Idea in short

In Germany, the types of academic institutions are clear demarcated in their scope. Schools of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen) are practise oriented and tailored to the economy. The universities, however, are more research-oriented. We compare both forms of higher education in Germany and present their similarities and differences.

University Vs. Fachhochschule – the Alignment

As a result of the Bologna reformGerman universities are increasingly adopting more practicals into their curriculum. Likewise,Schools of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen) are increasing their research output, especially in cooperation with companies. However, the universities still receive much more research funding and the theoretical training is a high priority.

The fact that Fachhochschulen attach great importance to a practical study is already evident from the teaching staff. Fachhochschulen expect their lecturers to have worked for at least 5 years in the industry, of which 3 years should have been outside the university. Such a requirement does not exist at universities. There, doctoral students can enter the apprenticeship directly after completion of the doctorate.

Furthermore, compulsory practical examinations at Fachhochschulen are the rule rather than the exception at universities. Even if the borders are blurred by the Bachelor / Master reform, it can be said that universities still have a strong research focus and that Fachhochschulen are designed for a practice-oriented study.

Learning Culture

Approximately 67% of the students in Germany study at a University. Universities are usually the larger educational institutions with more courses and a higher number of students. The learning culture reflects this diversity. If you study a popular subject, for example, business administration, at a university, you sit with several hundred fellow students in a huge lecture hall. Fachhochschulen are more likely to use seminar-style lectures with smaller groups, some of which are less than 20 people. As a result, support at Fachhochschulen is often more personal and the relationship with lecturers and administration is closer.


Universities can offer a more versatile course offer, which leaves the students with many choices. Also the offer outside the lectures is often larger and more varied at universities. In some large both universities and a schools of applied sciences exist. In such cases, the Fachhochschulen and universities co-operate, so students from both types of institutions can use the facilities these institutions offer.

Possibility of change

Through the abolition of the diploma courses and the introduction of the Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, graduates with a Bachelor’s degree can pursue a Masters degree at a university and vice versa. However, the academic institutions often check beforehand whether the students have the necessary knowledge for the respective Master’s degree course or not. Sometimes, the students have to take additional courses before the final admission decision is made. However, the right to allow a candidate to pursue doctoratal studies rests with the universities. However, Fachhochschulen offer partially cooperative doctoral procedures in cooperation with universities, so that a complete FH degree does not necessarily mean that a doctorate is impossible.


Whoever thinks that university graduates are rather the first choice for business and FH graduates are second choice, is deceiving. In particular, FH graduates have been on the popularity scale for companies for years, as they have a more practical training and are often more likely to have work-related placements than the fellow students at the university. The rumor that university graduates earn much more than FH graduates is hardly true. The differences were visible in the former diploma courses, but the bachelor / master reform also provided for an approximation here. The differences in the entrance salaries of the respective graduates are hardly worth mentioning. In the future, it will be more important to have a master’s degree or not.


Previously, the assumption was that FH graduates did not have the stuff for the university and therefore had to go through the Fachhochschule. However, the way of thinking has changed. There are still the well-known universities, which have a very prestigious reputation. Likewise, many Schools of Applied Sciences have developed an excellent standing in various disciplines.