As one of the world’s most popular study destinations, Germany is a safe country that boasts excellent teaching and research facilities while offering a range of subjects at all levels
Often referred to as the ‘land of poets and thinkers’, Germany is home to many renowned musicians, writers, scientists and philosophers. There’s plenty to see and do during your stay, with a whole range of landmarks, museums and libraries to explore, including the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, the Monument to the Battle of the Nations in Leipzig, the Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg and Cologne Cathedral.
The country is famous for its hospitality so you’ll be able to enjoy a beer and bratwurst (grilled sausage) as you take part in the annual Bavarian folk festival Oktoberfest. Alternatively, you can marvel at the light projections and video art of the Festival of Lights in Berlin or be enchanted by a performance at the Black Table Magic Theatre in Aachen. And if you’re around for the festive period, you must sample the delights of the Christmas markets in cities such as Cologne, Frankfurt and Hamburg.
By choosing to study in Germany, you’ll benefit from a generous fee system and have the perfect opportunity to learn one of the world’s most spoken languages.
Germany is home to more than 400 higher education institutions, which collectively offer around 20,000 study programmes. Of the impressive 45 featured in the QS World University Rankings 2021, three appear in the top 100:
- Technical University of Munich (50th)
- Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (63rd)
- Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg (64th).
Almost 95% of students in Germany are based within the public university system. Regardless of whether the institution is public or private, it will be one of the following:
- Universities – university courses are academically focused and offered in a range of subjects, at Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate level. Within this group are some specialist institutions, such as technical universities, dedicated to engineering and the natural sciences, and colleges of education.
- Universities of Applied Science (UAS) – UAS institutions offer more practical courses in fields such as technology, economics, medicine and social work up to Masters level. These courses are designed to prepare students for entering the workplace.
- Colleges of Art, Film and Music – these specialist colleges are for students of creative disciplines and have varying entry requirements. While you’ll need genuine talent to be considered, you may also need to sit an entrance exam and/or present a portfolio.
Some universities and UAS institutions also offer dual qualifications, where you’ll sign a contract with a company and split your time between studying and working. However, you’ll need a good grasp of German to pursue this type of programme.
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Degree courses in Germany
The German academic year is typically split between the summer and winter semesters. The former runs from October to March, and the latter from April to September. Lectures will usually finish by late July and there’s also the Christmas break and other holidays to take into account.
Study programmes in Germany are similar to those in the UK. Undergraduate degrees are offered as Bachelors of Arts (BA), Bachelors of Science (BSc) and Bachelors of Engineering (BEng), and typically take a minimum of three years to complete. You can study full or part-time and many universities offer online or distance learning.
While it’s more common for undergraduate courses to be taught in German, there are plenty of English-speaking options.
To pursue higher education in Germany, you’ll typically need A-levels or equivalent qualifications, proof of language proficiency where required, proof of your ability to support yourself financially throughout your studies and health insurance.
For exact entry requirements, visit the international student office (akademischen auslandsamt) at the university you’re planning on applying to, or check yourself through DAAD’s (German Academic Exchange Service) database of admissions requirements.
You can search for a Bachelors course in Germany by using DAAD’s international programme database.
German Masters degrees are similar to those in the UK as they use titles such as Master of Arts (MA), Master of Laws (LLM) and Master of Science (MSc). Masters courses are typically one to two years in length and are delivered through taught modules, including lectures, seminars and independent research, followed by a final project or dissertation.
You’ll then be assessed based on an oral presentation of your thesis. Unlike in the UK, Germany uses a five-point grading system for awarding Masters degrees. These range from 1.0 at best to 4.0 for those who narrowly pass the course. A grade of 5.0 constitutes a fail. However, universities now also provide European Credits Transfer System (ECTS) grades alongside the German grade, with a Masters usually worth 120 ECTS.
There are two pathways to Masters study:
- Consecutive Masters degrees follow on from a closely related undergraduate degree, such as studying for an MSc in biochemistry after completing a BSc in biology.
- Non-consecutive Masters degrees involve taking your qualification in another direction, which may require professional work experience, as well as your undergraduate degree, to be accepted.
Explore Masters courses in Germany by searching DAAD’s international programme database.
Around 25,000 students a year study for their PhD in Germany, in one of two formats:
- Individual PhDs – This traditional path is taken by three-quarters of all PhD students, as you can tailor your research to suit your needs. You can choose to study at a university, research organisation or in industry, and are responsible for identifying and securing a supervisor. Individual PhDs usually take between three and five years to complete, but they have no set deadlines or attendance requirements.
- Structured PhDs – This type of PhD is modelled around a curriculum, involves intense supervision and includes learning and development to help you improve your soft skills and research methods. Again, structured PhDs typically last from three to five years.
To apply for an individual PhD, you’ll need to get in touch with potential supervisors directly with a research proposal. Structured PhD applicants should contact their institution’s registration office and begin the standard application process. As in the UK, it’s likely you’ll require a Masters degree.
To find out more, see the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research’s Research in Germany site – info for PhD students.
You can also visit the DAAD higher education database to search for PhD courses in Germany.
Students currently attending a UK university can take part in the European Union’s (EU) education, training and youth support programme Erasmus+ (confirmed for the 2020/21 academic year). The scheme offers training, work shadowing and voluntary placements lasting from three months to one academic year.
Financial support is available for the scheme, but applications are made through organisations and institutions rather than individuals. Your university must have a formal agreement with a partner university in another EU country, of which Germany is one. Speak to your institution for information on how to apply.
Every year, Germany attracts over 380,000 international students and one of the main reasons is that most publically-funded universities are free to attend – aside from a small semester contribution of up to €300 (£272) to cover basic admin and registration costs.
The exception to this is the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, where universities charge a fee of €1,500 (£1,367) per semester to non-EU students. Some universities may charge tuition fees to students enrolling on non-consecutive Masters courses, although this is rare.
Private universities have the freedom to set their own tuition fees, with some institutions charging around €30,000 (£27,198) per year.
You’ll also have to factor into your budget the cost of living in Germany. Under current law, international students need at least €10,236 (£9,288) in their bank account to cover their first year. This is based on the recommended monthly amount of €850 (£771) to cover your accommodation, food, transport and other expenses. If you’re based in large cities such as Berlin, Frankfurt or Munich the costs will be higher.
Read more about the finances you’ll need at Studying in Germany – What does it cost to study in Germany?
Funding to study in Germany
As in the UK, there are numerous organisations offering needs and merit-based scholarships and grants, such as federal states, foundations, religious organisations, and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. To get some ideas, visit Studying in Germany – Financing your studies in Germany.
Contact the consulate or embassy in your home country for more information on what you’re entitled to and how to apply. You can also explore your funding options and search via the scholarship database at DAAD – Scholarships.
If you’re a citizen of the European Economic Area (EEA) – this includes EU member states as well as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – you won’t need a visa to study in Germany, as long as you:
- are studying for more than three months
- are enrolled at an approved university/other educational institution
- have sufficient income (from any source) to live without needing income support
- have comprehensive health insurance cover.
For those that require a visa, there are three types:
- German Student Visa – the standard student visa for international students who’ve been admitted to a German university and are about to begin a full-time programme.
- German Student Applicant Visa – if you need to physically be in Germany to apply for university admission this visa enables you to stay in the country during the application process.
- German Language Course Visa – for those looking to study a German language course in the country.
To discover what you’ll need to apply, see Studying in Germany – German student visa.
All students from outside the EEA will need to obtain a residence visa. You can do this from the German consulate or embassy in your home country for a fixed fee of €75 (£68.30). Within two weeks of your arrival in Germany you’ll need to register with the Aliens Registration Office and your local registration office to obtain a residency permit.
Contact the Germany embassy or consulate in your home country before you apply to find out which visa you’ll need and how to apply. For UK residents, you’ll need to go to the German Embassy in London. The approval process can be lengthy, so aim to submit your visa application at least three months in advance.
How to apply
As there’s no centralised application system in Germany, you’ll typically contact universities directly to get the ball rolling. However, some universities use a service called Uni-Assist to manage their international applications. Check to see if your institution is involved in this. You’re free to make as many applications as you’d like at one time.
To apply, fill out an application form, which you’ll find either online or by contacting the university’s registration office, and submit it along with the required documents. This usually includes transcripts of your education and language certificates where appropriate. If you’re successful, you may be invited to attend an interview or complete skills testing.
Application deadlines vary between institutions as each is run independently. As a general rule, if you’re enrolling on a course starting in the summer you should aim to submit your application by mid-January. For courses starting in the winter, aim for mid-July.
Many German universities offer English-taught Masters courses, and as a native English speaker you won’t need to prove your proficiency in the language. If you’d like to enrol on a course delivered in German, you’ll need to take one of the country’s two recognised tests:
- TestDaF – TestDaF examinations are held several times a year. You can save money by taking the TestDaF from home, as it costs €195 (£177) in Germany. While it’s cheaper in other countries, you’ll need to ensure you do it far enough in advance to receive your results in time, as this process can take up to six weeks (as opposed to four weeks with the digital test). See TestDaF.de for exact exam dates.
- DSH – the DSH can only be taken at German universities, and tests your proficiency and suitability for university study. Costs vary between institutions.
Highly respected degree
The German higher education system is well respected globally and a degree from a German university will significantly benefit your career. Three German universities figure in the top 50 of the Times Higher Education ratings – LMU Munich, Heidelberg University and The Technical University of Munich. However, when you consider pursuing your higher education in Germany, the biggest benefit of this degree is to help you get placed in one of many great German companies. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will have to work in Germany, but your chances of getting a good position at a German company are significantly higher.
A wide array of programs to choose from
While German universities are considered to be the best in terms of science, technology and renewable energies, students who are interested in more creative pursuits can turn to colleges that specialize in music, film and the art. Business schools in Germany are also growing in popularity. For science students looking for a more practical form of education, universities of applied science are great options. General universities are good options for those students who prefer to study about broader disciplines.
Programs available in English
One of the biggest advantages of choosing to study in Germany over other European countries is that most programs are taught in English, so being fluent in the local language is not necessary.
Practical aspect of programs
German universities strongly believe in the necessity and importance of practical skills and as a result, students are exposed to activities that will build these skills and ensure they are better prepared when they start their jobs. This is also the main reason most universities require students to intern with companies at some point.
Low or no tuition
Many universities in Germany do not require students to pay tuition fees, and the ones that do are quite reasonable given the quality of higher education in the country. There are also plenty of scholarship options available for international students. DAAD, the German Academic Exchange Service, has one of the most extensive scholarship databases in the world.
Affordable living expenses
While the living expenses in Germany equal the average expenses of the EU, which can be quite expensive, students are offered various concessions. One of these benefits include reduced ticket prices to various entertainment venues by showing the student ID.
While common sense is essential in any country to ensure one’s personal safety, Germany is considered to be one of the safer countries in the world. They have an efficient security force and system in place.
Focus on research projects
While there is a lot of emphasis on perfecting one’s practical skills at German universities, research is also a top priority. The state funds universities’ research, thereby providing students with the means to further their own research skills, while also ensuring they have a great research environment to work in.\
Good job prospects
As mentioned earlier, students graduating from German universities are very sought after by numerous successful German companies. As students are allowed to stay back in the country for 18 months after graduation, many students use this opportunity to find a job and stay on in the country.
Avid travelers can rejoice as the Schengen visa allows students to travel anywhere within the European Union while studying in Germany. Europe comprises of beautiful countries with a variety of experiences on offer. A mix of rich history, interesting cultures, breathtaking landscapes and delicious cuisine are the perfect ingredients for great memories.
Top 10 Reasons to Study Abroad in Germany
When students imagine studying abroad, likely a romantic vision of France, Spain, or Italy comes to mind, and for good reason. However, in recent years, Germany has gained popularity as one of the top study abroad destinations.
Thanks in part to its world prestige and open-minded, welcoming population, Germany demands serious consideration when deciding on your ideal international study experience, and here’s the list to prove it!
1. Take Advantage of the Almost Non-Existent Tuition Fees
Where can you attend university and pay almost nothing? Look no further!
Since 2014, Germany has made public universities nearly free by abolishing tuition fees for both domestic and international students, including international students from outside the EU. For students from countries like the United States where tuition fees are a huge concern, Germany is the perfect alternative as a study abroad destination.
Although students are still responsible for small administrative fees, the end total to study at a university might only be a few thousand compared to the tens of thousands many students expect to pay in other countries.
2. Enjoy a Low Cost of Living
However, tuition fees are only one aspect a prospective study abroad student must consider when trying to determine if they have the budget to fund their studies.
Luckily, compared to other international study destinations, Germany as a whole remains relatively cheap when it comes to cost of living. According to the consulting firm, Mercer, who publishes data on the cost of living in 200 countries around the world, the German cities of Berlin, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, and Frankfurt all dropped into the bottom 100 of the world’s most expensive cities. Only Munich placed in the top 100 at spot 98.
Astoundingly, Berlin ranked in at spot 120, making it one of the cheapest European capitals!
3. Participate in One of the Many International Programs
As long as you have an academic proficiency of the English language, there will be programs to suit any interest.
Numerous German universities offer prestigious degree programs in business, sciences, and humanities, entirely in English. So, why not consider studying web development in Berlin or design thinking in Munich?
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is another great resource geared towards recruiting international students to German universities. There you can find extensive information meant to make transferring your studies to Germany as easy as possible.
4. Benefit from an Economic Powerhouse
Germany continues to be the driving force behind the European Union’s economy. As a leading economic power, it’s not hard to imagine that opportunities are abound to find work.
If companies such as BMW, Siemens, Adidas, or Bosch sound familiar, then you’ve already been introduced to the excellence that German industry has to offer.
Although Germany has very specific rules about international students working during their studies, many universities offer competitive internships and work experience that make students very marketable post-graduation. On top of that, Germany also offers international students with visas a generous 18-month extension after the conclusion of their program if they are interested in finding work and staying in Germany permanently.
5. Learn One of Europe’s Most Dynamic Languages
Perhaps you’ve been looking for the motivation to finally commit to learning a new language, or maybe you just want to improve the skills you learned in the classroom. Either way, living and studying abroad in Germany will be the perfect chance to solidify your German language skills.
For students wanting to learn German from native speakers, there are websites like Lingoda that offer 24/7 online classes for a small fee.
Why should you learn German? Although many Germans can communicate with international students using English, your experience is bound to be more personal if you’re able to communicate with the citizens of your host country in their native language.
Furthermore, from a practical standpoint, German is one of the official European Union languages, as well as the corporate language of most German companies. Therefore, you increase your post-graduate employability both in and outside of Germany by learning German. Additionally, many Germans have made huge strides in the arts and sciences, making German an admirable skill if you plan to study chemistry, physics, literature, or music, among other subjects, as well.
6. Immerse Yourself into a Remarkable Culture
With landscapes and lifestyles as diverse as its population, Germany offers a unique and multifaceted opportunity to immerse yourself in German culture in your own unique way.
Whether you prefer to settle in a more urban or rural environment, Germany offers something exciting for anyone to experience. Check out the pulsing nightlife of Berlin, the picturesque villages of the Black Forest, the art scene in Dresden, or the beer halls of Bavaria.
Therefore, you can mix and match your immersive German experience to get the most out of your time studying abroad.
7. Try All the Food and Drink Germany Has to Offer
No study abroad experience in Germany is complete without fully diving into the food culture.
No matter what your preference, Germany’s distinct food and beverage options are guaranteed to impress.
To start, Germany offers over 1,000 different kinds of sausages and 1,500 varieties of beers to choose from. Or, if instead you’re a fan of currywurst, schnitzel, pretzels, spätzle, black forest cake, or lebkuchen, you’ll be just as happy.
8. Experience Germany’s History Firsthand
No matter where you’re from, you are likely to recognize the important place Germany has in world history.
From World War II to the Cold War, Germany has been the stage for some of the most important conflicts in the 21st century. Throughout Germany, you will find reminders of the past everywhere in the form of monuments and memorials.
For example, many segments of the Berlin Wall still exist for visitors to get their own sense of the imposing wall that once divided the city.
9. Soak in the Arts
Germany is known as the land of “poets and thinkers,” and it couldn’t be more true. As proof, take the long list of artistic German minds, from Goethe to Beethoven to Kant. The long tradition of appreciation of the arts can still be seen today in the countless art exhibitions, museums, and concert venues which are enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
Take, for example, the East Side Gallery, a large section of the Berlin Wall that has been covered by world-famous street art.
As an international student, you will often be granted discounts on admissions, so a study abroad experience in Germany will be the perfect way to enhance your knowledge on some of the finest artists in the world.
10. Don’t Miss the Opportunity to Travel
No matter where you choose to study abroad, you will likely want to travel as much as possible. Bordering nine different countries, Germany is the ideal study abroad destination to explore almost the entirety of Europe.
On top of having so many neighbors, public transportation is extensive throughout Germany. You can easily take advantage of one of the world’s most efficient train systems and see all that Germany has to offer. But it doesn’t stop there.
Germany is also connected to Europe and the rest of the world by bus, boat, and airplane. Plus, as a student, you are eligible for student discounts on most forms of transportation.
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