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A semester ( Latin semestris , six-month ', in six months' by sex , six 'and mensis , month') is since the 15th century common name for one academic semester at universities and colleges or adult education centers (VHS).

Semester in Germany


A year at the University covers the winter semester , which in Germany at most universities will run from 1 October to 31 March of the following year, and the following summer semester from 1 April to 30 September. The semesters at universities of applied sciences usually start a month earlier. The semester break as a lecture-free time is included. Depending on whether the study is based on first-year students or graduates, the two semesters are grouped into academic years (summer semester + following winter semester) or examination years (winter semester + following summer semester).

The lecture times are around 15 weeks in winter and around 14 weeks in summer . At most universities, they start in the middle of the first semester month, i.e. around October 15 or April, and end accordingly in February or July.

The traditional abbreviations for the two semester types are WS and SS , e.g. B. "WS 2008/09" or "WS 2008" or "WS08" and "SS 2009" or "SS09". Various alternative forms have developed: WiSe and SoSe , Ws. And Ss. or noted separately "W 2008/09 S" and "S 2009 S".

The University of Mannheim has been using a different rhythm since the end of 2006, following the traditions of other countries, especially some US universities. The autumn semester (abbr. HS ), sometimes also called autumn / winter semester (abbr. HWS ), lasts from August 1st to January 31st, the spring or spring semester (abbr. FS ), sometimes also spring / summer semester (abbr . FSS ), from February 1st to July 31st. The lecture periods start in the autumn semester at the beginning of September and end at Christmas, in the spring semester they run from mid-February to mid-June. At the universities of the German Democratic Republic , too, studies were once structured according to spring and autumn semesters .

The University Rectors' Conference (HRK) decided in 2007 to bring the start of semesters at universities forward by the end of 2010, but could not agree on a generally accepted model.

At the Helmut Schmidt University / University of the Federal Armed Forces in Hamburg and the University of the German Armed Forces in Munich , however, studies are carried out in trimesters . This involves streamlining the teaching content. Since the officers' courses in the armed forces end in August or September, the course begins on October 1st with the autumn trimester. This is followed by the winter trimester beginning on January 1st of the following year and the spring trimester beginning on April 1st. The lecture-free period is between July 1st and September 30th. Since the soldiers are financed by the federal government, a break from studying (to finance the studies) is not provided and the soldier / student can devote himself fully to his studies.

Intermediate semester

After the First World War , the Prussian minister of education decreed that an interim semester could be read at the majority of universities in the Free State of Prussia from September 22 to December 20, 1919. The winter semester 1920 - the official name - was supposed to start on January 5th, 1920. The determination was repeated with the fall semester 1920 and the winter semester 1921.

The intermediate semesters only counted for disabled war veterans and soldiers who had returned late from captivity and who had lost a semester. Under the same condition, the regulation also applied to members of the Eastern Border Guard and volunteer organizations .

Vocational academies and high schools

At vocational academies , the semester times are usually regulated differently.

The semester in the last two years of the upper school level is also referred to as the semester. A student who wants to achieve the Abitur with the requirement of 8 or 9 years of high school must complete a total of four semesters.

Semester in Austria

At Austrian universities, the winter semester usually lasts from October 1st to October 28th / 29th. February, the summer semester from March 1 to September 30, including the lecture-free period. Lectures begin on October 1st and end on January 31st and start on March 1st and end on June 30th. The lecture-free time is often used to prepare for exams or to follow up on courses (e.g. writing seminar papers ).

In contrast to Germany, only the time between winter and summer semester is referred to as the semester break. The time between summer and winter semester is called summer vacation in Austria.

In Austria, the term semester for the half-year is common in all schools.

Semester in Switzerland

At Swiss universities, the autumn semester (HS) lasts from calendar week 38 to 51 (14 weeks of courses) and the spring semester (FS) from calendar week 8 to 22 (14 weeks of courses and one free week around Easter).


As semester every semester on the one hand referred that have been stored in a field of study, this includes semester , but not leave of absence , and for example, the term is aggregated from a bachelor degree program and an associated master. The University of Würzburg writes : "In the case of subject combinations, a uniform counting of the semesters is made for both subjects."

The semesters within a degree program are also referred to as subject semesters or to distinguish from the above definition of study semesters, whereby the semesters from a bachelor’s degree and any associated master are not combined and the master starts again with 1. The University of Applied Sciences Munich writes in the glossary: ​​"In the first semester there are students who are enrolled for the first time in the current course." And "The allocation of a student to a study semester is based on the study and examination regulations of the respective course. A student can be assigned to the same study semester several times if this is due to the course of study. The study semester results from the study group name. «(Emphasis removed in the original)


Prosemesters are not complete semesters, but rather events in the run-up to the actual semesters, usually to prepare for the semester, to learn certain techniques and skills that will be used afterwards, such as languages, mathematics, statistics, accounting guidelines / accounting etc.

Older semesters

Student cohorts (age groups) are often referred to as “semesters” (e.g. “The fifth semester mainly takes part in the event.”), Particularly jokingly the long-term, ie “older semesters”. This term is now also commonly used as a joke term for older people.

Couleurs semester

A corporate peculiarity are the couleurs semesters in student associations , which generally designate the semesters belonging to his student association. According to this, for example, an old man with one hundred and forty semesters has been a member of his student union for seventy years.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Semester  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Karl Ernst Georges: Comprehensive Latin-German concise dictionary , Hanover 81918 (reprint Darmstadt 1998), Volume 2, Sp. 2583-2584 " semestris (1) "
  2. press release. (PDF) Federal Statistical Office, 2016, accessed on March 23, 2017 .
  3. HRK press release ( Memento of the original from March 23, 2009 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. dated May 4, 2007 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. ^ Siegfried Schindelmeiser: The history of the Corps Baltia II zu Königsberg i. Pr. , Volume 2. Munich 2010
  5. Academic calendar of the Swiss universities
  6. Study regulations for the Master's in Mathematics at the University of Würzburg (PDF)
  7. For example, the examination regulations for the master's degree in mathematics (PDF) at LMU speak about the fourth semester; the (PDF) from TUM speaks of the second semester; the (PDF) from the University of Augsburg speaks of the sixth semester as the maximum number. Such numbers make no sense when counting the semesters in the bachelor’s program, since the bachelor’s degree takes different lengths and usually lasts six semesters.
  8. Glossary of Munich University of Applied Sciences (HTML website)
  9. The study regulations for the Master's Stochastic Engineering in Business and Finance (PDF) only use the term study semester