Munich University students
Students at Munich's TUM have criticised the decision by university management to teach all Master's level courses in English by 2020.Reuters

Munich University, one of Germany's top institutions, has been accused of "abandoning" the German language after unveiling plans to teach all of its postgraduate courses in English.

Munich Technical University (TUM) is ranked 53rd in the world league tables; it has attracted criticism from politicians and students following the announcement.

The university, founded in 1868, said it is making the move to allow its postgraduate students to compete on the global business stage.

College president, Wolfgang Herrman said: "English is the lingua franca in academia and of the economy."

He said that the decision, which be phased in to cover all Master's programmes by 2020, would send a "strong signal" to the business world.

But critics have questioned the motives of university management in making the decision.

German Parliamentarian Johannes Singhammer wrote to Herrman to accuse TUM of "turning its back" on the national language.

"It would be the wrong signal to send if the impression was given that German was no longer suitable for technical studies, and ready to be discarded on the scrap-heap of former high-level languages", said Singhammer.

"Abandoning German as an academic language poses the risk of economic disadvantages."

Chair of the university's student parliament Sebastian Biermann told a Berlin-based news website: "This came from the university's management, not from students of the university's departments."

TUM already uses English as the main language in 30 of its 99 Master's level courses.

Last month, humanities and social sciences scholars from more than 60 universities gathered in the city of Siegen to debate the declining importance of the German language in their field.