The university is known for being one of the biggest and most diversified universities of the arts world-wide. It has four colleges specialising in fine arts, architecture, media and design, music and the performing arts with around 3,500 students. Thus the UdK is one of only three universities in Germany to unite the faculties of art and music in one institution. The teaching offered at the four colleges encompasses the full spectrum of the arts and related academic studies in more than 40 courses. Having the right to confer doctorates and post-doctoral qualifications, Berlin University of the Arts is also one of Germany’s few art colleges with full university status.
Outstanding professors and students at all its colleges, as well as the steady development of teaching concepts, have publicly defined the university as a high standard of artistic and art-theoretical education. Almost all the study courses at Berlin University of the Arts are part of a centuries-old tradition. Thus Berlin University of the Arts gives its students- at an early stage of rigorously selected artists and within the protected sphere of a study course – the opportunity to investigate and experiment with other art forms in order to recognise and extend the boundaries of their own discipline.
Within the field of Visual Arts, the university is known for the intense competition that involves the selection of its students, and the growth of applicants worldwide has increased during the years, due to Berlin's important current role in the cultural innovation worldwide. In the same way, the University of the Arts is publicly recognized for being on the cutting edge in the areas of Visual Arts, Fashion Design, Industrial Design and Experimental Design.
Its roots institutions date back to the foundation of Academie der Mal-, Bild- und Baukunst (Academy of the Art of Painting, Pictorial Art and Architecture), the later Prussian Academy of Arts, at the behest of Elector Frederick III of Brandenburg. The two predecessor organisations were Königlich Akademischen Hochschule für ausübende Tonkunst (Royal Academy of Musical Performing Art) established in 1869 under Joseph Joachim, which also had adopted the tradition of the famous Stern Conservatory, and the Berlin State School of Fine Arts founded in 1875.
In 1975, both art schools merged under the name Hochschule der Künste Berlin, HdK. The organization received the title of a university on 1 November 2001.