Higher Education System
Study Organisation

Studying Successfully – But How?

Even when the suitable degree and the right study programme are found, a lot of questions concerning the organisation of your studies in Lower Saxony can remain: Which courses do I have to take? How do I put together my schedule? What is a module and how do I earn credit points?

To settle these questions we have put together some of the most important information regarding the organisation of your studies – and of course you can always ask your International Office.


Modules are academic units, which consist of thematically connected courses and lectures. To complete a module successfully, you will have to provide a specified proof of performance – e. g. give an oral presentation or sit an exam. This proof of performance is also called "module examination".

Study Regulations & Module Manual

The study regulations ("Studienordnung") will help you to put together your schedule. It tells you which modules and courses you have to take to complete your study programme, and offers you guidance regarding the sequence in which you should tackle these courses to remain within the standard period of study.

For ease of reference, you will often find a recommended study plan ("Studienverlaufsplan"). Additionally, there are usually module catalogues (or module manuals), in which the modules of a study programme and the included study courses are described in more detail.

Course Catalogue & Registration Portals

You will find all courses and lectures offered in one semester in the course catalogue ("Vorlesungsverzeichnis"). Usually, you will have to register for your courses through your university's registration portal. Do not hesitate to ask your International Office or a study buddy for help. 

Introductory Events

Most universities in Lower Saxony will offer introductory events and meetings for international students at the beginning of the semester, where they will also tell you how to put together your schedule, and how to sign up for classes. We highly recommend attending an introductory event!

Credit Points/ECTS

Credits, credit points, or ECTS points will be awarded to you for the successful completion of a course or module. They represent the amount of work that is required to pass a course. Each semester, you should earn 30 credits on average, which equates to a work input of approximately 900 hours.

All in all, you will have to earn 180 to 240 credit points for a Bachelor's degree, depending on your study programme. You will receive between six and twelve credits for your Bachelor's thesis. For a Master's degree, you will need 60 to 120 credits, from which 15 to 30 will be awarded for your Master's thesis.


At the universities in Lower Saxony, you will be given grades from 1 to 5 in most study programmes. 1 represents the best, 5 the worst grade. Often, a decimal will be given as well, to represent differences in performance more accurately (e. g. 1,3 or 3,7). 

Course Types

A lecture is a course in which a lecturer gives an overview of a particular field of study in the form of a series of talks. Students have to follow up on what they have heard by themselves. Sometimes, there will be supplementing tutorials.

A seminar is a course held by one or more instructors, to which students contribute their own work (e. g. oral presentations). Alternatively, the term "seminar" can also mean an organisational unit at a university (comparable to "department").

Practice course which accompanies a lecture or seminar, and is often led by student tutors. Tutorials are usually held in small groups. The term can also mean an introductory course provided by students.

Practical vocational training (internship, teaching practice) to gain first practical experience in a future field of work. The term "Praktikum" can also mean a type of university course in which students are taught how to perform experimental work (e. g. "Laborpraktikum" = practical laboratory course). If you have to do an internship before you can be admitted to a study programme, this is called a "pre-study internship" ("Vorpraktikum").

In working or study groups, students come together to study, to prepare for or follow up on lectures and other courses, or to study for exams. You can find established groups e. g. via notice boards, or you can set up your own group with fellow students.

A series of lectures on an overarching topic by different lecturers. Lecture series are often held publicly i. e. they can also be attended by non-university members.

In some study subjects, students can repeat the contents of a lecture under supervision of an instructor to prepare for their exams. This type of course is usually encountered in the field of law.

Course for the discussion of current scientific topics, usually for the preparation and supervision of final theses.  Sometimes, this term also means "oral exam".

Division of the Academic Year

In Germany, the academic year is usually divided into two terms: the winter semester (WS) and the summer semester (SoSe). A semester (latin for "period of six months") consists of the lecture period and a lecture-free period. Some universities use a different division, e. g. into trimesters, where the academic year consists of three instead of two parts.  

The lecture-free period is also called "semester break", but students usually have to sit exams, write term papers, or do internships in between terms. Many students also use the lecture-free period to work.  

The type of university determines the beginning of the semesters:

Usually, at universities:

  • the winter semester lasts from 1 October to 31 March
  • the summer semester lasts from 1 April to 30 September.

The universities of applied sciences usually start one month earlier than the universities, i. e.:

  • the winter semester lasts from 1 September to 28/29 February
  • the summer semester lasts from 1 March to 31 August.

Re-Registration ("Rückmeldung")

At the end of the lecture period of each semester, students have to formally express their intention to continue their studies by paying the semester contribution for the next semester. This process is called "re-registration".  If you miss the re-registration period, you will be "ex-matriculated", i. e. you will no longer be a student of the university.

Please check your university's website ahead of time for the re-registration deadlines!

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