University types: The classical university
Germany’s classical universities offer a range of programs in medicine, law, humanities and natural sciences. In recent years, several universities are beginning to offer distance learning and online programs.
Universities offer a broad range of study programs instead of focusing on just one academic area. In turn, students take advantage of the methodological and theoretical information presented to specialize in a given subject. The classical spectrum of subjects includes medicine, law, the humanities, natural sciences and training for teachers. But some universities do specialize in a specific area, like technical, medical or teaching colleges.
Combining teaching and research
Scholar Wilhelm von Humboldt helped shape the notion of the university as a place of both learning and research. In addition to teaching, he believed professors should conduct research to enhance their teaching and provide a well-founded basis of knowledge for their students. Humboldt’s university model is now widely practiced, including the idea that research should be conducted independently of social or political interests – in pursuit of understanding rather than specific applications.
Since the introduction of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Europe, many degree programs include training in the field. But those who want to earn a doctorate can generally only do so at a university.
Freedom to chooseStudents in Germany have a lot of freedom in shaping their studies. They decide which courses to attend and for which professors they write their exams. Nonetheless, universities stipulate some requirements that must be fulfilled. The introduction of Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees also led to stricter organization in many programs, and students may be required to complete courses within a certain window of time.
Distance study programs
The University of Hagen is unique within Germany. In contrast to “physical universities,” Hagen’s students don’t have to go to class. Teaching materials are sent to them by email or post. Students at Hagen often do a long-distance degree alongside their jobs, possibly in order to earn a second degree.
Some other universities in Germany are also preparing online programs that will function according to the same principle. Students will only need to be present on campus at a few specific times, and everything else is handled online. Online programs will also enable students abroad to complete a German degree. The Albert Ludwigs University in Freiburg already offers an online Master’s in photovoltaics to students at partner universities.