When reading our German website or communicating with Ruhr West representatives, you may come across some specialist German words you may not be familiar with. Below is a list of frequently used expressions in German academia. If you feel that important terms are missing, please let us know!
The Abitur, formally known as ‘Allgemeine Hochschulreife’ (General Qualification for University Entrance), is the German school-leaving certificate generally required for admission to university. The Abitur is typically obtained from a Gymnasium (university-preparatory high school) after 12 or 13 years of schooling. International first-year students seeking direct admission to a German university need to show they have the equivalent of a German Abitur to be eligible to enrol.
Akkreditierung (accreditation) refers to the process of certifying whether universities have observed a set of minimum quality standards when designing their degree programmes. It is performed by independent accreditation agencies, which in turn have to be approved by the National Accreditation Council (Akkreditierungsrat), which works to enforce comparable quality standards. At Ruhr West, all bachelor’s and master’s programmes are accredited by AQAS (Agentur für Qualitätssicherung durch Akkreditierung von Studiengängen), with the exception of the bachelor’s programme in safety engineering, for which accreditation is in process.
Anerkennung means ‘recognition’ and is often used in the phrase ‘Anerkennung von Studienleistungen’, which refers to the question of whether or not courses you have taken at your home university, or credit points you have earned, can be recognised or transferred towards your degree at Ruhr West. Likewise, Ruhr West students going abroad have to make sure that the courses they take at a foreign university will be recognised at home. Between partner universities, this is often done through a learning agreement.
Arbeitserlaubnis is the German word for work permit, which is required by non-EU citizens seeking employment in the Germany. A work permit must be requested at the appropriate AUSLÄNDERBEHÖRDE (see below). Non-EU international students with a work permit are generally allowed to work for a maximum of 90 full days or 180 half-days per calendar year.
The local Ausländerbehörde (Aliens’ Registration Office) is responsible for issuing residence and work permits and for dealing with other legal matters relevant to foreign students and citizens. Unless you are a student from the European Union, Iceland or Liechtenstein, you need to register with the Ausländerbehörde within three months after your arrival in Germany.
BAföG (short for Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz) is a government financial aid programme for low-income students. Non-German citizens are generally not eligible for this kind of aid.
A ‘block course’ is a course divided into several blocks during the semester rather than meeting regularly each week.
The Bologna Process is an intergovernmental initiative which aims to create a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and to promote the European system of higher education worldwide. It was launched in 1999 when ministers from 29 European countries, including Germany, met in Bologna and signed a declaration establishing what was necessary to create a EHEA. The broad objectives of the Bologna Process include: removing the obstacles to student mobility across Europe, enhancing the attractiveness of European higher education worldwide, and establishing a common structure of higher education systems based on two main cycles: undergraduate and graduate. To comply with the Bologna Process, all German universities have undergone far-reaching reforms in recent years, replacing the old ‘Diplom’ and ‘Magister’ degrees with new bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
The Bürgeramt is the Residents’ Registration Office. All international students need to register with this office within the first two weeks after their arrival.
DAAD is short for Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, or German Academic Exchange Service. The DAAD is the world’s largest funding organisation for the international exchange of students and researchers. In addition to awarding grants and scholarships, the DAAD supports the internationalisation of German universities, promotes German studies and the German language abroad, assists developing countries in establishing effective universities and advises decision makers on matters of cultural, education and development policy. If you’re coming to Ruhr West as an exchange student, you may qualify for a DAAD scholarship. Please contact the International Office for more information.
Stipulated by the Bologna Process, the Diploma Supplement is a document issued to all students by European higher education institutions on the successful completion of studies. It describes the qualification they have received in a standard format that is designed to be easily understood and straightforward to compare. The reader (credential evaluator, admissions officer at another university, employer, etc.) should be able to make informed and accurate judgments about the qualification. At Ruhr West, all graduating students automatically receive a Diploma Supplement along with their diploma.
DSH is short for Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang ausländischer Studienbewerber, a common German language proficiency test. There are three grade levels: DSH-1 (fulfilment of the exam requirements with a mark above 57%), DSH-2 (fulfilment of the exam requirements with a mark above 67%) and DSH-3 (fulfilment of the exam requirements with a mark above 82%). At Ruhr West and many other German universities, level DSH-2 is required for admission (see also TestDaF).
Academic achievement in bachelor’s and master’s programmes at Ruhr West is assessed on the basis of the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). The ECTS determines the amount of work necessary to attain an academic degree. This ‘workload’ does not only include actual classroom time, but also the time needed for the preparation and revision of course materials, work placements, or preparation for exams. ECTS credit points are awarded for each module you complete successfully, and one ECTS credit point is equivalent to 25-30 hours of work. The completed work is then graded and averaged as the final grade. To finish your studies, you must obtain the total amount of credit required by your programme (180–240 ECTS points for a bachelor’s programme; 60–120 ECTS points for a Master’s programme).
Established in 1987, ERASMUS is a European Union student exchange programme that currently involves more than 4,000 higher education institutions in 31 countries. Erasmus students may study or do an internship in another European country for a period of three months to one academic year. The Erasmus programme guarantees that the period spent abroad is recognised by students' home university when they come back as long as they abide by terms previously agreed. A main benefit of Erasmus is that students do not pay tuition fees at the foreign university they attend. Moreover, students may apply for an Erasmus scholarship to help cover the additional expense of living abroad. To participate in Erasmus, you must be enrolled at a participating European university and have completed your first year of study.
Ruhr West is a university of applied science (German: Fachhochschule). The first universities of applied sciences were founded in the late 1960s and early 1970s to fill the gap between academia and the working world by offering a sound academic training designed to meet the practical aspects of professional life. Typical subjects include business and management, technology, engineering, IT, social work, education and nursing, but also design, film and photography. Studies at a university of applied sciences are structured much like those at a research university, but hands-on preparation for a concrete and specific profession or career field, e.g. through extensive for-credit work placements (called PRAXISSEMESTER at Ruhr West), plays a much greater role. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees awarded by universities of applied sciences are the same as those awarded by a research university. In fact, as a result of the BOLOGNA PROCESS, these two types of higher education institutions are becoming increasingly alike.
If the school-leaving certificate you earned in your home country is not sufficient for university admission in Germany, you will have to take an exam in Germany called a Feststellungsprüfung (FSP, qualification assessment examination). The FSP assesses your proficiency in subjects that are considered essential for your chosen degree programme. In addition, one component of the FSP is a German language test. Students may prepare for the FSP by enrolling in a STUDIENKOLLEG, or preparatory course, offered at various universities and universities of applied sciences.
International students in Germany are required to provide a Finanzierungsnachweis (proof of financial resources) in order to obtain a visa and/or residence permit. In most cases, this document must be included with your visa application. At present, you must prove you have at least €8,040 per academic year at your disposal (€670 per month).
International first-year students who wish to study in Germany need a Hochschulzugangsberechtigung (HZB), or ‘higher education entrance qualification’ – a school-leaving certificate confirming that they are qualified to begin their university studies. In Germany, the most common HZB is the ABITUR. If you went to school in an EU country, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland, and your school-leaving certificate is recognised as a university entrance qualification there, it will also be recognised in Germany. If you attended school in a different country, you can use the DAAD Online Admissions Database to find out whether your certificate will be recognised as an entrance qualification or not. If your school-leaving certificate is not sufficient for university admission in Germany, you will have to take an exam in Germany called a FESTSTELLUNGSPRÜFUNG (qualification assessment examination).
Mensa is the German expression for student dining hall. At German universities, the Mensa is the most popular place for students, professors and university staff to have lunch, which is the main meal in Germany. The Mensa offers a variety of affordable dishes each day, including vegetarian ones. At Ruhr West, Mensa dining is available on both the Mülheim and the Bottrop campus.
Bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes at Ruhr West 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 consists of six to ten hours of academic work per week.
A Latin expression meaning ‘closed number’. If a degree programme in Germany is announced as having a numerus clausus, this means that admission is restricted because there are more applicants than spots available. One might also say that admission to NC-listed programmes is competitive. By contrast, if a programme is announced as being zulassungsfrei (= no NC), you simply sign up and you’re in (provided you have a recognised university entrance qualification). Here’s an example: An NC of 2.0 indicates that an average grade of 2.0 in the university entrance qualification (Abitur) was the minimum requirement for admission to this particular programme in the previous year’s admissions cycle. Very popular programmes, therefore, tend to have high NCs, meaning you will need excellent grades to be admitted. Of the 17 bachelor’s programmes at Ruhr West, 10 currently have an NC, whereas 7 do not have admissions restrictions. Of our 5 master’s programmes, only 2 currently have an NC; the other 3 are non-restricted, or zulassungsfrei. See the programme descriptions for more information.
All bachelor’s programmes at Ruhr West include a mandatory Praxissemester, or praxis term. This means that all bachelor’s students spend one semester working as interns at a company of their choice to gain practical experience and apply what they have learned in the classroom. The internship is a for-credit part of the curriculum and counts towards the final degree.
Ruhr West does not charge tuition, but all students are required to pay what is called a Semesterbeitrag (semester fee). One part of this semester fee covers social services provided by the STUDENTENWERK. This helps finance, for example, student halls of residence, MENSA services, athletic facilities and administrative services. Another major part of the semester fee is the ‘semester ticket’ and the ‘NRW ticket’, which allow you to use public transportation in the Ruhr region and all of North-Rhine Westphalia for six months at no extra cost.
In Germany, there are 58 local Studentenwerke (student services), sometimes also called Studierendenwerk, headed by the parent organization, the Deutsches Studentenwerk (DSW) in Berlin. While German universities focus on the academic side of studying, Studentenwerke take care of the economic, social and cultural aspects by running dining halls and cafeterias, operating halls of residence, or providing counselling services. The Studentenwerk, although legally an independent organization, works very closely with universities and universities of applied sciences to ensure that students’ needs are met. To support their Studentenwerk’s activities, all students are required to pay a SEMESTERBEITRAG at the beginning of each semester.
Studienkollegs are preparatory courses offered at various German universities and universities of applied sciences, as well as some private providers. They are designed for international first-year applicants whose school-leaving certificates from their home countries do not qualify them for direct university admission in Germany. These courses, which usually take two semesters to complete, prepare students for taking the qualification assessment examination (FESTSTELLUNGSPRÜFUNG). Prospective Ruhr West students can complete their Studienkolleg programme at Studienkolleg Bochum or Studienkolleg Mettingen, as well as any other recognised Studienkolleg provider in Germany. The course itself is offered free of charge, but like regular students, preparatory course participants are required to pay semester contributions.
In Germany, the academic year is divided into two semesters: WINTER SEMESTER and summer semester. The summer semester at Ruhr West begins in March and lasts until the end of August.
The Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache (TestDaF) is a standardised language qualification accepted by all German higher education institutions, including Ruhr West. Tests are held five times a year at numerous TestDaF testing centres worldwide. The test is divided into reading comprehension, listening comprehension, written expression and oral expression components. The components can be passed at different levels. At Ruhr West, level TDN-4 is required for admission. See also DSH.
Based in Berlin, uni-assist is a non-profit credential evaluation service that was created to assist German higher education institutions with assessing foreign educational diplomas and to help international students with applying to universities in Germany. At Ruhr West, all non-EU citizens who want to pursue a full bachelor’s degree must apply through uni-assist. EU citizens and candidates for a master’s programme apply directly at Ruhr West.
Vorlesungszeit, or lecture period, refers to the part of the semester during which courses are in session.
To be eligible for admission to the bachelor’s programmes in ‘Civil Engineering’ and ‘Civil Engineering and Management’, all applicants – domestic and international – have to complete a 6-week internship (Praktikum) relevant to the field of civil engineering before beginning their studies (hence Vor-Praktikum).
In Germany, the academic year is divided into two semesters: winter semester and SUMMER SEMESTER. At Ruhr West, the winter semester begins in September and lasts until the end of February.
This is the acceptance letter you will receive from Ruhr West once you have been admitted. The Zulassungsbescheid is one of the documents that non-EU students have to present when applying for a student visa at their local German Embassy or Consulate.