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University is the generic term for institutions in the tertiary education sector . One distinguishes

Universities serve the maintenance of the sciences and the arts through research and teaching as well as professional training ( studies ) and further education ( advanced training ).

Be at a university persons registered students or university students called.


In a narrower sense, a university refers to an institution that conducts research and thus creates new knowledge, mediates scientific teaching ( studies and scientific further education ) and awards academic degrees as degrees. As part of the Bologna process , the universities offer graded courses of study leading to a bachelor's and master's degree , which largely replace the previous diploma and master's degrees .

A distance university or distance university is a special form of higher education . In addition to state universities, there are also private universities . These are mostly borne by churches, parishes, but also by foundations and, more recently, by private companies.

In most countries, the legal status of universities is regulated by a special university law. In the Federal Republic of Germany, the university system is a matter for the federal states and is regulated by their university laws. The Federal Higher Education Framework Act, which has previously provided framework specifications for the federal states, is to expire as part of the federalism reform .

Universities have merged, specialized or renamed over time (in cooperation with the respective federal state). One example of this are technical colleges , almost all of which were renamed "Technical University", such as the Technical University of Berlin for the first time in 1946 . Exceptions are, for example, RWTH Aachen or ETH Zurich .

For some years now, many “ universities of applied sciences ” have been calling themselves “universities” with the subject area, for example “University of Economics”, “University of Technology” etc. or generally as “University of Applied Sciences (HAW)”. They also have the English name University or University of Applied Sciences (literally translated university for applied sciences ). This is due to the fact that the term university in Anglo-American education systems denotes those institutions that offer postgraduate courses, which in Germany, Austria and Switzerland generally corresponds to universities and not just the university form "university". The English term high school ("Hohe" or "Höhere Schule") is to be assigned to the school sector (secondary sector).

The pedagogical universities (which grew out of the pedagogical academies in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1971 ) are today self-governing centers of educational sciences with unrestricted doctorate and habilitation rights at university level. In the 1970s / 80s they were either integrated into the universities in the federal states or - as in Baden-Württemberg - converted into independent educational science institutions with university structures.

At German universities, a single professor currently looks after about 52 students on average. More precisely, this is around 60 students at universities and around 38 students at universities of applied sciences. The number of students increased threefold between 1972 and 2005 (to 1,953,504), but the number of professors only increased by 1.8 times (to 37,364). According to these figures, the Science Council sees a need for improvement in teaching at universities, particularly at universities. In comparison, the US elite institutions such as Harvard or Stanford are much cheaper with a supervision ratio of 1:10 or better.

The public and private universities in the Federal Republic of Germany spent around 41.2 billion euros in 2010. The sum includes costs for research, teaching and medical treatment. This means that expenditure increased by 6.1% compared to 2009.

Structure and organization

A university consists of faculties / institutes or departments . These are divisions, one headed by Dean and is a dean. The university is headed by a university management with a rectorate or presidium and usually a chancellor . There is also a central university administration, the Academic Senate and centralized service facilities in the university like university library , computer center , Central Academic Advising , Career Service or International Office . The internal organization can take various forms, for example there are full-time and group universities .

The students enrolled at a university form the student body (also: student body) depending on the state regulations .

The student unions are usually responsible for the operation of canteens and dormitories, for the administration of BAföG and for other offers in the area of ​​a university .


Adult education centers in Germany are assigned to the quaternary education area of continuing education, but contrary to their name, no universities.

Also, administrative and economic Academies (VWA) are institutions of the quaternary formation region and no colleges. Berufsakademien (BA) had a similar status and therefore did not award their graduates an academic degree , but a state qualification . Since the conversion to the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University (DH) in 2006 , the academic degrees Bachelor and Master have been awarded. There is still no right to award doctorates .

Specialized academies and advanced technical colleges are assigned to the tertiary level of education, provided the course has no fewer than 2,400 hours. Qualifications are the state examination or the diploma (FS) .

Types of universities

Overview of the university organization

Artistic colleges

Other institutions in the tertiary education sector


Educational courses in Germany

Lists of universities

See also


  • George Turner : College between imagination and reality. On the history of higher education reform in the last third of the 20th century , Berlin 2001.

Web links

Commons : College  - Collection of images, videos, and audio files
Wiktionary: University  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. cf. Reutlingen University
  2. Baden-Württemberg University of Education
  3. Press release of the Federal Statistical Office ( Memento of the original from March 12, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. umbrella association of German adult education centers
  5. Framework agreement of the Conference of Ministers of Education on technical schools