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About Germnay

Germany is the land of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. Of precision engineering and hand crafts. Of the Biergarten, Weinstube, and Gemütlichkeit. Visitors from all over the world come to tour its renowned museums, see its delightful castles, cruise through the wine country along the Rhine and Mosel rivers, experience Oktoberfest in Bavaria, and hike and ski the Alps.

Germany is also home to some of the world's largest corporations — such as Volkswagen, Siemens, and Allianz — affording students the opportunity to live and learn in a country with a rich cultural past that is clearly focused on the future.

Why Study In Germany?

With more than 300 institutions of higher education throughout the country, Germany offers one of the largest university systems in Europe. There are 11 German universities in the QS World University Rankings Top 200 Universities, underlining the quality of both teaching and research in these institutions.

Study abroad programs
in Germany offer two strands of education - one general, the other specialized. General education offers international students the opportunity to gain essential analytical and scientific skills relevant to their chosen area of study. On completion of an intermediate examination, students then move on to a period of study that is much more focused on their precise subject, developing an in-depth knowledge and understanding of their specialization.

German qualifications at all levels are regarded as being of the highest quality, based on a system of education that blends thorough theoretical knowledge with cutting-edge research, informed by contemporary technology and discoveries.

According to the Ministry of Education and Research, the Framework Act for Higher Education has paved the way for strengthening the autonomy of institutions of higher education. The introduction of internationally recognized bachelor's and master's degrees adapts study courses to the challenges of the future. The new junior professorships strengthen the independence of young scientists at institutions of higher education.

International Student Accomodation
Although large campuses are typical of German universities, university housing is not the norm. Studying abroad in Germany, you will most likely end up living in the surrounding area where availability will be much more open to you. This does not, however, put any kind of stopper on the social aspect of university. German towns are teeming with students, with regular events and discounts found throughout the country.

If you do stay in Studentenwerke (university housing) in Germany, you will generally be in a room in a shared student apartment, whilst some Halls of Residence offer full apartments for families. The majority of studentenwerke have websites with all the information you will need. The Association of German Student Services Organizations (Deutsches Studentenwerk - DSW) offers subsidized accommodation for international students.

Many international students in Germany earn extra money with a part-time job. You are allowed to work a maximum of 720 hours, meaning 90 full days per year. We portray some of these working students from different German cities. They give you insights on payment, duties and requirements for the jobs they do.

Overseas students who have earned a degree from Germany will be granted a residence permit for one year, in which they can attempt to secure a job relevant to their discipline. If you successfully find a job before the lapse of this one year time period, you can then apply for a residence permit with a work permit from your local Aliens Department.

Understanding the Education System

No Tuition

Education in Germany is public, i.e. most schools, colleges and universities are paid for by the taxpayers and therefore do not charge tuition (Studiengebühren). However, voters are much less directly involved with school matters than in the U.S. There are no local school or college boards and no PTA's, although parent-teacher conferences take place regularly.Educational programs are organized, financed and administered at the state level. The Department of Education in each of the 16 federal states (Länder [pl.]) oversees the state's primary, secondary and career training schools and much of higher education.A framework for post-secondary education is set up at the federal level. Federal statutes also regulate the licensing of lawyers and health care professionals and define the status of teachers as tenured civil servants. Administrators at both the state and federal level coordinate educational planning and research. As a result the standard of teaching and testing is relatively equal throughout the country, although curricula may vary form state to state.

Students With Limited German Language Skills

The German constitution guarantees all citizens the right to fully develop their human potential which includes the right to choose one's occupation and to have access to the appropriate career training. Children whose native language is not German are deemed to have the same rights as native Germans. They are taught together with German-speaking children. In addition they also receive three to five hours of instruction per week in their native language taught by instructors from their native country. The courses cover native language skills, the history, geography and religion of that country. There is also a special program to assist these students in preparing for job-skills training and securing paid internship positions. The students' native languages are most frequently Turkish, Serbo-Croatian, Italian and Greek.

Paid Internships

75% of German students - that is to say everyone not immediately bound for college - complete a formal three-year training program in a dual-track mode (Dualsystem): Hands-on job experience as interns (Auszubildende) in business, industry and government integrated with career-specific classroom instruction.
Interns are paid about one quarter of the rate for a skilled employee. Federal labor law governs the on-site training with a qualified employer. For three to four days a week and under the guidance of in-house mentors, interns learn and practice all phases of the operation. One to two days a week they study career-specific theory together with core academic subjects at a public career training school. At the end of the three-year program interns have to pass rigorous state-recognized theoretical and practical exams.

This integrated approach produces skilled employees as early as age 19. These young people can advance to well paying-jobs with the option of upgrading or continuing their education at any time. Completion of a formal training program is valued greatly in the market place and a source of personal pride. It demonstrates motivation, the ability to set goals and the energy and dedication to follow through.

Evolving Changes in Higher Education

German students enter university at a later age, generally 20 or 21, with a major and minor firmly in mind. They rarely take courses outside those fields. University study is intended to be specific and career-oriented rather than general and broadening. Much of what is required in the first two years at a U.S. college has been accomplished at the Gymnasium. Therefore the tenor of instruction and the learning environment are more akin to those at upper division undergraduate and graduate level, when U.S. students focus on their major.

Originally there were only four fields of academic study at German universities: theology, law, medicine and the humanities. In the past, the mission of German universities has been research and teaching and the universities only trained a relatively small number of students. Today more and more students are seeking a university degree to better their chances in a competitive job market and the government is struggling to keep up with a growing demand while facing shrinking financial resources.

There are not many private colleges in the U.S. sense. German students who have been raised with the tradition of free higher education, have a difficult time comprehending the concept of paying large sums of money for a college education as it is customary in the U.S. Meanwhile, classes at crowded public universities are frequently large and impersonal, especially at the lower level.

Types of Universities

German students tend to choose a university for particular professors, not for the reputation of the school. Just as there are individual graduate institutions in the U.S. specializing in law, medicine, theology and business, there is a variety of German colleges and universities.

The 300 post-secondary institutions (Hochschulen) in Germany include general universities, colleges of art and music, theological colleges, teacher colleges, comprehensive universities and polytechnic universities.

The polytechnic universities (Fachhochschulen) developed in the early 1970's from various advanced career-oriented institutions, notably the schools of engineering and technology. They offer three-year courses in fields ranging from technology, agriculture, economics, design, social work and human development to government and administration of law. To study at a Fachhochschule students need the Abitur from a Fachoberschule.

The Gesamthochschule, (comprehensive university), also dating from the early 1970's, offers programs which are traditionally found at separate institutions, such as general and polytechnic universities and even art colleges.

Colleges of art and music are open to anyone, even without formal qualifications, provided applicants demonstrate outstanding artistic talent and pass an entrance exam.

Reentry and International Students

Those who are already employed but never had a chance to attend or complete a Gymnasium or Fachoberschule may also qualify for university or college study. They can obtain an Abitur certificate or equivalent through special adult education or by passing an assessment test. These alternatives are know as der zweite Bildungsweg, the "second route to higher education".

Students from abroad must have a secondary education certificate deemed equivalent to the Abitur. Some students complete a preparatory course in their major at a Kolleg before enrolling in regular course work. But all students must demonstrate sufficient language proficiency to be able to meet the challenges of German college reading and writing.

First Degree: Masters Degree

In some majors basic course work is tested after two to three years by means of a Zwischenprüfung, a comprehensive midway exam. This exam has no equivalent in the U.S. system. It merely represents a benchmark.

The first degree or certificate awarded in the German system of post-secondary education is the equivalent of the U.S. Master's degree. This degree requires the successful completion of one of three types of comprehensive final exams at the end of five to six years of study. Depending on the major, the exam is called Staatsexamen, Magisterprüfung or Diplomprüfung.

Those who plan to teach at a Gymnasium or Realschule or to become physicians, dentists or lawyers sit for the Staatsexamen (State exam). In the humanities students are required to pass the Magisterprüfung (Masters exam). Students with majors such as architecture or psychology, must take the Diplomprüfung (exam for a professional license). These exams typically consist of in-class essays, papers and orals.

How students prepare for these comprehensive exams is up to their own discretion as academic advisors are a rarity. Students register to take the exams when they feel competent. The exams are taken between semesters. Some students continue for a doctorate degree and post-doctorate studies. Doctorate degrees are e.g. Dr. phil (PhD), Dr. med. (MD), Dr. jur. (JD).

College Life

Rarely does a university in Germany have something like a campus, and rarely is there a feeling of close community. Individual academic departments or divisions (Institute, Fakultäten) may be scattered widely throughout a city.

German universities are exclusively academic institutions. Most students do not live in dormitories (Studentenheime). Fraternities (Verbindungen) or sororities (Frauenverbindungen) are unimportant. University-sponsored social events are infrequent. Big-time sport programs do not exist. However, German students tend to be more politically active.

Footing the Bill

Many students in the U.S. do not receive financial support from their parents and must work, performing mostly unskilled labor, in order to pay for both their studies and their living expenses. In Germany, jobs which do not require formal training do not exist in the same numbers as in the U.S. labor market. In Germany, parents have the obligation to finance their children's education. Students are known to have sued their parents for non-support while pursuing a lengthy college education.

Although German universities do not charge tuition, only a modest registration fee, students need money for living expenses and books. Financial aid in the form of grants and loans is available under the Federal Training Promotion Act of 1971 (BAföG = Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz). However, as the BAföG has been scaled back in recent years, more and more students are forced to work part-time.

Students are also entitled to a benefit package which includes credits toward future retirement under the Social Security System, free accident insurance and health insurance coverage at a minimal premium cost.

Trouble in Paradise
In the fall 1997 students across Germany went out on strike and organized protest marches. Why?

They complained that over the years budget cuts at the state and federal level have eroded the resources for higher education. Colleges and universities have been left with too few faculty, overcrowded classrooms, antiquated research facilities and inadequate libraries.

Also students were not happy with certain proposed reform measures in the new Hochschulrahmengesetz (Higher Education Framework Act). One such reform proposal imposes restrictions on the number of semesters students may enroll before completing their degree exams and it stipulates that all students routinely pass an exam midway through their studies to demonstrate that adequate degree-progress is being made. The protesters were also calling for an explicit prohibition on the introduction of tuition fees.

Academic Calendar

The academic year comprises the winter semester (October, 1st to March, 31st) and the summer semester (April, 1st to September, 30th).

- Starting dates for the courses are usually April, 15th (summer semester) and October, 15th (winter semester). The dates vary from one institution and from one federal state to another. Precise dates in the Course Catalogue or at the Foreign Student Office.

- Closing date for admissions applications at the Foreign Student Office are July, 15th for the following winter semester and January, 15th for the following summer semester.

- Closing date at the ZVS in Dortmund is July, 15th for the following winter semester, and January, 15th for the following summer semester.

- The deadline for applications for the Medical students' test is September, 15th.

A Typical School Day

The German school day is shorter than in the U.S. School normally ends between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. As a result, schools seldom need cafeterias or study halls. However, homework is plentiful and parents often spend hours helping their children. Students who do not meet the academic challenges of a particular grade level in more than one subject are not promoted to the next level. They are held back for one year (sitzen bleiben) and they repeat the entire course work for that year. Due to the high academic standards at a Gymnasium, it is not uncommon that a graduate has spent one or even two extra years in school.

Students in grades 1 through 10 do not change classrooms for every subject. They remain in the same classroom throughout the day, unless special facilities are needed, e.g. in music, chemistry, sports, etc. Teachers rather than students move from class to class. Students sit at tables with fairly spacious surfaces, usually two to a table.

Useful Links

Study in Germany

German Academic Exchange Services

Federal Foreign Office

Region Western Europe
Currency Euro (EUR)
Surface Area 357114
Sq. Km.
Population 82167000
Population Density 230.1 / square kilometre
Capital City Berlin
GDP (million current US$) 3330030
GDP per capita (current US$) 40527.8
CPI: Consumer Price Index 116
Temperature °C (min/max) 5.9/13.4
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