Best universities in Germany 2017

Find the best universities in Germany through Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings data

September 21 2016

Thinking of studying in Germany? The best German universities according to the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2016-17 include prestigious old institutions alongside younger technical universities.

The top universities in Germany are scattered throughout the country, with options to study in Munich, Berlin and 37 other cities in Germany.

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In total, 41 universities in Germany are counted among the very best universities in the world.

LMU Munich is the top university in Germany, followed by Heidelberg University. The top university in Berlin is Humboldt University of Berlin.

There are more than 500 degrees (bachelor's and master's programmes) taught in English at top German universities. Whatever subject you are interested in, you can study that degree in Germany in English.

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Top 5 universities in Germany

Scroll down to view the full table of the best German universities

1. LMU Munich

With the second-largest student population of any university in Germany, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich – to use its full name – attracts a huge number of international students, about 13 per cent of the total student body.

LMU Munich dates back to 1472, making it one of the oldest universities in the country. It has 34 Nobel laureates affiliated to the university, including renowned scientists such as Otto Hahn, Max Planck and Werner Heisenberg.

In fact, since the end of the 18th century, the university has had a strong focus on natural sciences and has produced world-leading research, discoveries and innovations since the middle of the 19th century.

The German Universities Excellence Initiative, launched in 2005, has poured funding into LMU Munich, as well as other leading universities in the country.  

2. Heidelberg University

Heidelberg University, founded in 1386, is the oldest university in present-day Germany.

Now, the university offers undergraduate and postgraduate degrees across 100 different subjects. Academics at Heidelberg have been responsible for founding subdisciplines including psychiatric genetics, modern sociology and environmental physics.

Close to 20 per cent of the student body is international, representing 130 countries around the world. More than a third of doctoral students are international.

The university particularly excels for its innovative research and intellectual contributions across a range of subjects. Fifty-six Nobel laureates have been associated with Heidelberg University, nine of whom won while tenured at the university.

Many influential politicians, philosophers and scientists are alumni or affiliates of the university, including Max Weber – the founder of modern sociology – and philosopher Hannah Arendt.

The Old Town and castle are some of the most visited tourist destinations in Germany, known as the home of German romanticism.

3. Technical University of Munich

Also founded in the 19th century, the Technical University of Munich is the only state university dedicated to science and technology.

The university originally focused on engineering, but has expanded over the years to include natural sciences, social sciences, agriculture, brewing and food technology, and medicine. There are many different specialisms within engineering and information technology; three different departments cover these specialisms.

An overarching philosophy of "the entrepreneurial university" guides the development of the university, which now has 12 faculties across three campuses in or around Munich.

Between 1927 and today, 13 Nobel Prizes have been awarded in physics, chemistry and medicine to academics affiliated to the university.

In 2001, the Technical University of Munich founded a subsidiary university – the German Institute of Science and Technology (GIST) - TUM Asia – in Singapore, providing an international education to students in Asia.

Munich features in the Best University Cities of 2017

4. Humboldt University of Berlin

Humboldt University of Berlin is known not only for its own prestige but also for the educational ethos and university model that has been adopted by other European and Western universities since the 19th century.

The principle of the university is a union between teaching and research, both done by prominent scholars. Some of Germany’s most influential figures attended or worked at the university, including Marx and Engels, Walter Benjamin, Albert Einstein and Max Planck.

In total, 40 Nobel prizewinners are associated with Humboldt University, the majority for physics, chemistry or medicine.

Although well-known and respected across all subjects, the university particularly excels in arts and humanities, ranking 21st in the world for humanities subjects.

The university library, opened in 1874, is one of the most extensive in the country. It contains about 6.5 million books, and thousands of magazines and journals.

Out of almost 30,000 students, about 16 per cent are international.

5. Free University of Berlin

The Free University of Berlin was founded as a result of concerns about Communist control of Humboldt University during the early Cold War period.

From its founding, students had much more impact on the university system and decisions than in other universities in Germany, although their input has been gradually scaled back.

Over the past 15 years, the university has dramatically reduced the size of the student body from more than 60,000 students to just over 30,000 students. About 20 per cent of the students are international.

In 2007, the Free University of Berlin secured the most funding applications for research through the German Universities Excellence Initiative and is one of nine elite universities to receive special funding for development.

The main campus in in the Dahlem district in Berlin, and there are three other campuses for earth sciences, veterinary medicine and the medical centre.

A student village – Studentendorf Schlachtensee – was built between 1959 and 1964 to provide housing options for students, financed by the US government. The 27 buildings made up the first academic residential complex built in postwar Berlin, and are regarded as historically and architecturally significant.

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Best universities in Germany 2017

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2016-17 results

Germany Rank 2017 World University Rank 2017 University City
1 =30 LMU Munich Munich
2 =43 Heidelberg University Heidelberg
3 46 Technical University of Munich Munich
4 =57 Humboldt University of Berlin Berlin
5 75 Free University of Berlin Berlin
6 =78 RWTH Aachen University Aachen
7 =82 Technical University of Berlin Berlin
8 =89 University of Tübingen Tübingen
9 95 University of Freiburg Freiburg im Breisgau
10 102 University of Mannheim Mannheim
11 112 University of Göttingen Göttingen
12 =113 University of Bonn Bonn
13 =135 Ulm University Ulm
14 =144 Karlsruhe Institute of Technology Karlsruhe
15 160 University of Erlangen-Nuremberg Elangen and Nuremberg
16 =161 University of Münster Münster
17 164 TU Dresden  Dresden
18 =170 University of Cologne Cologne
19 =180 University of Hamburg Hamburg
20 =186 University of Würzburg Würzburg
21 194 University of Konstanz Konstanz
22 197 University of Duisburg-Essen Duisburg and Essen
=23 201-250 Goethe University Frankfurt Frankfurt
=23 201-250 University of Kiel Kiel
=23 201-250 University of Stuttgart Stuttgart
=23 201-250 Technical University of Darmstadt Darmstadt
=27 251-300 Bayreuth University Bayreuth
=27 251-300 Bielefeld University Bielefeld
=27 251-300 University of Hohenheim Stuttgart
=27 251-300 Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz Mainz
=27 251-300 University of Marburg Marburg
=27 251-300 Ruhr University Bochum Bochum
=33 301-350 University of Bremen Bremen
=33 301-350 Justus Liebig University Giessen Giessen
=33 301-350 Technical University of Dortmund Dortmund
=36 351-400 University of Kaiserslautern Kaiserslautern
=36 351-400 Leibniz University of Hanover Hanover
=38 401-500 University of Greifswald Greifswald
=38 401-500 University of Siegen Siegen
=40 501-600 Otto von Guericke University of Magdeburg Magdeburg
=40 501-600 University of Paderborn Paderborn

Resources: explore the rankings by subject

- Best universities for arts and humanities
- Best universities for life sciences

Reader's comments (1)

"Whatever subject you are interested in, you can study that degree in Germany in English." -Actually, does this apply to general medicine?! As far as I know, it doesn´t. You´ve got patients in the clinical stage of your medical training, and, generally, you´ve got to talk to patients in their native language, don´t you? Please, correct me, if I´m wrong.

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