Free Education in Germany
The education in Germany is free for all. The major hurdle in going to Germany is the medium of instructions. The medium of instructions in colleges and universities is German. German language courses are conducted in every German embassy in every country.
Immersing yourself in the German language may part of your goal for your term abroad, or it may not. Regardless, you'll quickly find that even if you do learn more than just a little German, you'll rarely even be given the opportunity to practice it once people realize you're a native English speaker - most especially with younger people. In the words of one American student, "I had studied German for almost 5 years, and rarely needed it."
A storied and complicated country with a complicated and storied history, Germany has all the core elements a college student needs to have a fun, interesting and invigorating experience studying abroad. Regardless of which university in which part of the country you choose to study and reside, these core elements of Germany will hold true. Let's take a brief look at them.
If you don't speak German, from a language perspective the most important thing is to get the knack for how to say written German words from a phrasebook so people will actually recognize them. Because sounds like "sch" and umlauts and the like are never used in the English language, our ears are slow to pick up the difference at first. Listen carefully for those new sounds, and you'll quickly get the hang of it.
First and Secondary Education (Primary Education System)
Compulsory education in Germany is from the age of 6 to 15 years. School children are in primary school (Grundschule) for four years in most of the federal states, apart from Berlin and Brandenburg where primary school finishes after grade 6. There are different types of secondary schools, starting with grade 5 or 7 and finishing with grade 10 or 12 with different school leaving certificates.
There are also different types of higher education institutions divided into: universities (Universitäten, Technische Hochschulen/Technische Universitäten, Pädagogische Hochschulen), and colleges of art and music (Kunsthochschulen and Musikhochschulen), and Fachhochschulen (colleges of applied sciences). All these institutions are undergoing a reorganisation since the early 1990s. With the introduction of the internationally comparable Bachelor, Master and Ph.D. programmes, the qualification of a new generation of academics and scientific study is the focus of future development.
Undergraduate studies were until recently the basic studies (Grundstudium) of a Diplom or Magister programme, generally taking four semesters (2 academic years) and finishing with an intermediate examination (Diplom-Vorprüfung, Zwischenprüfung). Students are then enabled to follow their studies in the second stage of Hauptstudium, taking another 4 semesters with the 5th being the preparatory semester for taking the final exams, the Diplomprüfung or the Magisterprüfung or State Exam (for Law and subjects for becoming a teacher).
The new graduation system of the Bachelor as an undergraduate program instead of the basic studies program has already been introduced in Germany with the aim of achieving an internationally competitive degree and studying in a condensed, shortened time of 3 years.
The advanced studies (Hauptstudium) form the second stage to the final examination, takes five semesters at least. The final exams still are the Diplom and Magister, but they are slowly replaced by the Master degree. The Magister study involves either two equally weighed major subjects or a mixture of one major and two minor subjects. According to the new graduation system, after having completed the Bachelor’s studies, a Master of Arts/Science is the successfully achieved title after two years of studying.
A Doctoral degree can only be achieved at universities. The time of doctoral studies, the Promotion, has duration of 2 to 4 years of independent scientific research, the public presentation and defence of the thesis. The Diplom/Erstes Staatsexamen/Magister Artium/Master of Arts/Science are the preconditions for taking Doctoral studies.