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.
One of the leading distance learning providers in Germany and a valuable resource on the path to obtaining your Masters degree.
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With more than 48,000 students, 7,600 of which are international, the ILF is a centre for academic excellence in teaching and research.
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.
Read more about German student visa requirements and the application process at SchengenVisaInfo.com.
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.
Germany is the fourth most popular destination among international students in the world. More than thirteen percent of students at German universities in 2018 came from all over the world – just like you. Germany is an attractive place to study and German university degrees are highly respected by employers worldwide.
1. TOP QUALITY
German universities offer excellent teaching and research, ranking among the best in the world. You will earn an internationally renowned degree, giving you excellent prospects on the global labour market.
The range of courses offered at German universities is immense and gives you the opportunity to choose whatever area of study you want to focus on. A huge array of international programmes and inter-disciplinary degree programmes allows you to specialize.
Discover the beauty and diversity Germany has to offer! When you take time off from your studies, there are 1001 ways of finding out more about your host country. For example, you can go to a museum, a cinema or a theatre, you can sit in a beer garden, you can go for a walk on a beach, you can swim in a lake, climb a mountain or visit an old castle.
3. GEARED TO PRACTICE
German universities provide outstanding academic programmes, while universities of applied sciences offer a range of attractive, practice-oriented options. A lot of universities collaborate with companies. Many study programmes combine theory and practice. This will greatly facilitate your career start.
4. POTENTIAL UNLOCKED
In Germany, you can make the most of yourself. Here you can develop your intellectual abilities and personal skills freely and reach your full potential. If you are out to achieve great things, you will find determination, motivation and commitment open many doors – both during your studies and after your studies.
5. SAFE COUNTRY
In comparison with other countries, Germany is a safe country. In town or in the countryside, by day or by night, you can move around freely here. Germany offers economic and political stability, which makes it an ideal place for you to study.
With a considerable number of excellent universities and bustling cities packed with art galleries and vibrant nightlife, it’s no wonder thousands of young people are deciding to pursue their academic ambitions in Germany. The European country is one of the few countries in the world where education is free for young people, while international students can take advantage of some of the lowest tuition fees on the continent. So if you’re considering studying abroad, here are seven reasons to study in Germany.
Germany has some of the best universities in the world. In fact, 23 higher education institutions in Germany made it into the 2019 top 200 World University Rankings, making the European republic the third most represented nation on the list after the USA and the UK. The rankings look at key performance indicators, including teaching, research, knowledge transfer, and international outlook across 1,400 schools in 92 different countries. According to the rankings, the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich is the top university in Germany. The university ranked as the 32nd best university in the world, while Berlin plays host to four schools in the top 200.
A long, enlightened tradition
Germany was the birthplace of some of the most influential thinkers, scientists, and writers of the last 400 years. From Immanuel Kant to Nietzsche, Goethe to Thomas Mann, or Max Planck to Albert Einstein, the German intellectual tradition has made an enormous contribution to the history of ideas which have shaped the world we live in today. The first German university opened in 1386 in Heidelberg and it is now the sixth oldest university in Europe. And Heidelberg is certainly carrying on the fine German tradition; in recent years, it’s produced over 30 Nobel Prize winners.
Broaden your horizons
As crucial as those final grades are, there’s much more to university life than spending long hours in the library with your nose stuck in a textbook. University is a chance to meet new people, expose yourself to different cultures, and learn the value and rewards of personal independence. And while you can always do this in your home country, spreading your wings and studying abroad, for example in Germany, is an excellent way to challenge yourself and push your personal development to the next level. International students in Germany graduate with the same degree as domestic students, but they often leave university with a greater sense of independence, confidence, and a willingness to take on even more challenges — all crucial skills which will help you succeed in your future career.
As one student wrote on Studying in Germany, “At home, I felt like I had wings, but they had been clipped. Suddenly, when I came to Germany, I had so many options and I was able to learn. I learn something new every day that I, now, feel like I have learnt how to fly!” The student also had plenty of complimentary things to say about all their new German friends and host country: “German people are friendly, but they also respect and value your privacy! Germans are curious, and they are friends for life. […] Most German cities are artsy and have a vivid underground music scene, fashion, books and ideals, which will further expand your horizons and understanding.”
Overcoming the language barrier
The German language has a reputation as being one of the hardest European tongues to master. To begin with you may have trouble with your pronunciation and or grammar (verbs in German often go at the end of sentences where they don’t in English, so you may find you often sound like Yoda!) — but picking up the basics is much easier than many people think. Firstly, there are no silent letters, and the phonetics are consistent. Even some of the more complicated looking vowel sounds are relatively straightforward to articulate.
And for native English speakers or anyone with a good grasp of the language, you will soon notice a surprising amount of similarities. Over 80% of the most common English words have Germanic origins, while roughly 40% of German words bear a very close relationship to their English counterparts. To take a basic example, “what is that?” translates to “was ist das?”. And you can probably guess what the words ‘Oktober’ and ‘Dezember’ mean in English. And to make things even easier for international students, many German university programs are primarily taught in English, especially at master’s level.
A safe and beautiful country
Germany isn’t just one of the safest countries in Europe; it’s one of the safest countries in the world. Crime is currently is at its lowest levels since the early 90s, and less than one percent of Germans are affected by serious violent crime.
National stereotypes should always be taken with a pinch of salt, but it’s fair to say that the German reputation for efficiency is well deserved. Much like it’s close neighbor Switzerland, Germany is one of those countries where everything just seems to work. The public transport systems in big cities like Berlin and Munich are fast, reliable, clean, and safe. Trams, buses, and underground trains interconnect through the cities and thanks to significant subsidies by the national government, fares are much cheaper than in many other European cities — great news for students who need to keep a close eye on every penny they spend!
Germany is also famous for its large areas of natural beauty, providing plenty of opportunities for relaxing day trips or a weekend break from your studies. You can visit the ski resorts nestled in the stunning mountains around the small town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, take a boat trip along the Rhine, or spend a few days camping in the Black Forest National Park.
Great value for money
In 2014, Germany abolished tuition fees for all public universities, making it one of the few countries in the world with a free higher education system. This initially extended to all international students. However, to reduce the national debt, the government began reintroducing fees for non-EU students in 2017.
But it’s not all bad news for anyone thinking about making a move to Germany. While there are university fees for some international students now, they are still a lot cheaper than many of the alternatives. On average, non-EU students pay around €1,500 per semester, while anyone studying for a second degree pays a reduced fee of €650 per semester. Non-EU students will require a student visa, which includes a small administration fee of €60 ($74). You will also need to show evidence that you have access to €725 ($890) per month for living expenses. Health insurance is another prerequisite for students from outside the EU.
If you are struggling to meet the costs, federal student financial aid schemes are available for all students, although funding is only available on a limited basis to international students. So if you think you might need extra financial assistance, apply as soon as possible. Aid programs are split in two: 50% is a non-repayable national grant, while the other half is an interest-free loan that is paid back in installments. These don’t begin until four years after the first payment of the loan. Overall, successful applicants will receive an extra €300 ($327) per month.
Opportunities for graduates
After graduation, international students can apply for an 18-month residence permit while they look for a job. Graduates are eligible for any kind of work to support themselves while they hunt for their dream job. And with your experience as an international student, the demonstrable willingness to push yourself out of your comfort zone, many employers are likely to be impressed. As well as its thriving manufacturing and automotive sectors (perfect for would-be engineers), Germany is leading the way in several future-proof industries including robotics, nanotechnology, and environmental technology.
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