Study Model of Civil Engineering at Technical Universities
in the Federal Republic of Germany

by Prof. J. Witzany
(courtesy of Prof. W. Durth, Fakultátentag fiir Bauingenieren- und Vermessungswesen)

The question of how to construct a study model for civil engineering courses is currently under discussion at numerous universities. Great attention is being paid to assessing the optimal length of the whole course of studies and of each individual stage. It is a major problem to identify the principal conceptual levels of study programmes.

Since the early 1920s, the professional aspects of study at technical universities have received greater emphasis than an all-round engineering education. This tendency has increased over the years due to the needs of industry; specialized and professionally skilled graduates who can deal with manufacturing processes and cope with practical tasks are needed. On the other hand, it is also evident that graduates from technical universities must be able only to deal with standard engineering tasks but also to initiate and put into practice scientific developments covering a whole range of issues. At the same time, on the basis of their deep theoretical knowledge, graduates must be able to refresh their engineering skills, in the broadest sense of the term, to incorporate the latest developments of science and technology. These issues, however, emphasize the importance of theoretical aspects of the study programme.

The following contribution to addressing this important issue provides an overview of a remarkable study model of civil engineering courses proposed by the Technical University in Darmstadt (FRG).

Objectives of study programmes and assumptions underlying their reform

Division and range of study programmes

Courses are divided into three stages (see diagram of study model). Basic courses are identical for all undergraduates of civil engineering as regards range of content. They are lead to a preliminary diploma examination.

Courses of three-semester basic study
1. Building construction, planning, design 11 ± 3
2. Technical mechanics, structural statics, perhaps flow mechanics 18 ± 3
3. Theory of materials, structural physics and structural chemistry 11 ± 3
4. Mathematics and programming 16 ± 5
5. Geodesy including photogrammetry, main practical course on measuring 6 ± 2
6. Civil engineering project I. 3 ± 2
7. Technical transformation (delineation) 4 ± 1
8. Optional courses 3 ± 2
Total 72 ± 3

(40 % of the programme consists of practical courses and seminars)

A specialized study programme necessarily consists of a broad base which is the same for all students as far as courses and schedules are concerned.

Courses of specialized study programme
1.  Structural statics and mechanics 10 ± 3
2. Construction engineering structures (construction design, concrete construction, steel construction, wooden construction) 14 ± 4
3. Geotechnics (soil mechanics, structural geology, structural foundation, tunnel construction) 14 ± 4
4. Hydraulics (hydromechanics, hydraulic structures, water management, water management in inhabited areas) 13 ± 3
5. Transport and land use planning (transport planning, town and regional planning, transport technology, railway and road structures, building code law, administrative law) 13 ± 3
6. Structural operation (including theory of structural economics and contract law, industrial safety) 6 ± 1
7. Mathematics (including statistics, numerical methods and structural informatics) 7 ± 3
8. Law (including civil code, work and social law) 2 ± 1
9. Civil engineering project II. 4 ± 2
10. Optional courses from a particular area (e. g. environment, law, economics, building construction) 5 ± 1
Total 83 ± 5

(40 % of the programme consists of practical courses and seminars)

The intensive study programme has a large and exemplary character. Students are not to be restricted to their narrow future professional area. Cocal differences at different universities in the matter of intensive study programmes are possible and welcome.

Intensive study programmes first of all include the following aims:

Courses that do not fit into the intensive study programme may be completed in the first part of the period provided for the diploma exam.

Optional courses make up an additional 18 % of the credits (i.e. about 35 credits); within each block of study (e.g. construction engineering, hydraulic structures, transportation, etc.) the different courses should be mutually harmonized, thus permitting harmonization of subject matter. This method can be timetabled easily.

Students have 8 semesters to learn the study material. The proposed breakdown for the study programme is as follows:

3 semesters basic study 72 credits
cca 3 - 4 semesters specialized study 83 credits
cca 1 - 2 semesters intensive study 35 credits
Total 190 credits

The border line between basic and intensive study is fluid. Five percent of the credits are to be earned in optional courses. The regular and specialized study programmes will consist of 155 credits (cca 82 % of the total credits). The goal is to provide students with

Examinations are divided into the following sections :

Return to the page "Newsletter 1/1994"