This article briefly reviews the German tertiary education system and illustrates how it contributes towards furthering the principles underlying the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) initiative.
The German tertiary education system is highly differentiated in structure and comprises 392 higher education institutions with a combined student population of approximately 2.4 million. These institutions are grouped into 121 universities, 215 universities of applied sciences ("Fachhochschulen") and 56 colleges of art or music. (1)
In general, universities focus on basic research with a theoretical and research orientated curriculum. The German universities are traditionally responsible for the training of the next generation of academics and are accredited to offer, among others, Bachelor's, Master's and PhD degrees.
The curricula of the universities of applied sciences, on the other hand, are more application oriented and include integrated and supervised work assignments within industry and/or other relevant institutions. The universities of applied sciences only offer Bachelor's and Master's degrees.
The colleges of art and colleges of music aim at integrating artistic teaching, practice and research and provide practical and theoretical training to the PhD level.
There are approximately 9,500 different undergraduate programmes and another 6,800 postgraduate degree programmes offered at higher education institutions throughout Germany. In addition to the two university level academic qualifications (Bachelor's and Master's degrees), there are some courses that lead to state certified exams; for example, medicine, law and the training of teachers. Finally, there are still some remaining degree programmes that lead to a "Diplom" qualification.
The diverse structure of the German university system inherently supports one of the basic principles of UNAI "... to provide the opportunity for every interested individual to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary for the pursuit of higher education".
The higher education system is also regionally differentiated. Each of the 16 Federal States (Bundeslander) has a distinctive higher education legislation. To allow mobility of students and academics within Germany, however, certain generic principles apply to the formulation of the respective education legislations. For instance, the German Federal Constitution specifically grants academic freedom in article 5, paragraph 3: "Art and science...