Why study in Germany – Germany is home to some of the top-rated universities in the world according to the QS World University Rankings of 2020, which take into account factors like academic and employer reputations as well as research impact. The country has 8 universities that rank amongst the top 150 institutes in the world and is a popular destination for students looking to study abroad. According to a report published by the DAAD or the German Academic Exchange Service, there were a total of 374,580 foreigners enrolled in German universities, as of winter session 2017-18, with Indians being the second most enrolled after Chinese.
This article seeks to highlight why Germany is a great destination for international students.
Why Study in Germany? – List of Top 10 German Universities
There are over 380 universities throughout Germany which offer globally recognized degrees at the undergraduate, post-graduate and doctorate levels. The following is a list of the top 10 universities in the country and their global rankings according to the QS World University Rankings of 2020:
TOP 10 UNIVERSITIES IN GERMANY
Technische Universität München
Ludwig-Maximilians – Universität München
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
KIT, Karlsruher Institut für Technologie
Freie Universität Berlin
Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen (RWTH Aachen)
Technische Universität Berlin
Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
Technical University of Munich(Technische Universität München)
Technische Universität München or Technical University of Munich has been consistently featured in the list of top universities of Germany. It’s well known for providing its students with top-class facilities to conduct cutting edge research in their chosen fields along with unique learning opportunities. It was founded in 1868 and has managed to stay on top of the higher-education landscape by embracing the entrepreneurial spirit. They aim to provide a nurturing environment for budding entrepreneurs and industry leaders that may currently be enrolled in the university by actively marketing the inventions of its researchers and students in various high-tech sectors. They currently have a total strength of 40,124 students out of which around 24% are international. The following is a list of some of the most popular courses they offer:
- M.Sc. in Aerospace Engineering
- M.Sc. in Civil Engineering
- M.Sc. in Informatics
- B.Sc. in Management and Technology
- B.A. in Architecture
Ludwig – Maximilians – Universität München (LMU)
Ludwig – Maximilians – Universität München, popularly known as LMU, is situated in the heart of Munich It has a 540-yr old tradition in higher education and research with degree programs covering up to 200 subjects. Currently 50,000 students are enrolled in the university, out of which 8,500 are international students from 140 countries. As one of Europe’s leading research universities, LMU has produced 26 Nobel Laureates till date. Study programs at LMU are closely integrated with ongoing research at all stages of academic education. Given below are some of the most popular courses offered by LMU:
- B.Sc. in Astrophysics
- B.Sc. in Chemistry and Biochemistry
- M.Sc. in Pharmaceutical Sciences
- M.Sc. in Computer Science
- M.Sc. in Mathematics
Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg (Heidelberg University)
Heidelberg University or Ruperto Carola is Germany’s oldest university. Established in 1386, the university puts a significant emphasis on research-based teaching and structured doctoral training programs. Their spectrum of 180 programs offer a unique variety of subject combination options in Germany. Figures reported by the university on their official website show that currently 28,000 students are enrolled in various degree programs, out of which 18.5% are foreign students. The following is a list of some of the most sought-after courses offered by Ruperto Carola:
- M.A. in Anthropology
- B.A. in Computational Linguistics
- M.A. in Economics
- M.A. in Political Science
- M.Sc. in Molecular Biotechnology
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
The Humboldt University in Berlin was founded in 1810 and has undergone many changes in its 200-year history. Since June 15, 2012, the university has been recognized as one of the 11 ‘Universities of Excellence’ in Germany. Numbers from the official website show that they currently have 34,000 students enrolled out of which 5,020 are international students. Albert Einstein, Emil Fischer, Max Planck and Fritz Haber are among the 29 Nobel Prize winners who did their scientific work at the Berlin University. Given below is a list of some of the most in-demand courses offered by the university:
- B.Sc. in Agricultural Sciences
- M.Sc. in Theoretical Physics
- B.A. in Geography
- M.A. in History
- M.A. in Philosophy
Karlsruher Institut für Technologie
KIT is a university based in the city of Karlsruhe which primarily focuses on subjects in the STEM fields and is currently home to 26,000 students out of which 5,000 are international students. KIT aims to make significant contributions to the global challenges faced in the fields of energy, mobility and information. Engineering sciences, natural sciences, the humanities, and social sciences make up the scope of subjects covered by KIT. The institute offers study programs which are heavily based on research and aim to prepare the students for responsible positions in society, industry and science. The following is a list of some popular courses offered by KIT:
- B.Sc. in Bioengineering
- B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering
- B.Sc. in Mechatronics and IT
- M.Sc. in Biology
- M.Sc. in Geophysics
Free University of Berlin (Freie Universität Berlin)
Freie Universitat Berlin has also been repeatedly selected as one of the best institutes for higher education in Germany. The institute offers a wide range of subjects and highly competitive programs at all levels of study. It has a stellar reputation in the field of social sciences and humanities while also leading the research fields in Natural and Earth Sciences. It was founded in 1948 and since then has grown to accommodate 16 academic departments which offer 150 degree programs. They are currently home to 35,000 students out of which 6,500 students are international students. Given below are some of the most popular courses offered by Freie Universität Berlin:
- B.A. in Ancient Civilisations
- B.A. in History and Culture
- M.A. in Archaeology
- M.A. in Linguistics
- M.A. in Literature
RWTH Aachen University
Founded in 1871, RWTH Aachen is the largest university of technology in Germany. It currently boasts a strength of 45,000 students with around 11,000 international students from 137 different countries. The university offers 144 courses of study with a primary focus on engineering and associated courses in natural sciences, medicine and humanities disciplines like arts, social sciences and economics. The following are some of the most popular courses offered by the institution:
- M.Sc. in General Mechanical Engineering
- M.Sc. in Biomedical Engineering
- M.Sc. in Plastics and Textile Technology
- M.Sc. in Astronautics
- M.Sc. in Metallurgical Engineering
Technische Universität Berlin
TU Berlin is one of the largest technical universities in Germany with a total strength of 34,000 students out of which 8,000 are international students. They offer 100 courses split between 40 bachelor’s programs and around 60 master’s programs. Their premier programs are in the subjects of engineering, computer science, humanities, planning and management, mathematics and natural sciences. Some of the most popular courses they offer within these disciplines are:
- M.Sc. in Chemical Engineering
- M.Sc. in Computational Engineering
- M.Sc. in Information Systems Management
- M.Sc. in Industrial Engineering
- M.Sc. in Mathematics
Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
The University of Tübingen was founded in 1477 and is one of the prime locations in Germany for academic studies and research. Based on an academic tradition that spans 500+ years, the university currently is home to 28,000 students out of which 3,779 are international students. They offer 200 courses that range from Egyptology to Dentistry. The following is a list of some of the leading courses on offer at the University of Tubingen:
- M.Sc. in Molecular Medicine
- M.Sc. in Machine Learning
- M.A. in Accounting and Finance
- B.A. in International Economics
- M.A. in International Business Management
Founded in 1457, the University of Freiburg offers undergraduate and postgraduate programs in all the important disciplines like humanities, natural and engineering sciences, medicine, law and theology. The university hosts 22,000 students out of which 3,973 are international students. Students can choose from over 60 different fields of study. The following are some examples of popular degree courses offered by the University of Freiburg:
- M.Sc. in Applied Physics
- B.A in Catholic Theology
- M.A. in English Literature and Literary Theory
- M.Sc. in Microsystems Engineering
- M.A. in Philosophy
Why Study in Germany? – Tuition Fees
Public universities in Germany do not charge tuition fees for bachelor’s and master’s programs. This free tuition system is available to all foreign students. However, we have listed a few disclaimers in the points below:
- You need to pay a fee if your degree is in a different subject than your bachelor’s or if you have completed your undergraduate degree from another country.
- In 2017, the federal state of Baden-Württemberg decided to start charging tuition fees from international students. Foreign students enrolled in universities in Baden-Württemberg must now pay a tuition fee of EUR 3,000 per year. It’s still unclear whether other states will follow suit in coming years, but for now, Germany remains an attractive destination for foreign students looking to study abroad at a reasonable cost.
- Most German universities are public, so you will just have to pay an administration fee of EUR 100-350 per semester. This will cover your enrolment and student organisation services.
- Private German universities, on the other hand, require all students to pay tuition fees and the average costs range from EUR 2,000 to EUR 20,000. In Germany, there is no central government mechanism that regulates tuition fee policies, as such. Therefore, universities are free to set their own prices without adhering to any form of regulations or guidelines.
- Some of the most expensive programs in the country are engineering and business/management and hence their tuition cost may be more than the average tuition costs of other German private courses.
- International students are not permitted to enrol at German higher education institutions without proof of health insurance that is recognised in Germany. The student tariff towards health insurance comes to around 110 EUR a month and is available until he/she is 30 years old or has completed his/her 14th subject-related semester. Please note that the tariffs vary as each health insurance provider can levy individual additional contributions.
The following is a list of some of the private and public universities in Germany and their tuition fees:
LIST OF INSTITUTES AND TUITION FEES IN GERMANY
University of Stuttgart
University of Mannheim
University of Bremen
University of Cologne
University of Hamburg
Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
EUR 258 per year
EUR 20,000 per year
Technical University of Munich
EUR 258 per year
Humboldt University of Berlin
NOTE: The information in the table above should be confirmed at the official websites of the institutes by prospective students. These figures are based on averages that may not accurately reflect the newest changes in policy and exact numbers.
Why Study in Germany? – Cost of Living
International students can manage to find options that will allow them to study for free or at a very low cost in Germany, but living costs are still unavoidable. Some cities in Germany are more expensive than others. Larger cities like Munich, Berlin etc have a higher cost of living compared to smaller cities like Freiburg, Leipzig or Hannover. According to the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), Munich is considered the most expensive city to live in for international students in Germany and the majority of finances of international students there go towards residential costs.
The following is a breakdown of the average cost of living for an international student in Germany based on the data from the DAAD:
- Living alone in a studio apartment – EUR 390 monthly/ Sharing a rented flat – EUR 365 monthly/ Living in student housing – EUR 250 monthly
- Food – EUR 168 monthly
- Clothes – EUR 52 monthly
- Transport – EUR 94 monthly
- Study material – EUR 20 monthly
- Recreational activities – EUR 60 monthly
- Health insurance – EUR 110 monthly
Why Study in Germany? – Working While Studying
Non-EU/EEA students are allowed to work in Germany while completing their degrees but they have to adhere to certain regulations:
- International students can work for 120 full days or 240 half days per year. They cannot be self-employed or work as freelancers.
- Mostly, as per university norms, a student may work for more than 20 hours a week during the university term. Students, however, can go for full-time employment during vacations.
- Those who wish to work more need permission from the Agentur für Arbeit (Federal Employment Agency) and the Ausländerbehörde (foreigner’s office).
- An exception to these regulations is working as an academic assistant. There is no limit to how many days academic assistants can work, but they still have to inform the foreigners office.
- Students enrolled in a language course or studying at a preparatory college may only work if they have explicit permission from the Federal Employment Agency and the foreigner’s office and only during breaks between their classes.
Typical jobs for students involve working as waiters, working at trade fairs, courier services and giving personal tuitions. On-campus you can work as an academic assistant at the university you are studying in. International students are eligible for the national minimum wage of EUR 9.19 per hour. You can earn more than this depending on which city you are working in and what the regional labour market looks like at the time.
Students working a part-time job can earn up to EUR 450 per month without having to pay taxes. If you are regularly earning more than EUR 450 per month, you will need to register for a German government tax number and a certain amount will be deducted from your wages every month. This money will be returned to you at the end of the year if you file a tax return.
Why Study in Germany – Post Study Work Permit
International students in Germany who wish to work in the country after the completion of their degrees need to apply for a normal residence permit, which is separate from your student visa. This permit will allow you to stay back in the country for 18 months. You can use this time to look for and apply to jobs. Once you secure a job offer in a field that you wish to work in, you will need to apply for a German Residence Permit, also known as the ‘EU Blue Card’. This card provides you with the opportunity to work and reside in Germany and multiple other European countries as well. You can also apply for a permanent settlement permit 2 years after receiving the EU card.
To apply for a German Residence Permit after completing your study you will require the following documents:
- A valid passport
- A university degree to act as proof that you have completed your studies
- Proof that you are registered for healthcare and insurance
- Proof of finances to show you can fund your stay in Germany
Why Study in Germany – Study abroad Comparisons to UK and USA
Prospective international students who are still confused about whether they should choose the UK or the USA over Germany as their destination to pursue higher education should keep in mind the following considerations before making their decision:
- While the UK and the USA charge significant tuition fees, German public universities do not charge tuition fees. With just a semester contribution of EUR 250 you can study in some of the best institutions in the country. USA has an average tuition fees of EUR 30,500 per academic year for international students, while the UK charges an average of EUR 31,000 per academic year.
- Another reason a majority of students prefer to go to the UK or USA is because English is the primary language of classroom instruction. However, according to the DAAD or German Academic Exchange Services website, 1471 courses in Germany are taught completely in English. The number is projected to increase in the future.
- Germany provides excellent job and PhD opportunities for international students. After completing your degree, you can stay in the country for 18 months to look for a job in your field. This process is not as easy in the USA where visa restrictions are much more stringent.
Why study in Germany – Disclaimer
- German classrooms have a low ratio of professors to students, when compared to the other countries around the world well known for their higher education system. Lecture rooms are usually filled to capacity with students having to stand or sit on the floor. Students should be aware that it will be hard to have one-on-one interactions with professors and they might have to deal with a lot of the course-work themselves.
- Even if you are enrolled in an English language course, having a high degree of proficiency in the German language is a must as most jobs in the country require candidates to be fluent in the German language.
- German universities do not have dedicated placement cells or campus placement opportunities. They do facilitate career days and other corporate networking events but the onus for securing an internship or a job falls squarely on the shoulders of the students.
- Many courses have oral examinations designed to probe the depth of knowledge of the candidate and their mental agility as well. Students should be prepared to be tested with spontaneous questions that will judge their reasoning and relational understanding of the coursework.
- The German job market places a significant emphasis on references and students should engage in additional activities that will allow them to interact and network with professionals in their field to gain insight, guidance and mentorship which will help them in their job search later on.
- Students from most countries are required to obtain a German student visa before they are allowed to attend their course of study in Germany.
- Foreign students are required to present a Blocked Bank Account to show that they have the financial resources to fund their stay in the country. A blocked account is a special kind of account which holds your funds and cannot be accessed until you enter the country. It is a mandatory requirement for securing a student visa. The completed application forms, along with a copy of your passport must be certified by a German diplomatic office in your country of origin before you submit them to a German bank of your choice. Most banks charge a fee that ranges from EUR 50 to EUR 150 to set up a blocked account. Once you arrive in Germany, your bank will provide you with an EC card which will allow you to access the money in your blocked account. The maximum amount you can withdraw from your account in a month cannot be more than 720 euros.
Why study in Germany – FAQs
Q. What are the QS Rankings?
QS World University Rankings is an annual publication of university rankings that comprise the global overall and subject rankings for all the best universities in the world, based on the quality of a university’s research, teaching, student reviews and employability. Along with the global rankings they also offer regional tables for Asia, Latin America, Emerging Europe and Central Asia, the Arab Region and BRICS.
Q. Why are German universities ranked highly in the world?
German universities are ranked highly based on the quality of research and innovation that is coming out of their institutions. Also, according to a Times report from 2017, German graduates are hired without a lot of worries by employers all over the world. The universities focus on ensuring the employability of their students, along with a practical, real-world based approach to teaching which allow German universities to do well in global rankings.
Q. What are the ‘Universities of Excellence’?
As a part of the Excellence Strategy of the Federal Government and the German states that aim to promote cutting-edge university, ten universities and a consortium of four Berlin-based universities in Germany will be termed as ‘Universities of Excellence’ from 2019 to 2026. These universities will be eligible to receive millions of euros in additional funding. These institutions were chosen based on their track records and having outstanding international connections.
Q. What is the oldest university in Germany?
Germany’s oldest university is located in Heidelberg. Founded in 1386, Heidelberg University is also the 6th oldest university in Europe. It has a long tradition of carrying research-based courses and continues to rank amongst the world’s best institutions. In recent times, it has produced more than 30 Nobel laureates.
Q. What are some of the most popular courses in Germany?
Some of the most popular courses in Germany according to their QS rankings are:
- Computer Science
- Chemical Engineering
- Civil Engineering
- Electrical Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
Q. Can I study in Germany free of charge?
The tuition costs in German public universities are nil, but only in the ones which are located outside the south-western state of Baden-Wurttemberg. Undergraduate level studies in all the other states are free of cost and only require the students to pay a nominal administration fee per semester that is only EUR 250. Post-graduate students still need to pay tuition fees, which can be avoided if you have completed your undergraduate degree from a university in Germany.
Q. Can I work while studying in Germany?
Yes, you can. International students are allowed to work for 120 full days or 240 half days in one academic year (for more than 20 hours a week during the university term). You are allowed to earn up to EUR 450 per month, which can be used to finance your cost of living in Germany. If you are earning more than this amount, you will have to file for income taxes and make contributions to the German social system of healthcare and public services.
Q. Can I stay in Germany after I complete my studies?
Yes, you can. After completing your degree as an international student in Germany, you will be able to apply for a residence permit which will allow you to stay in the country for 18 months while you look for work related to your chosen field. If you gain permanent employment during this time, you can contact the immigration office which will provide you with the information you need to keep living in the country legally.