German University System


Here are a couple of things you should know about the German university system:

Academic time

One lesson period lasts 45 minutes. The 15 minutes short of a full hour are called „academic quarter“. This phrase means the quarter of an hour between the clock hour (e.g., 8:00) and quarter past (e.g, 8:15). In universities the clock hour is indicated as “s.t.” (sine tempore), quarter past as “c.t.” (cum tempore”. That means that if the class catalogue states 8:00 c.t. as begin of the lesson, it really starts at 8:15.

Credit Point System


The “Credit Point System” used in German universities is based on the duration of a course in one semester. The courses are measured in the unit “Semesterwochenstunden” (SWS). One SMS equals one lesson of an academic hour (45 minutes) per week for the duration of a semester. If, for example, a lecture of one hour takes place twice a week for the duration of one semester the lecture is rated two SWS. Block courses are rated equivalently according to their time and effort.

The “European Credit Transfer System (ECTS)” does not regard the duration but the amount of work of a student has to invest in a course.
A direct comparison of the two systems is not possible. However, it might be interesting for the applicant to know that a normal course takes a workload of about 30 ECTS per semester, whereas the Elite Graduate Programme in Advanced Materials and Processes takes a workload of up to 40 ECTS per semester. This equals about 30 SWS.


Each academic year is divided into two semesters. The Winter Semester (WS) runs from October 1st to March 31st, Summer Semester (SS) from April 1st to September 30th. Lecture free periods are between the middle of February and the middle of April as well as between the middle of July and the middle of October. The lecture free periods, however, are not completely free but partly filled with summer academies, courses, tutorials, practical work or exams. But there will still be enough time to work full-time or take a holiday. Additionally there are some short vacations and public holidays throughout the year. The most important one is Christmas (two weeks).