Germany, known in German as Deutschland, is officially the Federal Republic of Germany (German: Bundesrepublik Deutschland, a federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe. With about 82 million population, it is the most populous member state of the European Union. It includes 16 constituent states, covers an area of about 350,000 square kilometres (about 138,000 sq miles). Its capital and largest metropolis is Berlin. The country's other major cities are Dortmund, Essen, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, Leipzig, Bremen, Dresden, Hannover, and Nuremberg.
Individual states are primarily responsible for educational supervision in Germany. Optional kindergarten education is provided for all children between three and six years old, after which school attendance is mandatory for at least nine years. Primary education usually lasts for four to six years. Secondary education includes three traditional types of schools focused on different academic levels: the Gymnasium enrolls the most gifted children and prepares students for university studies; the Realschule for intermediate students lasts six years and the Hauptschule prepares pupils for vocational education. The Gesamtschule unifies all secondary education.
Germany has a long tradition of higher education. There are over 380 officially recognized universities throughout Germany. The established universities in Germany include some of the oldest in the world, with Heidelberg University (established in 1386) being the oldest. It is followed by the Leipzig University (1409), the Rostock University(1419) and the Greifswald University (1456). The University of Berlin, founded in 1810 by the liberal educational reformer Wilhelm von Humboldt, became the academic model for many European and Western universities. Highest ranked universities in Germany include some research oriented universities for MS, MBA and Medical and Engineering. They include: Humboldt University Berlin, the University of Bremen, the University of Cologne, TU Dresden, the University of Tübingen, RWTH Aachen, FU Berlin, Heidelberg University, the University of Konstanz, LMU Munich, and the Technical University of Munich.
Most of the German universities are public institutions, and students traditionally study without fee payment. The general requirement for university is the Abitur. However, there are a number of exceptions, depending on the state, the college and the subject. Tuition free academic education is open to international students and is increasingly common. Germany is among the top five of the world's leading destination for international study.