germany almost doubled, achieving 300,000 students in the same period.

More Information: Study in Germany and DAAD

Rectors' Conference
The German Rectors' Conference (Hochschulrektorenkonferenz, HRK) is the association that represents the public voice and policy of German higher education institutions, besides discussing and formulating common guidelines and practices for the country's higher education institutions. Currently, the conference has 268 member institutions, in which 94% of all Germany’s university students are enrolled.

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The Excellence Initiative
In 2005, the German state and federal governments announced the "Excellence Initiative" program, which provides additional support for research activities in various areas of knowledge in German universities. From 2006 to 2017 a total of 4.6 billion euros is being invested in the development of research structures, as well as in high-level research, making Germany a more attractive country for researchers, more internationally competitive.

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