Organising your studies
Studying at a university is very different from going to school – perhaps even more so in Germany than in other countries. While secondary school pupils are provided with a fixed timetable, university students have more freedom in planning their studies. They can often choose between many different courses that interest them.
The freedom to organise your studies requires a certain amount of independence and initiative. This doesn’t mean, however, that you have to make every decision yourself. Take advantage of the advising services at your university. There are orientation events for new students at the beginning of every semester. These events are offered by AStA and the departmental committees and provide information about the university, its facilities and the structure of your degree programme.
F as in Formblätter (forms)
There is a form for practically everything at German universities – from student election registration forms to application forms for intermediate exams. The advantage is that once they’re filled out, your legal rights are protected. If you have problems understanding a form, ask for help and advice on what you should pay attention to when filling it out. Click here to see the whole study ABC.
In addition, the International Office usually organises an extra orientation event for new international students. The event offers helpful advice concerning how to plan your studies. The invitation to the event is usually included along with your notification of admission.
Introduction: The most important institutions at university
Max introduces you to the institutions called departmental committees, "Asta", International Office and Studentenwerk with the help of this video.
What kind of courses are there?
There are several kinds of courses you can take at German universities. Their importance depends on your degree programme and the type of university you attend.The most important forms of instruction are lectures, seminars/courses, tutorials/practical sessions, revision courses and colloquiums.
How are degree programmes structured?
The study regulations at your university stipulate the structure of its degree programmes. They specify the content of the programme and what students are required to do to receive a degree. Therefore, obtain the study regulations concerning the degree programme you have chosen. The study regulations are usually posted on the website of your department or institute.
Bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes are divided into modules. Modules are academic units comprised of thematically related courses – e.g. lectures, seminars and practical sessions. A module can take a maximum of two semesters to complete and consist of six to ten hours of academic work per week.
Credit points are awarded for each module that you successfully complete. In order to finish your studies, you must obtain the total amount of credit required by your programme. Depending on the study regulations, students require 180 to 240 credit points for a bachelor’s degree. Sixty to 120 credit points are required for a master’s degree.
What kind of examinations are there?
You can collect credit points by regularly attending lectures or sessions. However, courses often conclude with an examination. There are several types of examinations, for example:
- Written examinations
- Short presentations on a particular subject
- Seminar papers on a particular subject
How do I draw up a course timetable?
The study regulations for your degree programme provide a general overview of the material covered in your programme and the modules you have to complete. However, it does not offer a specific course timetable, as each module is comprised of courses of varying thematic focus from which you can choose.
To draw up a course timetable, you will need a course prospectus (Vorlesungsverzeichnis). For each subject there is also an annotated course programme (KVV) which is usually posted on the institute’s website. The KVV provides detailed descriptions of all the courses offered during the upcoming semester. Often these descriptions are supplemented by a list of relevant literature to help you prepare for the course.
Sudden changes regarding courses are usually posted on the institute’s Schwarzes Brett or website.
Usually you are required to register for the seminars and lectures which you select for your module. Most institutes allow students to register for their courses online.
Some subjects are extremely popular, and as a result, the size of the courses is restricted. Therefore, if you would really like to attend a particular seminar, be sure to register well in advance.
Have you now drawn up a timetable? Have you registered for your courses? If so, then you’re ready to start studying in Germany.
You can find detailed information on this topic on the website of the DAAD.