Research thrives on diversity, and Bavaria is home to a wide range of research institutions. Find out about our excellent research universities and universities of applied sciences, as well as the organizational structures that are common at Bavarian universities.
Universities in Bavaria promote academic and scientific advancement across a range of disciplines. Whether they are research universities, or universities of applied sciences, all Bavarian institutions foster collaboration and innovation in distinct ways. Most importantly, they are all committed to education and research.
Research universities conduct research in a wide range of academic disciplines. Depending on the specific institution, certain disciplines might be more prominent than others.
Traditional Research Universities
These universities conduct basic as well as applied research across disciplines, including the humanities, law, science, engineering, and medicine. The importance of basic research and its integration into teaching and learning is the defining characteristic of Bavarian research universities. However, the approach to research and teaching at a research university includes both theoretical and applied methods.
This concept is known as the Humboldtian model and dates back to the 19th century. Encouraging academic freedom and a strong connection between education and scientific discovery, it became a prominent academic principle worldwide. To this day, it is a core principle of Bavarian universities.
Technical universities traditionally specialize in research in the fields of engineering, technology, and applied and natural sciences. They typically provide state-of-the-art research facilities and emphasize innovation. Bavaria currently has one technical university, the Technical University of Munich (TUM), but another is planned to open in Nuremberg within the next few years.
Increasingly, scholars are recognizing that technology is not just a product of scientific research but is embedded in society. As a result, the research networks at technical universities worldwide are expanding to include many other disciplines. TUM, for instance, is developing its technology-related research in the humanities and social sciences. This crossover holds true for traditional research universities as well: Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg is a research university with a strong focus on engineering and science.
Universities of applied sciences (UAS), or Hochschulen für angewandte Wissenschaften, focus on the practical side of research and education. They offer traditional research fields such as engineering, business, and social work. Universities of applied sciences are usually smaller than research universities and place greater emphasis on teaching and applied research.
Bavaria currently has 17 public universities of applied sciences. Many of these have a strong focus on applied technology and innovation and thus carry the added distinction of being a Technische Hochschule (technical university of applied sciences).
It is important to know that universities of applied sciences are not able to award doctorates. This is why many of them cooperate with research universities to offer doctoral positions. The UAS do not follow a chair-based structure. To be eligible for the position of a professor at a UAS, you must have a doctorate and several years of work experience outside of the university.
Bavarian universities have their own particular organizational structures, some of which may be unfamiliar to international researchers. To help you navigate your way around Bavarian universities, here are some of the structures you might encounter when starting your research career in Bavaria.
Across universities, the names for divisions can vary considerably. Bavarian universities are generally divided into Fakultäten, often translated as “faculties,” “departments.” These are the principle administrative divisions responsible for research and teaching within a given discipline.
Important decisions are carried out at faculty level. Faculties set the examination regulations and curricula for bachelor’s and master’s degree programs according to the general regulations established by the university. The faculties also award doctoral degrees.
With new structures like “schools” or “activity fields”, some universities promote interdisciplinary collaborations and create synergies between disciplines.
Often translated as “chair,” a Lehrstuhl is a kind of subdepartment at a university. Usually, a single professor leads the Lehrstuhl, which consists of professors, research assistants, doctoral candidates, student aids, and administrative staff.
If you are applying for a PhD position or a postdoc position, you might need to apply directly to a professor in a chair, rather than the institute or department. Contact the Lehrstuhl secretary for general information about the application process or other administrative matters.
If you are pursuing a university career with the goal of becoming a professor, you will be interested in gaining experience both as a researcher and as a teacher. Postdoc and PhD positions at universities, unless they are financed through third-party funds, have a teaching component. The teaching load will depend on your specific position. And don’t worry if German isn’t one of your languages: with a growing number of degrees offered in English, there’s a possibility you will be able to teach your course in English.
Support for developing teaching skills
Universities increasingly offer teaching-methods workshops and other pedagogical training opportunities. They are a great way to develop your teaching skills and demonstrate your commitment to education. Check with your chair or faculty to find out about possible support.
Job postings will often mention how much teaching is expected for a given position (for some positions, there is no teaching requirement at all). Most German universities calculate teaching load by the number of contact hours per week (Semesterwochenstunden, SWS). If you see a position advertising “4 SWS,” that means you might teach, for example, two courses that run for two teaching hours each week.
Average Weekly Teaching Load
- Postdocs and PhD candidates: 5 SWS (If teaching is not a requirement of your position but you would like to gain teaching experience, you might be able to arrange this directly with your supervisor.)
- Junior professors: between 5 and 7 SWS
- W2 and W3 professors: 9 SWS
Universities of Applied Sciences:
- Professors: 18 SWS
New governmental initiatives aim to reduce the teaching load for professors giving them more time to develop their research. For more details, please contact the university of your choice.