- © Lichtenscheidt/DAAD
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 340,000 international students are enrolled at German higher education institutions. A sixth of all doctoral degrees and an eleventh of all postdoctoral habilitation degrees conferred by a German university are completed by international researchers. Over 40,000 international academics work at German higher education institutions and additionally more than 18,000 international researchers visit German higher education institutions with support from German and EU funding programmes.
Higher Education Institutions
There are approx. 400 higher education institutions in Germany. This total includes:
- Approx. 110 universities (Universitäten)
- Approx. 230 universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen/Hochschulen für angewandte Wissenschaften) and
- Roughly 60 art and music colleges (Kunsthochschulen/Musikhochschulen)
Political and Public Voice of German Universities
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 roughly 230 universities of applied sciences, about 110 universities und roughly 60 art and music colleges) (2016)
675,000 staff in total, 380,000 academic staff (2014)
2.8 million students in total, 340,000 international students (12.3%) (2016)
Gross domestic expenditure on research and development (GERD) at institutions of higher education: 14.9 billion euros (2014)
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 to further enhance the international competitiveness of German higher education and research. Within the framework of the Excellence Strategy these measures will be continued on a long-term basis: from 2018 onward, the Federal Government and the German states will yearly provide 533 million euros in funding for a limited number of excellence universities or university consortia and up to 50 excellence clusters.
Universities and other higher education institutions offer a broad spectrum of research activities, including basic research and applied research and development (R&D). Approx. 100,000 of Germany’s 360,000 R&D researchers work at higher education institutions and university hospitals.
Higher education institutions spend roughly 14.9 billion euros on research and development. About half of this total – 7.3 billion euros – comes from third-party funding. The most important provider of third-party funding (2.4 billion euros) is the publicly funded German Research Foundation (DFG); the Federal Government and the German states are also important providers of third-party funding (2.1 billion euros).
The largest share of R&D expenditure, roughly 4.2 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 3.4 billion euros a year.
- Source: BMBF
Gross domestic expenditure on research and development (GERD) at institutions of higher education totals 14.9 billion euros (2014) and is borne by
- the public sector (81%),
- industry (14%) and
- international funding (5%)