Germany has a long tradition of excellence in design, highlighted by influential institutions such as the Bauhaus and the Ulm School, which continue to globally influence design practice and education. Design fields are principally located in three of the major Institutions types in Germany: the Fachhochschulen (Applied Universities/Polytechnics), and Kunsthochschulen (Art & Design Schools), and ... [Show full abstract] the traditional universities. In all schools and departments practice based work and traditional research approaches compete for a focus in postgraduate education. The implementation of the Bologna restructuring of Higher Education in Germany in the different Bundesländer (federal states) has contributed to this greater focus on research. In this new context, what design as an academic discipline (Designwissenschaft) looks like is being defined and debated by academics without much reference to the content and nature of existing programs. In addition, there has been little empirical input from students, whose experiences and understanding are a key measure. Based on qualitative and quantitative data (n=154) from a survey of enrolled and completed doctoral (n=39) and masters students (n=116) gathered during a German government sponsored research exchange, this preliminary study assesses the motivations, experiences and understanding of design research. The study concludes with an assessment of design as a discipline in Germany based on this data.