Faculty of LawPublic Law

The German legal system differentiates between public and private law. Whilst private law governs the legal relationships between individuals, public law concerns legislation determining the behaviour of states and other authorities in interaction with each other, and with individuals.

Public law establishes and limits the powers of such authorities. Public law can be further subdivided into constitutional law (“Staatsrecht” or “Verfassungsrecht”) and administrative law (“Verwaltungsrecht”).

Special Features and Characteristics

Constitutional law relates to legislation pertaining to state authorities (“Staatsorganisationsrecht”), and fundamental rights. In Germany, “Staatsorganisationsrecht” governs the development, organisation, function and jurisdiction of the highest state authorities. Fundamental rights serve to protect the freedom of the individual. The Basic Law (“Grundgesetz”, GG) lays the foundations of German constitutional law. It is the very highest ranking law in Germany’s legislative hierarchy.

Administrative law applies specifically to public administration. It consists in general and specific administrative law. Legal provisions and regulations which apply to all sectors of public administration comprise general administrative law. These concern, in particular, forms of action and procedures. Public administration draws on a range of different forms of action, to which different legal requirements apply. These forms of action must therefore be clearly defined and differentiated. This has an impact on their permissibility and the merit of administrative legal protection. General administrative law is in part codified in the laws on administrative procedure which apply to Germany and its states. In contrast, specific administrative law applies in various, individual administrative sectors and as such, is established in specialist sectoral laws. Examples of specific administrative law include police law, building law, and local law.

Research

The nine institutes within the Faculty of Law employ a total of 23 professors who manage and conduct academic research and offer lectures and courses based on their research. The names of the nine institutes working within the field of public law, indicate the foci of their varied research activities:

  •     Institute for Constitutional Law, Constitutional Theory and the Philosophy of Law
  •     Institute for German and European Administrative Law
  •     Institute for Financial and Tax Law

For many years, the Faculty of Law at Heidelberg University has also collaborated with the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, based in Heidelberg.

Occupational Areas

In many working environments, graduates of humanities and social science subjects are expected to deal with issues of a legal nature. A fundamental understanding of law is therefore considered extremely desirable in a large number of professions. This is particularly the case in fields related to politics, as well as in the private sector, and in work involving international non-governmental organisations. Relevant fields of work include: publishing, museum and archive work, media and journalism, press and public relations, market research, cultural industries and education, event management, advertising and marketing, human resources and management, political education, consultancy, politics and the charity sector, work with political parties, non-profit organisations, national and international governmental organisations, adult education, work in the education sector, educational advisory services.  

The relevance of legal concerns in certain subject areas, and an understanding of legal issues in politics and society, provides graduates with new insights. Traditional careers in the legal sector, including work as a judge, (state) lawyer, or as a member of the civil service in public administration, require that students also complete the first state examination in law, as well as the second state examination.

Degree variants

Bachelor 25%

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Insights

The academic programme in public law enables me to develop a legal understanding of the interrelationships between politics and society. It was precisely my interest in international politics and my involvement in local politics that brought me to this degree programme.

Catharina Lahme, 25, Public Law, 4th semester Bachelor