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-Universität zu Berlin.
Germany is one of the world’s most attractive research and higher education nations. Approx. 412,000 international students study at German higher education institutions. More than 5,600 international PhD students successfully complete their doctorates here every year, and nearly 50,000 international academics work in German higher education.
There are approx. 400 higher education institutions in Germany. This total includes:
Roughly 90 per cent of students in Germany study at public institutions. However, the private sector has been growing in recent years and now encompasses 150 privately funded universities, almost 40 of which are run by churches.
The Federal Government and the German states (Länder) set up the Excellence Initiative (2005–2017) that provided additional support for research activities in various disciplines at German universities. The 4.6 billion euros it invested has had a tangible impact: graduate schools, excellence clusters and future projects have enriched the university landscape, given research a real boost and created outstanding training facilities for young researchers. Now, this successful programme is being continued in the form of the Excellence Strategy. It is again investing in cutting-edge university research while supporting excellence clusters and excellence universities with annual funding totalling 533 million euros.
Higher education institutions offer a broad spectrum of research activities, including basic research and applied research and development (R&D). Almost 115,000 of Germany’s approx. 434,000 R&D researchers work at higher education institutions and university hospitals.
Higher education institutions spend a total of 18.4 billion euros on research and development. Almost half (8.5 billion euros) comes from third-party funding.
Third-party funding for research projects is sought from both publicly funded sponsors and private donors. The most important provider of third-party funding (2.8 billion euros) is the publicly funded Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG). The Federal Government (2.3 billion euros) and the German states (140 million euros) are also important providers of third-party funding, followed by industry with 1.5 billion euros (2018).
The largest share of R&D expenditure, roughly 3.9 billion euros, goes to the engineering sciences; they are followed by medicine and health research, which have access to approx. 1.2 billion euros a year.