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General Information on Bachelor's and Master's Degrees

1. The Bologna Process - The Education Policy Background

The conversion of Diploma and Magister degree courses into Bachelor’s and Master’s courses which is currently taking place at all German universities is connected to a Europe-wide reform process in education, the so-called Bologna Process. In June 1999 in the Italian city Bologna, the education ministries of 29 European countries ratified an agreement with the aim of establishing parallels between their national universities. The intention of this was to facilitate mobility among these countries in the areas of education and employment and to strengthen Europe in this way as a competitive force in education in the world. 
The Bologna Declaration, named after the city where the agreement was made, started a process which aimed at creating a shared tertiary educational zone in Europe until 2010.  In the meantime 45 European countries are participating in the Bologna process, which involves the following central points:

  • the creation of a system of comparable degree courses and qualifications  
  • the creation of a two-level system of qualifications (undergraduate / graduate): the Bachelor’s degree is the first degree qualifying for a profession and the Master is the consecutive course, which makes further academic and/or focused qualification possible.
  • the introduction of a diploma supplement with information about the course of the study and individual structuring of the courses by participants with the intention of making courses more comparable.
  • the modularization of studies and the introduction of a system of performance points (ECTS)
  • a continual quality assurance of university education, e.g. by accreditation of the courses.

2. Consecutive Courses of Study: Structure, Characteristics, Central Terminology

  • 2.1 Structure of consecutive studies

The first professionally qualifying degree the student acquires is the Bachelor’s degree. As a rule, Bachelor’s degree studies take 3 years (6 semesters). Master’s degree courses are advanced studies and participants require a final qualification from a Bachelor’s course or a comparable one. They can be taken immediately after completion of a Bachelor’s degree course or after a break of a few years (e.g. because of employment or a phase in family life).
Generally, a Master’s course takes 2 years and leads to an academic qualification which is at least equivalent to the present university Diploma and qualifies students for doctoral studies. During the Master’s course the programme of studies of a Bachelor’s course can be continued academically/research oriented in more depth. Alternatively, students can also choose to develop a stronger, more directly applicable academic focus.
A programme of studies which consists of a Bachelor’s course and a Master’s course building directly onto it, is called a consecutive course of studies.  However, a Master’s course can also be chosen from subject-related areas as long as the pre-requirements are met by previous studies. These prerequisites are set by the respective subject regulation.  

  • 2.2 Final qualifications

At Justus Liebig University Giessen, the degree courses in Economics, the Humanities and the Social Sciences are completed with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Master of Arts (MA).  Those in the (applied) natural sciences are given a Bachelor of Science (BSc) or a Master of Science (MSc).  Apart from these, at other universities other degrees are awarded in some cases (e.g. Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Engineering, Economic Sciences, Informatics, among others).

  • 2.3 One-subject, multi-subject/combination degree courses

At Justus Liebig University Giessen a difference is made between two types of degree programmes: 

A) One-subject Bachelor / Master

In a one-subject Bachelor / Master the main emphasis lies on a single subject together with closely connected mandatory and elective modules. Together with this students can (or must) select further modules offered by other faculties. The terms for these selected elements vary greatly in the courses of study (profile area, optional area …).  The application and enrolment apply only for the main subject of study.

B)  Multi-subject Bachelor / Master

In these courses of study students must combine two or more independent subjects from a given catalogue of courses on offer. For this reason these courses are also called combination Bachelor / Master courses. The catalogue of subjects offered and the rules for the combination apply individually for each course. The subjects to be combined must be named in the application and registration.

  • 2.4 Accreditation

When a university introduces a new degree programme, the University  commissions an independent agency with the accreditation. To examine the course, an independent evaluation committee is appointed, which consists of experts from science and research, representatives of the economy and also students from the faculty.
In the so-called audit these experts test and evaluate the new study programme in situ: its content and aims, its suitability for study, the availability of rooms and staff in the university, the current teaching programme in the subject, internal processes for guaranteeing teaching quality and numerous other aspects. Comprehensive documentation, observations and discussions with a variety of groups in the department are used as a basis for the discussion. The recommendations of these experts are evaluated by the committees and the accreditation agencies. Finally,  the agency gives an evaluation and judgment: (1) accredited (2) not accredited , or (3) accredited with conditions. This evaluation is repeated after a few years.  At this time checks are made to determine how successful the course has been, what it has achieved and whether it can/should be offered in this form or another.

For the students accreditation ensures that for a longer period the course of study can be taken in its current form.  This guarantees quality ensurance.  Justus Liebig University Giessen offers new degree courses only when these are successfully accredited as stated above. 

2.5  Modules / modularization / module handbook

Studies are organized in so-called modules.  A module binds together thematically, systematically and / or methodologically connected contents and is composed of various types of classes in this topic area (e.g. a lecture and a practical course or a lecture, a practical course and a seminar).  The number, size and content of the modules, the preconditions and the assessment methods are established in the subject-specific regulations of each subject and can be found in the Modulhandbuch (module handbook) (or the Modulverzeichnis (module list)).  Modules can be Pflichtmodule (mandatory modules), Wahlmodule (electives selected by students from a given catalogue), and free choice electives.

2.6 Study Plan

The Bachelor’s and Master’s degree courses are clearly structured. The question of the order in which the modules are to be taken is firmly regulated in most cases. Sometimes the number of modules and the time period in which these modules have to be successfully completed before the studies can be continued is also determined. 

2.7    Workload / Amount of work

The workload, which has to be met by all students for each module for them to be able to understand and acquire the content and pass the examinations, is also firmly determined.  During the development of the course an overall time level is calculated from the period of time used for attending taught classes (period of presence),  preparation and working on the content after the class, the time, for example, to prepare for examinations, to write a report, prepare a presentation for the group, and time used for the actual examination.  The workload for one year of study is estimated to be 1800 hours, i.e.  900 hours per semester or ca. 40 hours per week.

2.8   Credit points (CP) / Leistungspunkte (performance points) (LP) / ECTS

Every 30 working hours for studying in a module give one Leistungspunkt (LP), also called a ”credit point”=CP.  Leistungspunkte are therefore a measure for the required workload in the course of studies. Credit points or Leistungspunkte at JLU Giessen correspond to ECTS credits.
Modules can vary in their comprehensiveness:  they can have a possible score of 3 or even up to 12 Leistungspunkte.  On average 30 cp can be gained per semester, i.e. a workload of approx. 900 hours per semester or 1800 per year.  All students who have completed the module successfully are awarded these credit points.
The assessment with CPs takes place in accordance with the European Credit Transfer System, in brief, the ECTS.  Courses that have been done at other universities and completed with a final examination in this way, e.g. during a study abroad semester, can be recognised as long as the content is equivalent. In the selective section of the studies, modules can be imported from other subjects in limited numbers.
A complete Bachelor’s course with a regular length of six semesters covers at least 180 CP, a four-semester Master course, 120 CP.

2.9    Examinations accompanying the studies    

Success in learning is checked regularly.  This makes continual preparation for and revision of classes necessary.
Parallel to the studies in each module, test performance  in a wide variety of forms is required, e.g. tests, presentations, practical reports. The assessment methods which are to be performed are listed in the module description in the module plan. If all performances have been done, the module has been successfully completed.  The grade of the module will become part of the subject grade of the final degree. There is no comprehensive traditional final examination as in the old diploma.
It is to be noted that these examinations can only be repeated to a limited extent. Once all possibilities for a repetition have been used without a positive result the module will be marked as not successfully completed.  This can mean that studies may not be continued and completed.
In some courses of study at Justus Liebig University Giessen, registration for a course involves simultaneously registering for the examination at the end of the first semester. In others a period is given within which the modules must be successfully completed.

2.10  Diploma supplement

The Diploma supplement (DS) which students can get in addition to their final degree certificates contains uniform information describing university final degrees.  It gives details about courses actually attended and modules actually completed as well as about individually chosen emphases in the studies. It presents the student’s completely individual programme of studies and so allows comparison, facilitating entry into employment or further studies abroad.