Germany is Europe’s second most populous nation (after Russia) is largely characterised by its variety – which is perhaps not surprising for a country that has existed as a unified entity for less than 150 years, in which regional identities are still an indelible part of the national psyche.
With a storied past and strong sense of heritage, Germany’s is a culture (perhaps ‘cultures’ is more accurate) that is certainly worth experiencing. Architecture fans will be in their element, and music aficionados will well be aware that Germany was the beating heart of the classical music world. Few nations can boast as colourful a festival calendar either – Oktoberfest, Backfischfest and Rhine in Flames are amongst the highlights. And gastronomes can enjoy a diverse and unique cuisine that ranges from staples now eaten worldwide, such as wurst sausages, to less well known dishes like zwiebelkuchen (onion cake) or schupfnudel (a bit like gnocchi).
But you’ll also find yourself in one of the world’s most modern nations, famed for its technology and the industrial strength that has made it into the world’s fourth biggest economy. Its multi-ethnic football team is indicative of the tolerance of its well-educated populace. There has never been a better time, then, to consider studying in Germany.
German Higher Education
At last count, there were nearly 250,000 international students enrolled in German universities, accounting for over 10 per cent of the country’s total student population. Indeed, it is one of the most popular study destinations in the world. This is due, no doubt, to its plethora of world class universities.
There are an impressive 42 German universities in the top 500 of the 2010 QS World University Rankings, 12 of which make the top 200. These high quality institutions are made even more appealing by the low cost of tuition, which will cost you no more than €500 a semester, and, in some regions, nothing (universities are administered by regional rather than federal authorities).
Internationalization is a big priority for a lot of German universities, so as well as a warm welcome, you’ll find support groups, programs and events for international students in place. Another major consequence of this drive towards internationalization is a coming into line of the structure of German higher education with the rest of post-Bologna Declaration Europe. You’ll find bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs of the same length and of equivalent weight as you would almost anywhere else.
There are three types of German higher education institution. The first are known simply as universities. These are largely multi-disciplinary, research focussed establishments. Next, are fachhochschulen –universities of applied sciences – which are focussed on preparing students for workplaces that require specific skills and knowledge. Courses at these establishments will often feature practical elements or internships. The third category, colleges of arts, film or music, are more inclined towards creative vocations and often have special admissions requirements, such as aptitude tests.
Though a range of courses are taught in English, particularly at graduate level, the majority are conducted in German. Most universities offer intensive courses, and there are options, such as Goethe institutes and the TestDaF that allow you to arrive prepared. Socially, though, many Germans speak very good English