General information on degrees, courses, and the academic system



  • The Bachelor programmes at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf (HHU) provide students with both the qualifications necessary to enter a profession and the fundamental and methodological skills to pursue an academic career. In Mathematics, in the Natural Sciences and in Business and Economics, students choose their main subject (e.g. Biology) and complete their studies with a Bachelor of Science degree (B.Sc.). In Arts and Humanities, most Bachelor programmes consist of a core subject (Kernfach) in combination with a subsidiary subject (Ergänzungsfach) and lead to a Bachelor of Arts degree (B.A.). Both B.Sc. and B.A. programmes typically take three years to complete, including the time required for writing a Bachelor thesis.
  • At HHU, there is no tuition fee for Bachelor programmes. However, students pay a so-called semester fee (“Sozialbeitrag”) which covers public transport in Düsseldorf and North Rhine-Westphalia, and fees for the Students' Union and Student Services: Semester fee at HHU.


  • HHU’s Master programmes enable students to deepen their academic knowledge in a certain subject and qualify them for both high-end professions and doctoral studies. Master programmes typically take one to two years to complete, including the time required for writing a Master thesis. The Master of Arts (M.A.) and Master of Science (M.Sc.) degrees are considered to be equivalent to the former Diploma and Magister Artium degrees which they have replaced.
  • The vast majority of HHU’s Master programmes are so-called consecutive Master programmes which means that they are based on preceding Bachelor programmes (e.g. a Master of Arts in Linguistics is based on a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics or a similar Bachelor programme). All consecutive Master programmes are free of tuition fees.
  • By contrast, non-consecutive Master programmes are not related to a specific Bachelor programme. They are often designed for people with an academic degree and first professional working experience (e.g. a Master of Business Administration). They can therefore be charged a fee.

State Examination (Dentistry, Medicine, Law, Pharmacy)

  • Courses in Dentistry, Medicine, Law and Pharmacy finish with a State Examination (Staatsexamen), which represents a state qualification rather than an academic degree. This means that the examination regulations are not determined by the university but by the state in which a university is located. In the case of HHU this is the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia. After successfully completing their studies at the HHU, students may take their first State Examination. The following training period enables students to gain practical experience and prepare for the second State Examination. Afterwards, students may start their professional career or proceed to doctoral studies. Depending on the course chosen, the overall duration of study varies between 4.5 and 5 years in Law and Pharmacy, respectively, and between 5.5 and 6.5 years in Dentistry and Medicine, respectively.

Diploma and Magister Artium (M.A.)

  • In the course of the so-called Bologna Process of the European Union, German universities have undergone a major transformation. The former Diploma (in Mathematics, the Natural Sciences, Engineering, Business, Economics and the Social Sciences) and Magister Artium (in Arts and Humanities) degrees have been replaced by Bachelor and Master Degrees and their corresponding study programmes. Although these degrees can still be found on some websites, enrolment is no longer possible.

PhD / Doctoral studies

  • Master degrees and State Examinations qualify students to undertake doctoral studies. Students can either look for a supervisor (Doktorvater or Doktormutter) themselves and conduct their research independently or apply for structured doctoral training (Graduate School, Research Training Group, international PhD programmes etc.). It normally takes between two and five years to complete a doctorate. To obtain a doctorate, students must write a research paper (Dissertation) and defend their thesis in an oral examination.
  • Heinrich Heine University is further developing its scientific profile through strategic intramural programs. These include the president’s “Fit for Excellence” initiative, the strategic funding of new research endeavors, the establishment of a Heinrich Heine University graduate academy, the financing of graduate schools in preparation for extramural support, and the development of the interdisciplinary Biomedical Research Center into a Life Sciences Research Center. Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf will both strengthen and expand its scientific interactions with other universities and research organizations.
  • The university supports science and technology transfer by having established agencies such as the Düsseldorf Innovation and Science Agency (DIWA) and the Technology Transfer Agency (TTHU): Young Scientist and schloars

  • Course modules and examinations

    • Lecture
      In lectures (Vorlesung), students are given an introductory overview of a broader topic. Usually, the lecturer speaks to a large group of students who are encouraged to take notes and ask questions. However, there is little room for discussion. To prepare for the written or oral examination, HHU often offers additional tutorials in which students can deepen their knowledge and sharpen their analytical skills (see guided tutorial).
    • Guided tutorial
      Guided tutorials accompany most lectures during the Bachelor programme. Here, groups are a lot smaller than in lectures and specific topics from the lectures can be discussed in much more detail with the help of student assistants as tutors.*
    • Seminar
      Seminars consist of a small group of people. Although the lecturer guides the class, the students actively contribute a major part. They often work in groups, preparing discussions and presentations. The seminar usually finishes with a written paper.
    • Practical course
      Practical courses are important in many study programmes, particularly in the Natural Sciences. Here students acquire important skills, such as how to conduct scientific experiments and analyze experimental data.
    • The Academic Quarter
      Classes at German universities do not always start at the time they are scheduled. If the abbreviation c.t. (cum tempore) is displayed, classes start 15 minutes later. For example, a seminar at 14 c.t. will not start until 14.15. This is also called the “academic quarter” (Akademisches Viertel). If, on the other hand, it says s.t. (sine tempore), then classes start at the time mentioned. At the HHU, most classes start s.t. (e.g. at 8:30, 10:30 and so on). They typically last for 90 minutes, leaving students and teachers 30 minutes to take a break while moving from one lecture room to another.

  • Semester system

    In Germany, the academic year consists of a winter term, starting on 1st of October, and a summer term, starting on 1st of April. Classes, however, do not cover the whole term; most of February and March as well as of August and September are used for writing papers, preparing for the next term, for internships, or sometimes even for retaking an examination.


  • Academic freedom

    With the exception of Dentistry, Medicine and Pharmacy, there is no obligatory curriculum to which students must adhere. Although all students are given an example of a reasonable schedule, they may postpone or even bring forward classes according to their preferences. However, before rearranging the schedule it is important to check if classes are offered every term or only every other term. In this way, unnecessary delays can be avoided. Academic freedom also means that students are free to visit additional classes that are not part of their own programme. Here too it is important to check in advance if credits can be transferred.

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