On standards or conventions specific to Germany's higher education system, which differs in structure and style from the systems in North America, Asia, or elsewhere in Europe.

The educational system in Germany differs in structure and style from the systems in North America, Asia, Oceania, or the rest of Europe.

The German educational system offers a wide variety of bachelor's and master's programs at universities, technical universities, universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen) and universities of art (Kunsthochschulen).

World famous institutions are for example RWTH Aachen and TU Munich, which are both part of the German Exzellenzinitiative ("Excellence Initiative").

Specific differences


Prior to the Bologna Process, the predominant degree awarded by German universities were the Magister ("Master of Arts") for humanities and Diplom (e.g., Diplom-Ingenieur, "certified engineer") for natural sciences and engineering, both after about five years of higher education including a final thesis. After Bologna, most universities have switched to a tiered Bachelor/Master system (usually 3+2 years), although some universities retain the old name Diplom for the Master degree.

The terminal degree is the Doktor (qualified by the field, e.g., Doktor rerum naturalium, "doctor of natural matters", abbreviated Dr. rer.nat., in physics). One main difference to the North American system is that this is usually a pure research degree (including only a thesis and no mandatory coursework), but the increasing number of graduate schools has lead to some postgraduate courses being expected if not required. Candidates are frequently (at least in natural and engineering sciences) employed by the university, either as teaching assistant (Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiter) or research assistants (Projektmitarbeiter, usually covered by a specific grant).


Except for law schools (and doctoral programs) a 1 to 5 scale is used:

  • 1,0-1,3 sehr gut (very good: an outstanding achievement)

  • 1,7-2,3 gut (good: an achievement which lies substantially above average requirements)

  • 2,7-3,3 befriedigend (satisfactory: an achievement which corresponds to average requirements)

  • 3,7-4,0 ausreichend (sufficient: an achievement which barely meets the requirements)

  • 4,3-5,0 nicht ausreichend / nicht bestanden (not sufficient / failed: an achievement which does not meet the requirements)

For doctoral programs, the grades are usually

  • summa cum laude (with highest distinction)

  • magna cum laude (with great distinction)

  • cum laude (with distinction)

  • rite (sufficient)

How these distinctions relate to a numerical grade (if there is one) varies wildly between universities and departments.

Relevant questions

EU Ph.D. in Germany: Calling yourself “Dr.” or “Ph.D.”

Is a German Hochschule able to offer a Ph.D.?

Ph.D. in UK/Ireland as “Dipl.-Ing.” from Germany


Wikipedia: Academic Grading in Germany

Wikipedia: Universities in Germany