students in a lecture hall

Germany is home to approx. 400 higher education institutions which offer the entire range of academic disciplines. The German higher education system is characterised by a close link between learning, teaching and research. This principle has a long tradition and was formulated by Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835), the philosopher and founder of the Universität zu Berlin, the predecessor institution of today’s Humboldt University in Berlin.

Germany is one of the world’s most attractive research and higher education nations. Nearly 320,000 international students are enrolled at German higher education institutions. Currently, almost 26,000 international doctoral students are enrolled and over 38,000 international academics work in German higher education institutions.

Promoting top-level research

The Federal Government and the German states (Länder) have set up the Excellence Initiative that provides additional support for research activities in various disciplines at German universities. From 2006 to 2017 a total of 4.6 billion euros will be invested to promote top-level research and improve the international competitiveness of German higher education and research. The first decisions have already been taken to continue the programme for another round.

Higher education instiutions

There are approx. 400 higher education institutions in Germany. This total includes

  • 110 universities (Universitäten) and
  • over 230 universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen/Hochschulen für angewandte Wissenschaften).

The latter offer students a practice-oriented academic education with an emphasis on applied research.

Political and public voice of German higher education

The German Rectors’ Conference (Hochschulrektorenkonferenz, HRK) is the association of state and state-recognised higher education institutions in Germany. It is the political and public voice of German higher education and the forum within which higher education institutions form joint opinions. It currently has 268 member institutions at which more than 94% of all students in Germany are enrolled.

Facts and Figures

  • Approx. 400 higher education institutions
    (including more than 230 universities of applied sciences; 2015)

  • 662,000 staff in total, 370,000 academic staff (2013)
    2.7 million students in total, 320,000 international students (11.8%); (2014/15)

  • Gross Domestic Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD) at institutions of higher education: 14.3 billion euros (2013)

Research Activities

Universities and other higher education institutions offer a broad spectrum of research activities, including basic research and applied research and development (R&D).More than 97,000 of Germany’s 361,000 R&D researchers work at higher education institutions and university hospitals.

Higher education institutions spend roughly 14 billion euros on research and development. Around half of this total comes from third-party funding, which amounted to 6.9 billion euros in 2012.

The largest share of R&D expenditure, roughly 4.1 billion euros, goes to the fields of mathematics and the natural sciences; they are closely followed by medicine and health research, which have access to roughly 3.5 billion euros a year.

Research Budget

Image Research Budget

Gross domestic expenditure on research and development (GERD) at institutions of higher education totals 14.3 billion euros (2013) and is borne by

  • the public (81%),
  • industry (14%) and
  • international funding (5%).



German Rectors' Conference


Ahrstraße 39

53175 Bonn



work Phone
+49 228 887 0


Search engine for higher education institutions

Search engine for higher education institutions

The German Rectors’ Conference has compiled a database containing contact details for all German higher education institutions as well as information on the study programmes and doctoral programmes they offer and international links.The database is available in English and German. www.hochschulkompass.de Search engine for higher education institutions

Logo Research Map HRK

Research Map "Key Research Priorities"

The Research Map by the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) presents the key research priorities of German universities and universities of applied sciences. The database is available in English and German. www.hrk.de > Research Map Research Map "Key Research Priorities"

Research achievements at German universities

Research achievements at German universities

“Research achievements at German universities” is a publication that offers an overview of some of the research highlights and scientific achievements emerging from German universities, universities of applied sciences and academies of art and music. www.gate-germany.de > Research achievements at German universitites Research achievements at German universities