Dual study programs in Germany are a great opportunity for students who are looking to integrate academic theoretical learning with practical work experiences. Dual studies (German: duale Studien) refers to a mode of studies that combines work & study or in other words: vocational training/work placements with academic training. This model originated in Germany and is internationally unique. It is popular with students because it provides them with an academic degree as well as practical experiences. Furthermore, students get paid with a fixed salary throughout their dual studies. To find out more about what dual study programs are, continue reading here.
Dual study opportunities are offered at various types of higher education institutions. What all dual studies programs have in common is that they cover technical subjects, economics, or the field of social welfare. Also, you can expect support from the institutions to find companies in which you can conduct the vocational part of the training.
This article goes more into detail and presents to you:
- the type of higher education institutions that offer dual study programs,
- an overview of the differences in the 16 states of Germany,
- if there are free dual study institutions and English-language institutions,
- how you can find a work position for the practical portion of the dual studies after you find your dual study institution.
Which types of institutions offer dual study programs?
Depending on which German state (German: Bundesland) you are considering for your dual studies, you will find that dual study programs are offered at various types of institutions. In some German states, there are designated dual studies academies. This type of institution can be considered a sub-type of university of applied sciences (UAS). In other states, dual study programs are offered at other higher education institutions, largely UAS and in some cases universities.
Universities of applied sciences
Universities of applied sciences (UAS) largely offer regular study programs in application-oriented subjects. With their focus on practical application and the integration of theory and practice they portray even in regular study programs, they are furthermore an ideal cooperation partner for dual study programs. That’s why you find dual study programs offered at many UAS, as well. In fact, UAS offer 71% of all dual study programs in Germany (see BiBb, 2019: 24).
Just like with universities of cooperative education, there are private and public UAS in Germany that offer dual study programs. In the state of Bavaria, for example, dual study programs are exclusively offered at UAS. They created an informational portal listing over 20 public UAS offering dual study opportunities. On a similar portal run by the Hessian state, 17 dual study institutions are listed, including public and private UAS.
When it comes to dual study programs in Germany, one subtype of UAS should be mentioned, as well: UAS of public administrations (German: Verwaltungsfachhochschulen). These institutions have the goal to recruit and train the necessary state personnel that takes over roles of public administration and the organization and preservation of public life.
Many courses offered at these institutions take the form of dual studies, for example for ongoing insurance specialists or job center workers. Take for example the Hochschule für Polizei und Öffentliche Verwaltung NRW in North-Rhine Westphalia. Here, students can choose from various dual study programs, for example in municipal administrative service. Note, however, that higher education institutions of public administration may have entrance restrictions depending on your citizenship. Note that there are also subjects in public administrative science offered by other universities in Germany.
Universities of cooperative education
Universities of cooperative education (German: Duale Hochschulen) are higher education institutions that are exclusively dedicated to dual study programs. Even though the German term Berufsakademie is sometimes translated to university of cooperative education, Duale Hochschule means something slightly different: It refers to the fact that these universities are equal to other German higher education institutions.
In recent years, some Berufsakademien have developed into Duale Hochschulen, which is connected to a higher focus on scientific standards, the ability to perform research at these institutions, and the ability to reward fully equal academic degrees. They are therefore a good option for students who might consider continuing their education with a master’s degree after their graduation from a dual study program.
Germany currently has three universities of this type which host 14.5% of all dual study programs The first and biggest University of Cooperative Education in Germany is the state-run Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University (German: Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg) with various locations throughout the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. There furthermore are the Duale Hochschule Gera-Eisenach and the private-run Duale Hochschule Schleswig-Holstein (see BiBb, 2019: 23-24).
Vocational academies (German: Berufsakademie)
Berufsakademien, which translates to vocational academy but is sometimes referred to as university of cooperative education in English, is a unique type of educational institution that specializes in offering dual study programs. Students at these institutions pursue training-integrated dual programs, meaning they not only graduate with an academic qualification but also official vocational training in a recognized profession. Cooperation between the vocational academies and companies is really high. Often, your academy supervisors will even talk and coordinate directly with the company as well.
Regarding the academic qualification students obtain at a Berufsakademie, there are some nitty-gritty details we need to get into. Bear with us - it’s about to get a little complicated. At other types of higher education institutions, students obtain academic degrees, for example, an academic bachelor’s degree. The qualification students obtain at a Berufsakademie is also called bachelor's, but it is not an academic degree. Instead, it is called a state-recognized degree (German: staatlicher anerkannter Abschluss), which is different from an academic degree, even though academic degrees are also accredited by the state. Confusing, right?
In practice, the consequences of this difference come into play if you are considering continuing with a master’s degree. With a state-recognized bachelor’s degree, i.e. the one you obtain at a Berufsakademie, it is up to each higher education system whether they will consider it sufficient to give you admission to a master’s program. An academic bachelor’s degree, i.e. the one you obtain at any other German higher education institution, is going to be recognized as sufficient to enter a master’s degree in Germany. Long story short: If you want to pursue a master’s degree after your dual undergraduate studies, don’t go to a Berufsakademie or inform yourself in detail about this topic.
In 2019, vocational academies hosted around 9% of all dual study programs in Germany of which the majority were in private ownership (see BiBb, 2019: 24). In each of the 16 German states (German: Bundesland), Berufsakademie might mean something slightly different or might not exist altogether.
Universities (and here we mean the specific type of higher education institution in Germany) are not very likely to offer dual study programs, but there are exceptions, too. Take for example the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Here, dual study programs are centrally coordinated through an umbrella organization called Rhineland-Palatinate University of Cooperative State University but offered at UAS as well as at universities. On their website, you will find that the JGU University Mainz, as well as Trier University, offer dual study programs. Overall, universities only host 3% of the dual study programs in Germany.
Further ReadingUniversities in Germany: a guide for international students (2020/21)
Dual study institutions in the 16 states of Germany
Thus far, you have gained an overview of different higher education institutions that offer dual study programs in Germany. We have time and again alluded to the fact that you will find different conditions of where you can start a dual study program depending on which German state you are looking at.
In the following table, we provide you with a state-by-state overview of your different options and provide you with the most important and useful links for you to gain an overview of all your options in any state:
|German state (German: Bundesland)||Total # of dual study programs||Institution for dual study opportunities|
Designated state-run dual study academies (“Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg”).Additionally: HochschulePlus platform lists all dual study offers in the state at UAS.
|Bavaria||359||Dual programs offered at regular UAS (see Bavarian platform “hochschule dual”).|
|Brandenburg||35||Dual programs offered at UAS (see this platform run by the “Agentur Duales Studium Land Brandenburg”).|
|Bremen||14||Dual programs offered at UAS (for example Hochschule Bremen City University of Applied Sciences).|
|Hamburg||44||Designated private-run dual study academy (see: Berufsakademie Hamburg).|
|Hessia||142||Dual programs offered at UAS & at designated vocational academies (get the full overview here on the portal run by “Duales Studium Hessen”).|
|Lower Saxony||96||Designated private-run dual study academies (see here) & programs offered at UAS.|
|Mecklenburg-West Pomerania||15||Dual programs offered at UAS.|
|North-Rhine Westphalia||306||Dual programs offered at UAS & universities. In this German state, Berufsakademie offers only vocational training and does not offer dual study programs.|
|Rhineland-Palatinate||84||Dual programs offered at UAS & universities, centrally organized through the platform Rhineland-Palatinate cooperative state university.|
|Saarland||18||Designated private-run dual study academy & dual programs offered by UAS, for example HTW Saar).|
|Saxony||103||Designated state-run dual study academy, Berufsakademie Sachsen University of Cooperative Education.|
|Saxony Anhalt||299||Dual study programs offered at UAS & universities (get an overview here).|
|Schleswig-Holstein||39||Designated private-run Duale Hochschule Schleswig-Holstein & dual programs offered at UAS.|
|Thuringia||49||Designated state-run Duale Hochschule Gera-Eisenach.|
Source: BiBb, 2019: 29. Note that BiBB takes the numbers according to the entries in their database. This database is likely incomplete, which is why the actual number of dual study programs in each state is likely higher.
While this table can only serve as a quick overview of the big topic of dual study options, it can be a good starting point for you to do research into dual study options in Germany. An additional platform is the association of dual study institutions in Germany, which you can find here.
How do I find free dual study universities in Germany?
When it comes to study programs without tuition fees in Germany, it is important to distinguish between public and private universities in Germany. Private universities largely finance themselves through tuition fees, and therefore, if you apply to a private university you can expect to have to pay tuition fees. Public universities are most often tuition free universities in Germany.
Therefore, if you are looking for free dual study programs it makes sense to look at one of the public, i.e. state-run, vocational academies, universities of cooperative education, or UAS. This is for example the case for courses offered at the Berufsakademie Sachsen University of Cooperative Education. Keep in mind, however, that even public universities may decide to charge fees for designated dual study programs. For courses offered at institutions in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, students from outside the EU have to pay 1,500 € per semester.
Regarding dual study programs, there is one other important thing to bear in mind: Since you also work, you will obtain a salary, and sometimes, companies even finance parts of your tuition fees. Dual study programs offered at the private-run UAS Hamburg School of Business Administration, for example, charge a monthly tuition fee. They also state, however, that companies largely take over the tuition fees for students.
In summary, it does of course make sense to look for dual programs without tuition fees. It can be a good way to control your costs and can give you the ability to accept a position even with an employer that would not cover your tuition fees. It is, however, also worth taking a look at programs that are not for free. If you find a dual program that you like but are worried about the fees, get in touch with the university or the program coordinators. They will be able to tell you how other students deal with this situation and if you are likely to find a company that will cover the tuition fees.
Are there English-language dual study universities in Germany?
Let’s deliver the bad news first: There are no exclusively English-taught dual study universities in Germany. And even if you look for English-language programs you will find that your English-language options will be scarcer than if you look for regular programs. Even if you identify an English-language study program, you will also have to confirm that you will be able to conduct the practical work portion in English, as well. Generally speaking, your chances at the German job market will be higher if you speak (at least some) German.
But here’s the good news: Like any other part of the German higher education landscape, dual studies also are being increasingly internationalized. Higher education institutions that offer dual studies increasingly present international(ized) offers and solutions. Take for example the Baden-Wuerttemberg University of Cooperative State Education. They offer study programs in English and include the possibility to spend portions of the practical phases abroad in other European countries.
On top of that, there are English-language options for dual study programs, for example, the course in Autonomous Vehicle Engineering offered by the Technische Hochschule Ingolstadt. For more examples and for more information on language requirements for dual study programs in Germany, please continue reading our article on application and admission to dual study programs in Germany. In that text, we also explain in more detail how you can find a dual study program for yourself.
Further ReadingAre there English-speaking Universities in Germany? Yes!
How can I find a work position for the practical portion of my dual studies?
There are different types of dual study programs in Germany, and they may vary in how the practical experience is integrated into your study program. In practice-integrated courses, you may work permanently for the same company, or do various internships with different companies. In training-integrated courses, you not only complete an academic study program but also official vocational training.
Depending on which type of dual study program you choose, as well as depending on each program and course in particular, when and how to apply to an employer for the practical section of dual studies can differ. Therefore, it is essential that you check on a case-by-case basis.
Usually, the institutions listed above that offer dual study programs give you information and lists of their cooperation partners, to which you can then apply. Another way would be to use some of the databases that list vacant positions with companies who cooperate in dual study programs with universities. Two examples are the databases on the pages of Wegweiser Duales Studium and of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (German: Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung).