University vs. University of Applied Sciences – These are the Differences in Germany

Are you interested in studying in Germany and wondering whether you should study at a university or a university of applied sciences? What is the difference? In our blog post, we shed some light on the subject.

Teaching situation

Universities – Focus on Scientific Methods and Theories

There are two main types of higher education institutions in Germany: universities and universities of applied sciences (also known as Fachhochschulen, or FHs for short). Universities often focus on basic research and usually offer a wider range of courses and research opportunities. Universities are known for their excellence in research and often offer more theoretical and academic courses that focus on a variety of disciplines such as natural sciences, social sciences, humanities and medicine. However, there is now an increasing overlap with universities of applied sciences in the range of courses offered. Overall, universities are placing more emphasis on teaching scientific methods and theories.

Universities of Applied Sciences – Focus on the Application of Knowledge

Universities of applied sciences - as the name suggests - concentrate primarily on the practical application of knowledge. They tend to focus on practice-oriented programs in areas such as engineering, business, social sciences, and technology. They often have close links with companies and industries in their region (for example, learn more about the industrial location of Bremen). Students are educated in such a way that they are optimally prepared for professional life. Research is also a mandatory task at universities of applied sciences, but is often less pronounced than at universities. In addition, student groups at universities of applied sciences are usually much smaller than at universities, which creates a more familiar environment and allows for more personal attention from teachers.


You can earn a Bachelor's or Master's degree at both universities and universities of applied sciences. The exception is a doctorate, which usually requires attendance at a university. The degrees at a glance:

Bachelor's degree

A bachelor's degree is an undergraduate degree awarded after three to four years of study. It qualifies you for a first job and is often the basis for a Master's degree.

Master's degree

A Master's degree is an advanced degree awarded after one to two years of study. It builds on a Bachelor's degree and can lead to specialization in a particular field. Learn more about the Master's and MBA programs at IGC.


A doctorate is the highest academic degree you can earn, usually only at a university. It takes approximately three to five years and requires independent scholarly work leading to a dissertation.

Admission Requirements

To be admitted to a German university or university of applied sciences, you must have the required higher education entrance qualification (Hochschulzugangsberechtigung), i.e. you must prove that you are qualified and formally entitled to study on the basis of your previous school education (Abitur, Fachabitur, for foreign students a comparable qualification in their home country) or professional qualification (Fachhochschulreife).

With the general higher education entrance qualification (Abitur), you can theoretically study any subject at all universities and universities of applied sciences in Germany. The general entrance qualification for universities of applied sciences (Fachabitur) gives you access to any course of study at a university of applied sciences as well as to certain courses of study in a specific subject area at universities.

In addition, it is also possible to study specialized subjects at universities and universities of applied sciences with vocational education and work experience. This must be subject-specific, which means that the course of study must match the vocational education. Please note that there may be further, specific regulations in the individual federal states of Germany that allow you to study on the basis of your vocational qualification. It is therefore best to check the admission requirements directly with the university or university of applied sciences.