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Philosophy Schools and Programs in Germany

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Philosophy Studies in Germany

Are you a student of philosophy who would like to enrich your academic journey by studying abroad for a semester or academic year in a foreign country?  Have you considered the country of Germany as a potential study abroad destination?  Home to scores of high-performing colleges and universities, Germany is an ideal locale for anyone thinking about studying abroad, but it is particularly advantageous for undergraduate and graduate students of philosophy.
Germany is one of the largest and most populous countries on the European continent and the largest by population in the European Union.  The Germany of today has a distinct national character, blending old-world charm with eclectic modernity, and the country has produced some of the world’s most recognizable and intellectual minds, especially in the field of philosophy.  Anyone who is remotely familiar with the philosophy discipline has heard the names Immanuel Kant, Frederick Nietzsche, Max Weber, Karl Marx, and Albert Schweitzer, all of whom studied and made their home in the beautiful country of Germany.
Since the end of the Cold War and the reunification of the country, Germany’s major cities have become hotbeds for travel and tourism.  Cities such as Berlin—the capital and largest city in the country—Munich, and Hamburg are loaded with interesting sites and attractions to admire, including scores of museums, galleries, opera houses and historical landmarks.  The cuisine one will find when traveling throughout Germany is a mix of traditional German fare and international specialties, and the nightlife, particularly in places like Berlin and Munich, which consists of theaters, bars and several rocking nightclubs, makes the country a popular place for students and younger adults.
Philosophy Education in Germany
Although not as popular as it was several centuries ago, philosophy education is still offered by the majority of Germany’s public and private colleges and universities.  Students can study philosophy at the undergraduate, graduate and/or postgraduate levels.  The credit and degree structure at German universities was recently transformed in accordance with the Bologna Process, an educational reform measure designed to standardize the credit and degree structure at universities throughout the European Union.  The goal of these changes was to help facilitate student transfer between European Union universities, which allows students to study in different countries without having to learn a new system.
Under the new system, each full-time academic year of study is equivalent to 60 credits.  The degree system consists of bachelor (undergraduate), master’s (graduate) and doctoral degrees (postgraduate), each with specific requirements.  Below we have outlined some of those specifics with regard to each degree:
  • Bachelor degree.  The undergraduate or bachelor degree in Germany can take one of two forms:  the professional bachelor degree or the academic bachelor degree.  The professional bachelor degree, much like the name implies, is offered in a variety of vocational and professional fields (including Tourism).  The normal time to complete this degree is four years (240 ECTS), after which students are presented with a degree that allows them to pursue career opportunities in their chosen field of study.  The academic bachelor degree generally spans three years (180 ECTS) in duration.  Although students who complete the academic bachelor degree program are not presented with a formal degree, they are permitted to pursue graduate studies in the same or related field of study, which does indeed lead to a formal degree.
  • Master’s degree.  To qualify for the various graduate study programs in Germany, students must possess either a professional or academic bachelor degree.  In most fields of study, the Master’s degree program takes two additional years to complete or 120 credit hours.  In addition to the advanced level coursework involved in these programs, students are required to complete an original Master’s thesis or capstone project.
  • Doctorate degree. Exceptional students, who wish to continue their studies beyond the Master’s degree, are free to apply for admittance into one of the country’s doctoral or PhD programs.  Each university has its own entrance requirements for these programs, which generally span between 3 and 5 years in duration.  All doctoral degrees require students to develop an original thesis or dissertation and present and defend their paper before a panel of program faculty.
The undergraduate philosophy programs at German universities consist of both general educational courses and upper-division classes specific to the philosophy discipline.  Most students tend to take the bulk of their general education requirements during the first and second years of the program. These courses may include titles such as German composition, physical and natural sciences, social sciences, foreign languages and college-level mathematics.  The upper division or core courses students can expect to encounter include names like:
  • History of Philosophy I
  • Symbolic Logic
  • Ethics
  • Philosophical Analysis
  • History of Philosophy II
Students pursuing a Master’s Degree in Philosophy are required to take and pass 120 credits (two years) of graduate-level coursework and thesis work.  In terms of the thesis, students must submit a one to two-page thesis prospectus to the philosophy graduate faculty towards the end of the first year of study. Upon approval of the prospectus and in discussion with the candidate, the faculty will typically select a director and two other graduate faculty members to serve as the thesis committee. The thesis director will be the student’s primary adviser and liaison with the Graduate School and, together with the other two members of the thesis committee, will evaluate the thesis and the oral examination

Why Study Abroad in Germany

Studying in Germany can be the experience of a lifetime for philosophy students, offering them the chance to study the history and environments of some of the world’s most famous thinkers.  Germany is home to several universities that consistently rank among the world’s best in international polls and its major cities are loaded with interesting things to see and do.
The natural landscapes of Germany make it the ideal place to pursue any number of exciting recreational activities.  Every year the German Alps serve as the backdrop for skiers, snowboarders, hikers and campers, and the many beautiful lakes in Germany are perfect for fishing, boating and sailing, all while enjoying some of the most wondrous scenery the world has to offer.
Germany cities such as Berlin, Munich and Hamburg offer a bevy of historical and cultural attractions and celebrations.  Remnants of the wall that separated East Germany from West Germany during the Cold War can be seen throughout the city of Berlin, and the Brandenburg Gate still stands as a victorious reminder of the country’s reunification.  Students who happen to be in the city of Munich near the close of September will be treated to the roaring good time that is Oktoberfest, one of the world’s most renowned and best-loved festivals.  This sixteen-day celebration features parades, performances, concerts, traditional German costumes, tasty food and all the beer you can drink—which at Oktoberfest is a very common sight.
For those looking for a more quiet and scenic environment, Germany offers many sightseeing and recreational opportunities.  In the region of Bavaria, for example, students can hike through miles of pristine forestland, surrounded by some of the greenest rolling hills in the world.  Bavaria is also home to some of the country’s most historically significant castles, with guided tours offered daily.
Finally, no trip to Germany would be complete without taking a spin on the internationally-famous Autobahn.  With no general speed limit, the Autobahn allows visitors to test the speed of their respective automobiles and feel the thrill that must be experienced by auto racers around the world.