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This page lists the most frequently asked questions about studying art at the Hochschule für bildende Künste (HFBK) Hamburg - and, of course, the answers.

Which subjects can I study at the HFBK Hamburg?

If you are looking for a state art university in Europe, and specifically in Germany, where you can study art in an interdisciplinary and truly free way, then you have come to the right place. At the HFBK Hamburg, Fine Art is intentionally not divided up into study subjects or into the classic disciplines – all students study the single subject »Fine Arts«, on equal terms. Within this single subject, there are 8 study areas (see departments), with corresponding professorships.

When you apply for a study place (on the Bachelor of Fine Arts programme), you will be asked to give your preferred study area. However, after your first year – which is the orientation phase – you are free to study any combination of study areas, depending on which aspects of art interest you personally.

The same is true if you opt to study for the Lehramt (art teacher education programme) at the HFBK Hamburg.

What degrees can I study for at the HFBK?

The »Fine Arts« Bachelor-/Master study programme allows you to study for the Bachelor of Fine Arts qualification and, subsequently, for the Master of Fine Arts qualification at the HFBK Hamburg.

The teacher education programme is always combined with the Universität Hamburg and with the awarding of the Bachelor of Arts or the Master of Education qualification.

It is also possible to study for a doctorate at the HFBK Hamburg, which confers the title Dr. phil. in art. (philosophiae in artibus).

What is special about studying art at the HFBK Hamburg?

The HFBK Hamburg’s interdisciplinary study structure allows students to study in a particularly free way. The taught content is not arranged in rigid course structures, and this allows students to pose new questions and to develop new, innovative solutions. Studies centre on self-determined explorations of art and project-based and experimental ways of working.

Another special feature of the HFBK Hamburg is its excellent workshops, where almost any kind of art-related technical craftwork can be carried out. Students receive guidance and comprehensive support from the workshop supervisors.

The HFBK Hamburg is also very committed to student international exchanges. The university’s large number of partner universities and its generous support provision programme allows it to maintain excellent international connections.

How are studies organised?

The Bachelor study programme begins with a one-year orientation phase. During this, students are intensively supervised in basic classes.

Afterwards, the students increasingly pursue their own artistic interests and individual projects, solo or together with others. They will generally seek out a professor who will be able to help them move forward in their chosen pursuits. The final allocation to the classes takes place after the 1st presentation. Participation in the 1st presentation after the 2nd semester is compulsory.

The focus of all studies is on students' own artistic work. You will be awarded ECTS credits (required to pass the final examination) for taking part in classes, workshop courses, projects etc.

In principle a workspace is available at the university for anyone who wishes to work here.

Can I choose which professors I study with?

In theory, yes, but professors also have the right to choose which students they teach. The professors of art (many of whom are well-known artists) each have a closed group of students whom they supervise. Understandably, they will prefer to include students whose work they find particularly interesting.

However, as a rule, anyone can be admitted to their group tutorials. And anyone who (persistently) gets in touch should receive a reply.

Admission to the classes conducted by professors of Theory and History and other tutors is not restricted in this way. Their lectures are, of course, open to all students!

Are all classes taught in German?

Lectures and classes at the HFBK Hamburg are usually conducted in German. Prominent international figures we have been fortunate enough to attract to the HFBK Hamburg will sometimes teach in English. At present, Prof. Martin Boyce (Sculpture), Prof. Simon Denny (Time-based Media), Prof. Angela Bulloch (Time-based Media), Prof. Dr. Astrid Mania (Theory and History of Art), and Profs. Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin (Photography) conduct classes in English.

Is it free to study at the HFBK Hamburg?

In Hamburg, tuition fees were abolished for students studying at state universities as of 2012.

There are, however, certain required payments that must be paid promptly every semester: an administrative costs payment, a contribution to AStA (the student committee) and to the Studierendenwerk (the student union) and an additional payment to cover the cost of the semester ticket for public transport. The precise amounts involved vary slightly.

Where can I apply for financial support?

You can apply for a bursary to fund your studies in Germany from DAAD at any German embassy in your home country.

If you do not have enough money to cover your living costs and pay for essential study materials, you may also be eligible for BAföG (for instance, if you are an accepted asylum seeker or foreigner with permanent residency in Germany).

There are a number of bursaries and funds specifically for HFBK students, which you will be able to apply for when you have begun your studies. There are even special funds specifically for HFBK students from abroad.

Is Hamburg an expensive place to live?

Yes, Hamburg is a rather expensive place to live – particularly when you have to find rooms there. As a penniless student, one must be prepared to compromise and, if necessary, be prepared to settle for a modest place to live or one that is some distance away from the university. You can enquire about vacancies in the student halls of residence at the student union. If you go online, you will find a number of housing exchanges offering housing or flat share arrangements (so-called Wohngemeinschaft, short: WG).

Pub and restaurant prices in Hamburg are also more than averagely expensive. However, there is no need for anyone to starve: the HFBK Hamburg has an excellent Mensa (cafeteria) which offers a healthy lunch with special low subsidised prices for students.

One good thing about the economic conditions in Hamburg is that it is relatively easy to find a part-time job with a wide variety of employers.

How do I apply to the HFBK?

Applicants have to begin their studies at the HFBK Hamburg at the start of the winter semester. This means that the annual application period is very brief (!), and that you must apply before the application period ends.

You start by submitting your application online via CampusNet. You will then submit a portfolio containing about 20 examples of your own artwork plus your CV and certified document copies. In the case of overseas applicants, documents may have to be translated into English or German if necessary.

Because German is the main language at the HFBK, foreign applicants are also requested to provide evidence of proficiency in the German language.

Can I look around the HFBK before applying?

Absolutely! This is why we provide a prospective students information day as well as guided tours as part of the annual exhibition (in February) and the graduate show (in July).

Can I study at the HFBK if I have not gained an Abitur qualification?

This may be possible. Applicants without basic university entrance qualifications can be admitted to the HFBK Hamburg as arts students if the selection commission is convinced that they possess outstanding artistic ability. If this is your situation, please apply in the normal way.

What should I include in my application portfolio?

It should contain around 20 artworks completed by you. The main issue is not their technical or graphical perfection. It is more important for them to reveal your personal attitude to art – the themes that interest you and the way in which you address them.

In the case of large, bulky or three-dimensional artworks, please submit a photograph as part of your portfolio and not the artwork itself!

Does the HFBK offer advice on portfolios?

The HFBK Hamburg has decided not to provide advice on portfolios, as we want your portfolios to be as authentic as possible and not tailored to a set of expectations. However, the individual departments do offer advice sessions for applicants and those who are interested, during which professors may be willing to discuss individual artworks.

What should I do if I miss the applications deadline?

Unfortunately, you will have to wait a year to apply again. Applications cannot be submitted after the deadline. This rule applies to all applicants. It is also impossible to apply in advance, as we do not have staff available to receive the application materials or storage space available for the application portfolios ahead of time.

The application period is precisely defined (please click on the links below): February for Bachelor/Master of Fine Arts and teacher education programme, September for doctorates.

How are applicants assessed?

Application portfolios are assessed by a commission consisting of 3 professors, 2 mid-level academic staff and 2 students (who do not vote).

The portfolios are given a grade between A and C. Applicants whose portfolios are awarded an A are accepted. Applicants who receive a B may receive a place in the clearing process.

The individual selection commissions for each department are free to invite applicants to a face-to-face meeting, or to complete a practical task. This generally takes place in April.

When will I know whether I have been accepted or not?

The Bachelor admissions commissions meet in March. If the admissions committee decides to invite you to an additional meeting or to create a piece of coursework, it will take place in April. You will receive a written confirmation/rejection via CampusNet by the end of April.

The Master admissions commissions meet in April. Applicants are informed of their decisions in May.

How does the clearing process work? And when does it happen?

If applicants who are admitted to study do not accept their place on the study programme, the HFBK offers these places to rejected applicants by means of a clearing process. Applicants whose portfolios were graded with a B are the first to be considered. If there are more B-graded portfolios than there are vacant study places, it is a case of a lottery.

As accepted applicants must enrol before the 15th of August, places are available through the clearing process only after this date. Applicants who receive a place through clearing will be informed as soon as possible.

I have been accepted. What happens next?

You must enrol by the 15th of August, or your place at the university will become invalid.

Around the end of August, you will receive a written communication containing important event dates for the beginning of your studies (you must turn up for these!).

An up-to-date lecture timetable can be downloaded from late September.

I have been accepted, but I’ve changed my mind. What happens next?

If you change your mind, please inform us as quickly as possible so that your place can be made available to a rejected applicant.

Can I take part in student events at the HFBK Hamburg as a guest?

In theory, you may be able to take part as a guest under exceptional circumstances. You may attend as a free mover (based on our agreements with other universities). You may also individually take part in specific classes as an auditing student. Official permission is required! Important: Only persons with no intention to apply for a regular study place at the HFBK can be admitted as auditing student!

I want to transfer to the HFBK from another art university. What parts of my previous studies will be recognised?

After your application has been accepted, you will receive information from the HFBK’s examination authority about the academic work you have already completed and whether it counts towards the qualification you are studying for.

Contact for application and registration queries:

Contact for ERASMUS exchange queries:

International Office

Grafik: Tim Ballaschke

Start of semester

After three semesters of hybrid teaching under pandemic conditions, we are finally about to start another semester of presence. We welcome all new students and teachers at the HFBK Hamburg and cordially invite you to the opening of the academic year 2020/21, which this year will be accompanied by a guest lecture by ruangrupa.

Graphic design: Sam Kim, picture in the background: Sofia Mascate, photo: Marie-Theres Böhmker

Graduate Show 2021: All Good Things Come to an End

From September 24 to 26, the more than 150 Bachelor's and Master's graduates of the class of 2020/21 will present their final projects as part of the Graduate Show at the HFBK Hamburg. We would like to thank all visitors and participants.

photo: Klaus Frahm

Summer Break

The HFBK Hamburg is in the lecture-free period, many students and teachers are on summer vacation, art institutions have summer break. This is a good opportunity to read and see a variety of things:

ASA Open Studio 2019, Karolinenstraße 2a, Haus 5; photo: Matthew Muir

Live und in Farbe: die ASA Open Studios im Juni 2021

Since 2010, the HFBK has organised the international exchange programme Art School Alliance. It enables HFBK students to spend a semester abroad at renowned partner universities and, vice versa, invites international art students to the HFBK. At the end of their stay in Hamburg, the students exhibit their work in the Open Studios in Karolinenstraße, which are now open again to the art-interested public.

Studiengruppe Prof. Dr. Anja Steidinger, Was animiert uns?, 2021, Mediathek der HFBK Hamburg, Filmstill

Unlearning: Wartenau Assemblies

The art education professors Nora Sternfeld and Anja Steidinger initiated the format "Wartenau Assemblies". It oscillates between art, education, research and activism. Complementing this open space for action, there is now a dedicated website that accompanies the discourses, conversations and events.

Ausstellungsansicht "Schule der Folgenlosigkeit. Übungen für ein anderes Leben" im Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg; photo: Maximilian Schwarzmann

School of No Consequences

Everyone is talking about consequences: The consequences of climate change, the Corona pandemic or digitalization. Friedrich von Borries (professor of design theory), on the other hand, is dedicated to consequence-free design. In “School of No Consequences. Exercises for a New Life” at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, he links collection objects with a "self-learning room" set up especially for the exhibition in such a way that a new perspective on "sustainability" emerges and supposedly universally valid ideas of a "proper life" are questioned.

Annual Exhibition 2021 at the HFBK

Annual exhibition a bit different: From February 12- 14, 2021 students at the Hamburg University of Fine Arts, together with their professors, had developed a variety of presentations on different communication channels. The formats ranged from streamed live performances to video programs, radio broadcasts, a telephone hotline, online conferences, and a web store for editions. In addition, isolated interventions could be discovered in the outdoor space of the HFBK and in the city.

Public Information Day 2021

How do I become an art student? How does the application process work? Can I also study to become a teacher at the HFBK? These and other questions about studying art were answered by professors, students and staff at the HFBK during the Public Information Day on February 13, 2021. In addition, there will be an appointment specifically for English-speaking prospective students on February 23 at 2 pm.

Katja Pilipenko

Semestereröffnung und Hiscox-Preisverleihung 2020

On the evening of November 4, the HFBK celebrated the opening of the academic year 2020/21 as well as the awarding of the Hiscox Art Prize in a livestream - offline with enough distance and yet together online.

Exhibition Transparencies with works by Elena Crijnen, Annika Faescke, Svenja Frank, Francis Kussatz, Anne Meerpohl, Elisa Nessler, Julia Nordholz, Florentine Pahl, Cristina Rüesch, Janka Schubert, Wiebke Schwarzhans, Rosa Thiemer, Lea van Hall. Organized by Prof. Verena Issel and Fabian Hesse; photo: Screenshot

Teaching Art Online at the HFBK

How the university brings together its artistic interdisciplinary study structure with digital formats and their possibilities.

Alltagsrealität oder Klischee?; photo: Tim Albrecht

HFBK Graduate Survey

Studying art - and what comes next? The clichéd images stand their ground: Those who have studied art either become taxi drivers, work in a bar or marry rich. But only very few people could really live from art – especially in times of global crises. The HFBK Hamburg wanted to know more about this and commissioned the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences at the University of Hamburg to conduct a broad-based survey of its graduates from the last 15 years.

Ausstellung Social Design, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Teilansicht; photo: MKG Hamburg

How political is Social Design?

Social Design, as its own claim is often formulated, wants to address social grievances and ideally change them. Therefore, it sees itself as critical of society – and at the same time optimizes the existing. So what is the political dimension of Social Design – is it a motor for change or does it contribute to stabilizing and normalizing existing injustices?