Studying in Germany

Explore the range of opportunities while being a student in Germany


Germany is an excellent place to attend university. German degree programs have recognized the world over for their excellence in terms of both teaching and research. International students can choose to study at a public or private university and also choose between a traditional University or a University of Applied Sciences.

 

Tips on studying in Germany

1. Find the right course

There are more than 380 universities in Germany, offering some 17,000 study programs in total. Choosing the best location and the most suitable study program are both essential considerations. Do you want to live in a city or a small town? Would you like to study a practical course with a work placement? Would you like to study at a university with a large international population? Make sure you undertake plenty of research before you make your application.

2. Get the university application right

Thoroughly research what the university wants in the way of entry-level requirements. When you make your application to the university make sure you have included everything you need, including proof of qualifications. Consider using the UniAssist service to help with your application.

3. Learn German

Although there are some degrees offered in English, most courses are taught in German and require students to have a certain proficiency in the language before they can apply. Learning German first is therefore advisable. There are many language schools in Germany which offer short courses. Your university may also offer a preparatory German course which you will be able to undertake before embarking on your studies. Learning German won’t just help you with the degree, but will help you make the most of living in Germany.

4. Prepare everything you need for the student visa

A Student Visa is essential for studying in Germany. The easiest way to be approved for a visa is to ensure you have all the paperwork ready, well in advance of your visa appointment. As well as ID and photos you will need the following:

5. Arrange your blocked account & current account

As mentioned above, you will need to have your blocked account set up in order to gain your student visa. DeGiS can offer impartial comparisons of blocked account providers. You can then set this up online with the help of dedicated relocation service. Make sure you’re ready to deposit sufficient funds for your living costs, the requirement as of 2020 is 10,236 for one year. A blocked account will only allow you to withdraw 853 a month. If you want to earn supplemental wages when studying and have a card for day-to-day purchases, you will also need a German current account. A current account will be also useful for you to be able to receive monthly transfers from your blocked account. You can set up a current account in any of the German banks, some of them are offering special student offers.

6. Arrange health insurance in advance

Healthcare insurance is mandatory for all residents in Germany. Like the blocked account, it’s best to do this in advance with the help of a digital relocation service. There are different levels of health insurance available. Some of the largest public providers include TKBARMERAOK, and DAK, all of which cater to students from other countries. Private options are available for those studying at a PhD or guest scientist level.

7. Arrange accommodation beforehand

Studying in a new country is exciting, and you will be at a huge advantage if you have already arranged your accommodation. First-year Bachelor students may be able to secure university accommodation, whilst those in the second or third years or those undertaking a Master’s or PhD will need to find a private rental. Consider living with a family, which is lower in cost and often includes food. A flatshare is also lower in cost than renting an entire property. Be sure to check in with your university administrators who may have advice on securing affordable housing.

8. Make new friends

Moving to a new country can feel daunting, but German universities are usually thriving with social groups and societies where you can meet like-minded people. Whether you’re interested in meeting your fellow countrymen or perhaps making friends with those who are interested in a certain sport, in politics or in hobbies such as chess, student societies are an easy way to make new friends. Check your university noticeboard too – there will be clubs and groups to help you begin meeting people.

9. Get a scholarship

If you or your parents do not have the necessary funds to pay for your living costs, then a scholarship could make a real difference to you. There are numerous scholarships available, some of which are not means funded such as the DeutschlandStipendium. Other opportunities include the Heinrich Boll Foundation Scholarships for political students, or Erasmus Scholarships and DAAD for international students. With so many available, it is definitely worth looking into, as the finances can be put towards living costs or study expenses.

 

Reasons why Germany is a great place to study

1. High-quality degree programs

German degrees are highly thought of, all around the world. Global employers instantly recognize the quality of a German degree. Both the teaching and research at German universities are considered amongst the best in the world.

2. Good standard of living

Residents of Germany enjoy one of the highest living standards in the world. With low crime rates, a stable economy, excellent housing, and a leading medical system, Germany is a great country to reside in during your studies. You will find universities located all over Germany from large, vibrant cities to small Alpine towns, making it easy to find a location that suits you.

3. Range of degree programs

Students in Germany have some of the biggest choices when it comes to study programs. In fact, there are over 17,000 study programs available in Germany, covering both traditional academic subjects and many niche technical subjects too.

4. Strong focus on practice and application

Many degrees, especially those at Universities of Applied Sciences, include internships and work placements at leading companies. This model based on the practice and application of studies helps prepare students for the workplace.

 

Education System in Germany

The German School System

The German education system is ranked amongst the best in the world. Germany boasts some of the highest levels of global literacy rates and the greatest number of students going on to study at university or take up a vocational course after school. Most German children start their early years’ education sometime between three and six years old, by attending a Kindergarten. Kindergarten is not compulsory however and formal elementary schooling only starts in Germany at the age of six, a year later than in most countries. At the age of 10, students move on to a lower secondary school and parents choose between three types of schools: Hauptschule, Realschule or Gymnasium. The Gymnasium is aimed at the most academic children whilst the Hauptschule is for intermediate students and the Realschule has a vocational focus. From the ages of 16-18 students transfer a Gymnasium to complete an Abitur (High School Diploma) or progress to a vocational program through the German Dual Educational System.

The German University Education System

German universities are either publicly or privately funded. Public universities are far greater in number and are free, or low in cost to study at. Universities are also divided into standard academic Universities, and Universities of Applied Sciences, where the study programs tend to be centered around more practical subject areas such as engineering. 

The academic year is divided into two semesters, each one lasting six months. The first semester usually starts in October and the second semester begins usually in April.

Each university in Germany has its own admission criteria and entry requirements. All Bachelor degrees will require students to have completed high school but the grades that are required will depend on the course. More prestigious universities require students to have attained a higher grade. Students from countries where German universities do not recognize the high school diploma may be required to sit a foundation course at a Studienkolleg before they are accepted onto a degree course. German-taught courses will also require students to have a proficient level of German.

Most public universities in Germany do not charge tuition fees. All students need to pay is a semester fee, usually of around €200-300. German universities moved over to the Bologna Process system in 1998, in line with the rest of the EU. This means they award Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, graded as Firsts, Higher Second, Lower Second and Thirds. A very small number of universities still award traditional German Diploma degrees.

 

Application Process

To make your initial application you will normally need to fill out an application form and also provide a letter of motivation, a letter of recommendation, your high school diploma and proof of proficiency in the German language. 

The non-profit UniAssist service can help you get your application right. This organization reviews applications from international students and will then advise universities on the suitability of their application. Although there is a small fee and a waiting time of six to eight weeks, it can be a valuable tool when applying for a German degree program. It is also a useful choice if you are applying for multiple universities.

Once accepted you will not be able to actually enroll until you have a student visa, which means you will need a blocked account with sufficient living funds and proof of healthcare insurance.

Letter of Motivation

A letter of motivation will be a part of your application to a German university. A well-written letter can make the difference between being accepted onto a course or not. The letter should ideally be written in German in a formal style with an introduction, main body, and conclusion. The letter should demonstrate the benefits of you studying in Germany, both for yourself, for Germany and for your home country.

Letter of Recommendation

A letter of recommendation can make a really positive impact on the outcome of your university application. You should consider asking someone of good standing who can vouch for your commitment and capabilities.

 

Financing your Studies

It’s important that you have enough money to finance your studies. In fact, international students will not be approved for a visa without proof of sufficient funds, which must be deposited in a blocked account.

Parental Income

For most students, the money for living costs is paid by their parents. Parents must deposit the money into a blocked account.

Scholarship

It is possible to gain a scholarship to finance studies, and proof of this scholarship will be necessary for the student visa application. There are three routes for gaining a scholarship, either from the university itself, your home country or the DeGiS network, which awards at least 10 scholarships each year to international students.

Part-time work

International students are permitted to work part-time. This money can help cover living costs, but you will still need to prove you have sufficient funds in a blocked account to gain your visa, even if you plan on working during your studies. There are limits to the number of days a student can work, so be sure to check the allowance to avoid heavy fines. Students are able to work for 120 full days or 240 half days per year. Generally, universities limit students to working no more than 20 hours a week during term time.

Student Loan

You may also be able to apply for a student loan from your home country. If successful in your application you will need to be able to have proof of this to be granted for your visa and to enroll.

 

German Degrees

Bachelor’s Degree

The most common type of degree is a Bachelor’s. This is the first level of study at university and is known as undergraduate study (because students have not yet graduated). The range of degree courses available at a Bachelor’s level is vast. There are different types of Bachelor’s degrees including a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BSc) and Bachelor of Engineering (BEng). A Bachelor’s degree takes three to four years to complete on a full-time basis.

Master’s Degree

A Master’s Degree offers greater understanding into a certain study area. A Master’s degree will normally take one year to complete on a full-time basis or two years on a part-time basis. Students may become a Master of Arts (MA), a Master of Science (MSc) or a Master of Engineering (MEng).

Doctoral and Postdoctoral Studies

An increasing number of international students choose to do their PhD in Germany. In total 25,000 students complete postdoctoral studies in Germany each year. Science PhDs are particularly popular in Germany. There are two types of PhD in Germany, either a structured program or an individual doctorate.

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

An MBA is a highly popular specialist Master’s degree. This program is suitable for those who have successfully completed a Bachelor’s degree in Business, Management or Business Administration. Top German universities for studying an MBA include ESMT Berlin, The Frankfurt School of Finance and Management and Mannheim Business School.

 

Universities in Germany

Some of the finest universities in the world are located in Germany. In fact, 23 of the Times Higher Educational Rankings Top 200 Universities are German.

LMU Munich

Considered to be one of the best universities in Germany, this historic establishment was founded in 1472. The institution’s full name is Ludwig Maximilian University and it ranks 32nd in The World University Rankings. Key study areas include the natural sciences. In total 42 Nobel prize winners have been affiliated to LMU. It has a strong global focus, with 13% of students being internationals.

Humboldt University of Berlin

This university is the flagship institution for the Humboldtian Model, an educational concept that sought to integrate research into teaching and fuse different study areas, all in the name of educational freedom. The Humboldt University of Berlin is well-known for its arts and humanities programs. It has an international student population of 16%.

Technical University of Munich

TUM is Germany’s entrepreneurial university which offers study programs focusing on science, engineering and information technology. 17 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to people associated with TUM.

Heidelberg University

Founded in 1368, Heidelberg University is officially Germany’s oldest institution. Located in a charming historic city, 20% of the student body is international, and more than a third of the PhD students are international.