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Everything you need to know about studying in Germany

Have you considered studying abroad at a university in Germany? Learn about higher education in Germany and how to apply to a university in Germany as an international student

    Joy Hunter's avatar

    Joy Hunter

    Student content curator
    June 20 2024
    Everything you need to know about studying in Germany


    With high-ranking univesities, low tuition fees, beautiful countryside and bustling cities, it’s no wonder Germany is becoming an increasingly popular destination for international students. If you want to broaden your horizons and immerse yourself in a new culture by studying abroad, but don’t want to break the bank, Germany might be the place for you.

    Germany has educated the likes of philosopher Karl Marx, Max Weber, known as the founding father of sociology, and Albert Einstein, who originated the theory of relativity. There is a strong academic culture and a range of top universities to choose from.

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    If you’re interested in studying in Germany but not sure where to start, see below for our guide on everything you need to know about studying abroad in Germany.

    The cost of studying at a university in Germany
    Scholarships available in Germany for international students
    Graduate employability: top universities in Germany ranked by employers
    Best universities in Germany
    Everything international students need to know about student visas in Germany
    A guide to post-study work visas in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, Germany and New Zealand

    What universities are there in Germany?

    Some 49 of Germany’s 380 universities are ranked in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2024.

    Germany’s top universities are scattered throughout the country, with options to study in about 40 cities such as Berlin, Munich, Heidelberg and Freiburg.

    Both medieval and modern institutions are to be found in Germany, both offering unique and varied study experiences. The country’s oldest university is ESMT Berlin, founded in 2012.

    There is also a real size range across German institutions; the University of Hagen enrols more than 80,000 students, while Jacob’s University has just over 1,000 students. However, it is still highly international, with students representing more than 110 countries.

    How do you apply to university in Germany?

    When applying to university in Germany, you can either apply directly to your chosen university, usually through its international office, or you can go through Uni-assist, a centralised application system for international students run by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

    If you do apply through Uni-assist, an assessment of your certificates and a preliminary review of your documents costs €75 for the first university you apply to and €30 per additional university. You can usually apply for multiple courses at the same university if you wish, although some institutions limit how many degrees you can apply to in one.

    Most but not all German universities use Uni-assist, so use this list to check if you can apply to your chosen university through Uni-assist.

    Exact application requirements will differ between German universities, but you’ll typically be asked for the following:

    • copies of official certificates to show your previous education qualifications, including your high school diploma or any other degrees
    • transcripts of your previous grades
    • a passport photo and a copy of your current passport
    • proof of language proficiency in German or English, depending on the language of instruction of your course. Students will likely have to take a test such as the Toefl, IELTS, TestDaF or DSH.

    There are two admissions windows per year for German universities, allowing you to begin studying in either the winter or the summer semester. Application deadlines for the winter semester are usually around 15 July every year, while applications for the summer semester tend to have a deadline of 15 January.

    However, deadlines can vary depending on your university and course, so check with your chosen institution for the exact dates.

    Most German universities will let you know the outcome of your application within one to two months of applying.

    Are German university courses taught in German or English?

    Most degree programmes in Germany are taught in German. International applicants will be asked to prove their German-speaking ability with a proficiency test such as the (TestDaF), the Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang (DSH), the Goethe-Zertifikat or the Telc Deutsch.

    Your university and specific course will have its own individual requirements for preferred tests and minimum scores, so check directly with your institution for its exact requirements.

    Despite degrees mostly being taught in German, there also more than 500 university courses taught in English to choose from. These will usually require you to take an English language proficiency test such as the IELTS Academic, Toefl, PTE or Duolingo English test. Read our guide on choosing an English language test for more information. Your language test scores usually form part of your application, so you should have completed the test before you apply to a university in Germany.

    How much does it cost to study in Germany?

    Germany is one of a handful of nations that offer free university education at the undergraduate level. Germany’s 16 states abolished tuition fees for undergraduate students at all public universities in 2014, for both domestic and international students.

    Although tuition is free for these universities, you will have to pay a small administration charge to study for an undergraduate degree at a public university in Germany, which is usually €200 - €300 per year of study, although each university is different.

    However, free tuition is not the case at every German university or degree level. From 2017, non-European Union students have had to pay to study in the Baden-Wurttemberg area, which includes the universities of Freiburg, Heidelberg, Hohenheim, Karlsruhe, Konstanz, Mannhein, Stuttgart, Tübingen and Ulm. It will cost €3,000 per semester for a first degree at these universities and €650 per semester for a second degree.

    There are exemptions for non-EU students who have gained a higher education entrance qualification in Germany, international students from Erasmus member states, students with permanent residency in Europe and refugees who have a right to stay in Germany.

    Although most German universities are public, the few private ones such as Bard College, a liberal arts university in Berlin, can charge as much as €65,000 per year for tuition.

    For postgraduate degrees, tuition is usually free only if you completed your bachelor’s degree in Germany and the course is a “consecutive degree” – meaning that it is in a field related to your undergraduate degree.

    If you completed a bachelor’s in another country, you will be charged for tuition for your master’s degree in Germany. Fees vary between universities and courses but may be up to €20,000 per year at public universities and €30,000 per year at private German universities.

    Tuition is usually free at PhD level at German universities, at least for the first six semesters of your degree.

    Although these low fees are attractive, remember that they’re just one part of the cost of studying abroad. You’ll also need to consider living costs.

    Accommodation and living costs in Germany depend on location, as well as your personal budget and lifestyle. That said, living costs in Germany average at about €12,000 per year, according to data from the DAAD.

    Accommodation may cost about €700 per month for a shared flat or €500 per month in student halls. Internet and phone bills will likely come in at about €30 per month. A meal out in Berlin might cost around €15-€25. Munich is considered the most expensive city.

    As part of your visa application, you will also need to show that you have €11,208 available to support yourself in your first year of studying. This can be proven in several ways, including records of parental income or depositing money into a German bank account.

    What scholarships are there for international students in Germany?

    There are extensive scholarship opportunities in Germany for international students, including the following: 

    DAAD scholarships for master’s studies  

    Offers monthly payments of up to €934 for 10 to 24 months (depending on course duration) to international master’s students based on academic achievement and strength of research proposal.

    Friedrich Ebert Foundation Scholarship

    The Friedrich Ebert Foundation Scholarship offers a monthly stipend of up to €830 to students from Africa, Asia, Latin America or eastern Europe to study undergraduate, postgraduate or doctorate degrees in any field. 

    Deutschlandstipendium Scholarship (Stipendium Plus)

    The Deutschlandstipendium Scholarship offers €300 per month to talented domestic and international students at participating German universities. 

    You can also check this useful scholarship database from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to help you with your scholarship search.

    How do you apply for a student visa for Germany?

    Germany grants prospective student visas, which give you three to six months in Germany to gain admission to a university course. Applicants with a university place can apply for a regular student visa. Both visas need to be converted into a residence permit after starting the course. Students from the US, Brazil, Japan, Canada, Australia and the European Union do not need a visa to enter Germany but do need to apply for a residence permit once in the country.

    You can apply for student visa through the online application system of your country’s German embassy or consulate, where you’ll be asked to book a time for an in-person visa interview.

    The cost of a visa application is €75. Long-stay study visas may take from six to 12 weeks from the application day to be processed, short-stay study visas are usually decided within 15 to 30 days.

    Can I stay and work in Germany after studying there?

    Students who have studied in Germany can apply for an 18-month residence permit to look for a job after graduation, during which time they can do any kind of work.

    Students will require a passport, proof of completion of studies, health insurance documents and proof that they have the means to support themselves financially.

    The 18-month period begins as soon as you finish your final exam, and you can spend the entire time working as much as you like, and in any job. Once you have secured a job, you can then apply for the EU Blue Card or a German residence permit. The EU Blue Card will enable you to work in other EU countries, too. Students from the EU can stay and work in Germany without an 18-month residency permit.

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