Higher Education System
Types of Universities

Types of Universities in Lower Saxony

Most higher education institutions in Lower Saxony are public universities, i. e they are mostly state-owned and funded by the federal government.  Some public universities in Lower Saxony are foundations under public law. In addition, there are also private universities and universities that are funded and administered by the church. The church universities are sponsored by the Protestant or the Catholic Church. Private universities are funded mainly through the tuition fees they charge.

In German, the term "Hochschule" encompasses all types of universities. Therefore, every "Universität" is a "Hochschule", but not all "Hochschulen" are "Universitäten". In other words, in German there is a terminological difference between "Universität" on the one hand and e. g. "Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften" (= "University of Applied Sciences") on the other.


The universities are responsible for the education of junior scientists and artists. Therefore they have the right to award doctorates. The studies at a university focus on teaching the theoretical basics, and students can often choose from a wide range of subjects. There is also a close connection between teaching and research.

When it comes to research, the universities are responsible for the fundamental scientific research. Some universities centre around a specific subject or field of study, such as Medicine or technical-scientific subjects (Technical Universities).

Certain professional groups, such as medical doctors, teachers or judges, are trained exclusively at universities.

Art and music academies are higher education institutions with the same legal status as universities. They train young artists and teach the skills for artistic work in visual arts, performing arts, and music. Additionally, they are responsible for the teacher training in the respective subjects.

Universities of applied sciences are characteristically practice- and application-oriented.  Professors at universities of applied sciences must have several years of practical experience in their field.

They offer a wide range of study subjects especially in the fields of engineering, business studies or social areas. For their research, application-orientation plays a major role as well.

Studying at a university of applied sciences often includes practical phases, which can consist of internships of several weeks or a whole semester, in which students work in companies or institutions. This way, the studies' practical applicability is enforced. Many universities of applied sciences also offer dual study courses, which combine academic studies and vocational training or work.

A private university is a privately-owned higher education institution, which needs to be state-approved in order to award degrees. Private universities are comparably small education facilities, often with a focus on business-related education. In contrast to state universities, private universities charge tuition fees, which students have to pay monthly or quarterly.

Most private universities are universities of applied sciences, for which academic research plays only a minor role.

Only private universities with a state recognition are allowed to offer final examinations and to award degrees. All private universities listed at www.studying-in-niedersachsen.de are recognised by the state.

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