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I am really confused by the difference between Hochschule (university of applied sciences) and (Technische) Universität ((technical) university) in Germany, especially with respect to the master’s degree.

What is the main difference and features?

Can a master graduate from Hochschule have a chance to do PhD like a graduate from a university in Europe, US, Canada or Australia?

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5 Answers 5

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First we should get the words right. In Germany, a Hochschule is the general name for higher education. A University and a University of Applied Science are both a Hochschule. It is the generalization.

A Fachhochschule on the other hand is just the University of Applied Science.

When it comes to Germany, a graduate from a "Fachhochschule" is allowed to write his or her PhD at a normal university. However, some universities may have some reservations and force you to "prove" your scientific skills, or to attend additional classes.

From the legal point of view, an M.Sc. from the Fachhochschule is equal to the one of the University. However, the Fachhochschule often awards the Master of Engineering, instead of the Master of Science from the University. (While the M.Eng still allows you to write the PHD)

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  • Do both Fachhochschule and University have the same entry requirements? In the Netherlands, the university demands a Gymnasium degree and the Dutch Fachhochschule equivalent also allows a lower high school tier to enter. So I was wondering if this is the same for Germany? Is the secondary education needed (high school level) also lower for Fachhochschule compared to University?
    – strateeg32
    Dec 26, 2022 at 19:28
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The term "University of applied sciences" is an attempt at translating the name "Fachhochschule" for the international audience. The issue with this wording is that they are not universities.

They give vocational degrees geared at preparing students to enter the workforce directly. These degrees are typically valued in industry and government or healthcare settings, not so much in academic ones. Note that the Bachelor/Masters system has been (somewhat awkwardly) patched over the previous education system in German-speaking countries. A Bachelor from a Fachhochschule typically cannot get you admitted in a Masters at a Technical university.

What complicates the issue is that some institutions with the word "Hochschule" in their names have university accreditation. These and technical universities offer more fundamental learning, an education more suitable to pursue academic careers.

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  • but how can someone who has a MSc from Fachhochschule can get to PhD?
    – Yaakov
    Feb 10, 2022 at 13:08
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    @Yaakov If youare in Germany, see my answer here. If you are in a different country (e.g. Austria), then I don't know.
    – Dirk
    Feb 10, 2022 at 14:22
  • YES I AM IN AUSTRIA. I have 4 friends who are doing their PhD nows with Msc from FH.
    – Yaakov
    Feb 10, 2022 at 16:54
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Both the answers by Cape Code and user6522399 are spot on. Two other things are:

One additional difference, albeit not related to Master studies but important nontheless: A Fachhochschule usually does not award PhD degrees. It used to be like this throughout Germany, but things changed very recently. So if you get an MSc (or MEng) from a Fachhochschule you will have to change places in most cases.

A bit more related to Master studies: Fachhochschulen do not have the mission to train the students for research - as Cape Code said, they train students to get jobs in companies. Their training is often much more hands on and not focusing on fundamental issues that much. That said, I know at least one Master student from a Fachhochschule who wrote good PhD thesis at a university later…

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  • "So if you get an MSc (or MEng) from a Fachhochschule you will have to change places in most cases." Not sure if it's most cases - I know quite a few "external PhD students", who are employed at a Fachhochschule or some associated institute, and also have a university supervisor who acts as the official supervisor for the PhD thesis. Oct 8, 2017 at 14:49
  • @lighthousekeeper Yes, this is getting more and more common.
    – Dirk
    Oct 8, 2017 at 16:40
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    "Fachhochschulen do not have the mission to train the students for research - as Cape Code said, they train students to get jobs in companies." At least in Austria that's not the case.
    – user64845
    Oct 8, 2017 at 17:35
  • @user64845 I have studied in FH in Austria and I have spoken with a manager in Electronics engineering, in Austria too, and he told me that FH is not a University!!! I am bit shocked and I am thinking to wrote the Minister of Higher Education in Austria to get a proper infos.
    – Yaakov
    Feb 10, 2022 at 13:15
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    Well, Austria is not Germany. I do not know about the status of Fachhochschulen in Austria but I would not be surprised if the situation is different from Germany.
    – Dirk
    Feb 10, 2022 at 14:22
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I did my bachelor of art in a FH. I was confused about it too. Some of the answers are correct here, but some are not. So few things to clarify:

  1. It all depends on your curriculum and degree in the end. I got B.A. with 27 ECT in empirical research and I got several admission from M.A. programs from good research universities, none of them ask me to do additional courses after they see my transcript and module handbooks. This is when it gets confusing, yes, FH is generally there to train for jobs, but there are some FHs that offer highly research-oriented courses (who knows why.. but I choose one because I like the major). With the degrees from these courses, you won’t have problems with getting admissions to research universities, it all depends on your GPA. Most of the research M.A. requires more than 12 ECT in empirical research and I got 27 ECT, so there is no reason for them to reject me just because of a title.
  2. This is, however, not the case for the Netherlands. They have a relatively strict legal distinction, so most of the HBO students have to do pre-master if they enter research universities due to their lack of ECT in research methods.
  3. At the master level though, if you aim for research, go with research university instead of FH. The FH bachelor to Uni master transition can be easy if your curriculum still focuses on research. But the majority of the FH masters will not prepare you for an academic career.
  4. FH does not offer Ph.D. degrees usually, but sometimes in collaborations with some universities, people complete parts of their PhDs in an FH, because there are FHs that have really good reputations in certain majors and have collaborations with universities.

Few things to add: If you have chance or not, it depends on your curriculum (if you have learned and practiced research methods needed...) and degree (as long as you have M.S. or M.A.). (Also, connection with the professors, funding availabilities, etc...) Legally there is no problem, but of course, it depends on the skills you have acquired during your studies. If you get into only FH Masters, it’s not the end of the world. In Germany, you can take additional courses or be guest students at other research universities in your region too. (I think you need to pay in certain areas, but in some regions, this is possible and completely free) Just try to get good grades in those additional courses in research universities to prove yourself, it will count.

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  • Thanks for your answer. but how can someone do additional courses at TU?
    – Yaakov
    Feb 10, 2022 at 13:20
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Since you have asked this question five years ago, things have changed and more people from Fachhochschulen are doing PhDs (although you still have to have a supervisor from a proper university). I know many people who do a joint PhD, where they stay at the Fachhochschule and do their research there (most of the time applied research), but are enrolled as a PhD student at a proper University. The main issue is that many of the disciplines that one can study at a Fachhochschule differ from the disciplines that are taught at proper universities, so finding a supervisor can be challenging, as their specialty might be quite far from the aspiring PhD students area of study. Thus, it is quite common that the PhD candidate from the Fachhochschule needs to take several additional courses. In general, if you have really good grades and are determined to do your PhD, is is perfectly possible to do it even with a Fachhochschul-Master, albeit it will probably take a bit more effort than for those coming from a proper university.

There are efforts to give even (select) Fachhochschulen the so called "Promotionsrecht", allowing professors from Fachhochschulen to supervise the PhD candidates on their own, without aonther professor from a proper university necessary.

One thing to add is, that since some years, professors at Fachhochschulen are requiered to have a PhD themselves (that was not the case until a few years back). Because of this, some Fachhochschulen have difficulties in finding appropriate candidates (as people with the right, applied skills often don't have a PhD) and often professor posts are vacant as a result. So as a Fachhochschul-PhD holder, it might be easier to attain a professorship as they are in high demand.

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