July 26, 2015

German University System


A brief introduction on the subjects, exams and term structures of German universities has been outlined here.


The scenic University town of Heidelberg.

After being admitted at a university in Germany, a student has to find a way and organize the chaos in a new system and country. In Germany all the universities provide the enrolled students with access to the university’s central login system. The registration for courses, lecture documents, the class schedules, examination routines and halls, the submission of class assignments also takes place from this central system. The libraries at universities also use such internet platforms and the student can check the availability of books, renew the time on borrowed books and also ask for a book loan if the book isn’t available at the university’s library. Therefore, getting used to with these internet platforms and university webpages is a good start to organize oneself and find all the information needed.

Before registering for a course, the student can see how the course is structured and how the curriculum is designed. The study conditions describe the different subjects and lectures and also specify the weightage of the different components of the course, for e.g. homeworks can make up 20% of some courses. The availability of courses in either the summer or the winter semester and the number of credits required in each semester can also be viewed on the internet platform. Student advisors (senior students) and Academic advisors (Professors) can also be consulted before registering for a course and in organizing a timetable for a student.

In Germany one study year contains two terms called semester. There is a summer and a winter term. Each term lasts half a year and contains two parts, the lecture period and the lecture-free period. In the lecture period every lecture and class takes place at university. In the lecture-free period the end of term exams take place and it is also possible to make an internship, to work or to enjoy your holidays.

At university there are different kinds of lectures. The normal lectures are main part of the studies in most of the programs. A professor teaches the students usually using help of audio-visual content but there are also professors that are old school and they use the blackboard extensively. On the contrary, in seminars there is an exchange between the professor and his or her students and in exercises the students can apply their theoretical knowledge in practical projects.

Lectures are usually combined in a module. For example one module can contain a normal lecture and the fitting exercise. It is finished with a presentation, homework or exam. For each module the students get Credit Points or ECTS-Points. These points make it easier to compare the different study programs with education programs from other countries. In addition to the credit points the students receive grades for their exams. The grades generate the average degree at the end of a term or study program, the Credit Points show if the student has passed his or her studies or not. The ECTS are a relative measure, so the grades of the students are representative of how the student performed relative to their peers.

At German universities there are many contact persons to go to when problems or questions arise. The university provides the students with counselors that can answer questions concerning the studies and special questions concerning their own process of studying. Furthermore, there are counselors for general questions concerning the life at university and for international students they have people at the foreign office which can also help in different languages and know about the special problems of international and exchange students. If you are having problems with the exams or content questions the professors or their staff will surely help you as well.


A typical classroom in Germany.

The students also provide some counseling. For example at the student council, there is a group of students from each program and each program has its own council. The student council answers all questions concerning studies and life. Because there are many older students in it one can ask many questions concerning the process and concrete cycle of the studies and lectures. Everybody can become a member of the students council if they are interested in the university policy. And there is also the system of mentor and mentees, so if interested the university assigns senior students or alumni to guide the younger students in planning their academic and professional career.