University Glossary


A small language guide for the journey of discovery at the university



AStA = General Students' Committee
The respresentatives of all students at a university elected by the student parliament. AStA is also there for pupils, when special questions about starting studies arise. It offers e.g. housing advice, BAföG advising, and advising to prospective students who are chronically ill or disabled. You can get to know the student representatives on the AStA website .

Audimax = Auditorium maximum
The biggest lecture hall at a university. You can find the Audimax at RWTH Aachen on the corner of the Wüllnerstraße and Turmstraße. Since over 1200 students can be seated in the Audimax, the rector traditionally greets first-year students in this lecture hall.

Not only students go to lectures. If one is interested in a particular subject, one can also be admitted as an auditor. However, you can attend a lecture as a pupil without registration. There is even an individual program at RWTH Aachen for Lecture Visits for Pupils.



An initial career qualifying university degree. You can begin Bachelor studies immediately after the Abitur (or another university entrance qualification). You can first persue a Master course of study after you have acquired this first university degree.

BAföG = Federal Training Assistance Act
One uses the slang term "BAföG" for the financial assistance you can receive for you studies. This assistance is fifty percent an interest free loan. You can get initial information on the website for the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (de). If you wish to apply for this funding for the start of your studies, please contact Aachen Student Services (de).

Bridge Course
Prospective students can review and expand their subject knowledge in bridge courses before studies begin. Online bridge courses can be completed at any time. The courses requiring attendance take place during the summer holidays. Bridge courses at RWTH are free of charge and voluntary.



A cafeteria provides food to university students and staff. There are various cafeterias in Aachen, in which one can get something to eat for a reasonable price.

The entire grounds of a university. In some university towns, the campus is very compact. In others, it has slowly developed and is distributed over the entire city. RWTH Aachen is a "grown" university and has different campus areas, that are easily reachable with regional public transportation.

The chancellor governs a university's administration. It is also the supervisor for all non-academic staff.

Credit Points
Sometimes also abbreviated as "CP" or marked as "ECTS points". Credit points are university credits, that show how much effort you put into a particular module during your studies. This does not just include your presence in at the university, but also the time that you will need for preparations and work after class on your own.

In contrast to a lecture, a colloquium is a type of class, in which all participants are equal and discuss a certain topic with one another.



Each faculty elects a professor, who represents the faculty for a particular period of time. He or she works closely with the other elected vice-deans, and together form the "Dean's Office" of a subject area.

Department, Division
Research units come together within many faculties to form so called departments or divisions.

A university degree, that is only rarely still offered in Germany. It was replaced by the "Bachelor" and "Master" degrees through the switch to the new university degree structure. The Master degree corresponds to the Diplom.

Doctoral Studies
When one completes doctoral studies, one acquires a doctorate and can place "Dr." in front of his name. One can only complete doctoral studies at a university, not a university of applied sciences.



"European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System" ensures that academic achievements are measurable and recognizeable within the European higher education system. The work and effor for particulr academic unit is measured in so called " (credits points).

One does not just take excursions in the school but also during university studies. Students in biology investigate, for example, relationships outdoors. They take samples and photos, and measure.



Faculties are subdivisional units of a university and are responsible for research and teaching in certain areas of academia and research. There are nine faculties at RWTH Aachen. The Faculty of Medicine is called Faculty 10 for historical reasons. There actually used to be ten faculties in Aachen. One of them - Faculty 9 - was closed.



Students during a lecture in a lecture hall Martin Lux


Students, who work at one of the universities' institutions during their studies, are called "Hiwis" (Hilfswissenschaftler) for short. HiWi jobs are good opportunity to gather important research and practical experiences and simultaneously enhance one's personal budget.

The "Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung" (formerly ZVS), which conducts the admissions process for certain courses of study. You can always find current details under hochschulstart.



Female student submits a form Martin Lux

In some courses of study, it is required - however it is highly recommended for prospective students! Internships provide a look past the academic side of things and provide valuable glances at professional life. In some courses of study, a so called "pre-internship" is required before studies begin.



Kommilitonin, Kommilitone
Students call each other "Kommilitonin" or "Kommilitone" - similar to how you called each other "MItschülerin" or "Mitschüler" in school.



A class, in which a lecturer teaches the material. Students listend and note the most important information. You can compare this to teacher-centered training or Frontalunterricht from school. A lot of material can be taught within a lecture hour, which is later worked on in tutorials or on your own.

Lecture Hall
What a classroom is to a school, a lecture hall is to a university. It can often hold hundreds of students and is built for lessons taught in a lecture format.

Lecture Series
A lecture series is a series of events that regularlly take place, sometimes over the course of mulptiple semesters. Usually a topic is highlighted from various perspectives. Different lecturers are in charge of the individual events, often coming from different disciplines or even from outside of the university. In contract to a regular lecture, the events do not build on one another. For this reason, lecture series often offer participants, who are not well-versed on the subject, an opportunity to get an overview of the respective topic.



One can first pursue a Master course of study after having successfully already studies (for example in a Bachelor course of study).



Numerus Clausus
Many courses of study have a "numerus clausus"(NC). This means the number of students allowed to study these subjects is restricted and not all those can be accepted, who are interested. Prospective students must first apply to the university. You can find more information under application.

NRW Ticket
By paying the semester fee, RWTH Aachen students acquire a ticket with which they can ride all regional public transportation - a short bit past the Dutch and Belgian border!



Orientation Events
Studies at RWTH Aachen always begin with an orientation event, in which older students or departmental advisors explain the most important things before studies begin. An entire orientation week is offered at RWTH Aachen for Bachelor students



Proof of Performance, Certificate of Performance
Learning progress can be checked during studies just like in school. Proof of performance can be aquired, for example, by passing exams. However, sometimes a presentation or research paper is required. The exam regulations of a subject determine what proof of performance one must acquire.



The Rector is the head of a university, and oversees and represents it.

Students must re-enroll for each new semester. This confirms that they wish to continue their studies.

RWTH Aachen
Abbreviation for "Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen".



A year is broken down into two semesters in university studies (comparable to school terms). Each semester has a lecture period and a lecture free period, during which students prepare for exams, participate in excursions, or complete internships.

Unlike a lecture, which is only held by a lecturer, a seminar is shaped by students and a lecturer. This way a student can prepare a topic for example and give a presentation about it. Or a student can moderate a group discussion on a oiece of literature.

Semester Fee
At the start of every semester, students pay the mandatory fees. These are not tuition fees, since the money goes to the student body and Student Services. You can see what the fees are used for on the page re-registration.

Standard Period of Studyy
The number of semesters in which a course of study can be completed. A Bachelor course of study usually takes six semesters. A few exceptions at RWTH Aachen (Mechanical Engineering) take seven.

Student Advice Centre (ZSB)
Most universities have a student advice centre, which provides advising on all questions about choosing a course of study and studies in general. Above all, it is the first contact partner for pupils when they are choosing a course of study. Here you can find the RWTH Aachen Student Advice Centre's advising and event services.

Student Representative Councils
The elected student representation in a course of study or a group of subjects. Here you can find the RWTH Aachen Student Representative Councils.

Student Services
The Student Services is a service provider for students. It operates and administrates for example, the cafeterias and dorms. You can also find the BAföG Office in the Student Services.



Termination of Enrollment
You become a member of the university through enrollment. Through termination of enrollment, you leave the university. You terminate your enrollment, for example, when you have successfully finished your studies or wish to withdraw from your studies.

Classes in which the learned material is reviewed and expanded. Tutorials are often supervised by experienced students. They give, for example, practice problems and support students in the development of solutions. They often explain the material one more time step by step and give advice for studying on your own.



University of Applied Sciences
You can study at universities of applied sciences after acquiring a university of applied sciences entrance qualification, or Fachhochschulreife. They offer application oriented research and teaching in many different subject fields. For many years, many Fachhochschulen have carried the name "University of Applied Sciences". In contract to universities, universities of applied sciences cannot issue a doctoral degree.