Studying In Germany. Part 1

Due to numerous requests for information about studying in Germany, we have decided to compile some basics on this issue. First things first: It should be clear that some knowledge of German language is a prerequisite, irrespective of the course to be attended (... maybe even in English).

Most especially if you are speculating to work while studying, the language is just about everything. Very good basis can be obtained from the Goethe Institute, Nairobi. Please forget about those shady colleges. The Goethe certificates are officially accepted by the embassy and schools in Germany in general.

There are two types of universities in Germany:
1.the normal university as we know in kenya (Universität - UNI)
2.the universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschule - FH)... they are similar to polytechnics. The big difference is, graduates of a normal university can go for PhD, those of FH may not. This may only be possible under special conditions stipulated by the respective university. A normal study time in an FH takes a shorter time. (one semester less, i.e. 8 semesters).
Upto now, Germany as had a unique education system (article follows). Most especially, upto three years ago, there were no Bachelor's or Master's degrees as we know from the British/american systems: instead there was only one degree called the „Diplom“ for sciences and business, "Magister Artium - MA" for humanities. Medicine and law have different names.

„Diplom“ and "MA" could be achieved after 5yrs and is equivalent to a Master's degree. Basically, there was no Bachelor's degree, instead one had to pass a mid-studies exam (after 4 semesters) called the „Vordiplom“ for sciences and "1. Staatsexamen" (= first state exam) for various subjects like law. Irrespective of the grade reached in this exam, one could go on to the final stage of the „Diplom“ or "2. Staatsexamen". The first exam is not a degree as such and therefore the second one is the only recognized.

Now things have changed: In line with the European Union rules, Germany has started phasing out the „Diplom“ and started introducing the BA, BSc, MA and MSc. (maybe to reach create some standard in the EU). So for anyone who begins studying in Germany, probably things will be under the new system.

Secondly, it must be mentioned at this point that upto 2005, there was no tuition fees as we know in Kenya. The have now been introduced in most of the federal states: An amount between 500 and 1000 Euro per semester (50,000 to 100,000Kshs). It is expected that the rest of the states will follow suit.

Thirdly, KCSE is not accepted as an ultimate certificate for admission to studies in Germany (blame Moi's government for introducing the 8.4.4. system). You will need to take an Assessment Test („Feststellungsprü fung“). To prepare for this exam, you must attend a preparatory college („Studienkolleg“ ).

These colleges are spread countrywide, but some states are beginning to close them down from 2008 e.g. the state of North Rhine Westfalia (NRW). It is widely believed that the state is trying to cut the costs caused by such colleges and decrease the number of foreign students in the universities.

These preparatory colleges take a maximum of two years (but are normally one year courses). They are designed for those who want to study beginning from undergraduate. Postgraduates don't have to go through them, but depending on the university there could be other conditions. To be admitted to a preparatory college, you have to prove your German language proficiency (Goethe Institute Intermediate Level 1 - „Mittelstufe 1“ or „B1“). To be admitted you have to pass the language proficiency test called „Aufnahmeprüfung“ (More on this in the next article). The Studienkolleg does not offer German language courses for beginners.

Once again the road to a German university lecture hall:
language course > language proficiency test > preparatory college > assessment test > university!

Part 2: The proficiency test
Part 3: The preparatory college
Part 4: How to apply/ visa application
Part 5: The German immigration act
Part 6: Special remarks on studies (jobs, life, housing...)