The characteristic feature of universities and higher education institutions with comparable responsibilities lies in their pronounced focus on academic teaching and research. Besides teaching specialist subject content and methodological knowledge, university studies also deliver transdisciplinary qualifications. In most cases, university students can largely design their studies individually, i.e. can select their own courses and emphasise their own core subject priorities appropriately. This freedom conversely calls for students to show a high degree of personal responsibility and independence in their study planning, plus a certain degree of self-discipline.
Most universities and universities of technology generally offer a broad range of subjects from theology, arts and humanities, law, economics and business administration, sociology and social sciences, medicine, natural sciences, mathematics and computer science, engineering, agricultural and forestry sciences through to the various teacher training subjects (teaching degrees differ by school types). Some universities concentrate on a specific range of subjects in their course catalogue.
Church colleges (Protestant) and colleges of philosophy and theology (Catholic), and the corresponding university faculties, train theologians.
Universities of education (which only exist in Baden-Württemberg) provide training for various teaching degrees (Lehramt, differentiated by school type). In individual cases, students can also study certain Diplom degree courses.