Study in Germany: Frequently Asked Questions
Click any of the questions below to get impartial information about studying abroad in Germany, from the admissions process at German universities, tuition fees in Germany (or lack thereof) and German student visa applications, to scholarships to study in Germany and more.
If we haven’t answered your question, please either ask us in the comments at the bottom of this page or post your question in our international student forum.
This will depend on your study level, country of origin, and which state you study in. Tuition fees at all public universities were originally axed in 2014, but were reintroduced for non-EU/EEA students in the south-western state of Baden-Württemberg in autumn 2017.
These fees are set at €1,500 per semester – therefore coming to €3,000 per year (~US$3,440). Students obtaining a second degree will pay a reduced rate of €650 per semester, or €1,300 per year (~US$1,500). Students from Erasmus member states are exempt from these fees. Although no longer free, tuition fees are still far lower than other popular study destinations.
It’s possible that non-EU/EEA tuition fees will be reintroduced to other states in the coming years, but, for now, undergraduate-level tuition at all other public universities in Germany remains free of charge for all students, both in and outside the EU. You will, however, need to pay a nominal administration fee per semester, which is typically no more than €250 (~US$225).
For postgraduate students, however, tuition fees still exist. These fees may be avoided (or cut dramatically) if you have already graduated from an undergraduate program in Germany in the last few years. If you studied in another country at undergraduate level, you are classed as a non-consecutive student and will need to pay tuition fees, which will vary between universities and courses.
For more information about tuition fees in Germany, see the following:
Under the Bologna reform, all universities in Germany offer internationally recognized degrees. A BA or a BSc (Bachelor of Arts / Bachelor of Science) will usually take six semesters (three years) to complete, and these are the most common undergraduate degrees. For postgraduate studies, an MA or MSc (Master of Arts / Master of Science) will take two-four semesters (one-two years) and a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) will last four-six semesters (two-three years).
More specialized degrees are also available at certain German universities. If you’d like more information about gaining an MBA (Masters in Business Administration) in Germany, visit this guide on our sister site TopMBA.com.
You can study medicine for free at any public university in Germany, but will need to have a strong knowledge of both German and English, among other requirements. Medical training programs in Germany are not split into bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and will take at least six years and three months to complete. Spaces are very competitive, with many more applicants than places. You can read more about the requirements, application process, program structure and more in our article How to Study Medicine in Germany.
To study abroad in Germany you need to hold a higher education entrance qualification or Hochschulzugangsberechtigung (HZB). This qualification can come in many formats, particularly for international students who have gained their school-leaving qualifications in a different country.
For prospective undergraduate students, a high-school diploma, school-leaving certificate or university entrance exam result is usually sufficient. For postgraduate programs, students need to provide an undergraduate degree certificate. Usually, if your qualification would allow you entry into higher education in your home country, it will also be sufficient to allow you to apply to German universities. To check whether your current qualifications are recognized for study in Germany, use the form on this page.
If you find that your qualification is not recognized, you are also able to take a preparatory course at a Studienkolleg before taking a compulsory assessment test known as a Feststellungprüfung. This assessment will cover areas that are relevant to the program you wish to study and will prepare you for university.
If you wish to undertake a program being taught in German (the teaching language of most undergraduate programs in Germany), you will also need to prove your German proficiency (see question five below for more information).
In addition to German-language proficiency and an entrance qualification, you may also need to meet the specific entry requirements of your chosen university program. These requirements depend on the reputation of the school and of the program, and can be found by looking at the program information in the university’s prospectus or online.
The language of instruction at most universities in Germany is German. All students undertaking a German-taught program will need to be able to demonstrate a firm knowledge of the language, either by means of a language test result or by taking a preparatory course. Accepted proficiency tests are the DSH (German Language University Entrance Examination for International Applicants), TestDaF (Test of German as a Foreign Language), GDS (Goethe Institut German Language Diploma) and the DSD (German Language Diploma of the Standing Conference of the Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs, Level II). If you are only studying in Germany for one or two semesters you may not need to provide this evidence.
If you have a limited knowledge of German, you could consider taking an English-language program. There are a growing number of English-taught programs at universities in Germany, particularly at postgraduate level. If you are a non-native English speaker, you may be required to provide proof of your English-language proficiency with a TOEFL or IELTS result. If your chosen school requires this, they will list proof of English-language proficiency as an entry requirement.
However, even if you do study in Germany in English, it’s advisable to learn the basics of the German language to enable you to communicate more effectively with the local residents.
Admissions processes vary between institutions, so make sure you check the information given by your chosen university before applying. If you’re unable to find the entry requirements of a program you want to apply for, or you aren’t sure how to apply, visit the university’s International Office (Akademisches Auslandsamt) and either read the information provided online or contact the office directly. There should be staff members available to provide support and advice on any topic relating to international student applications.
Generally, you’ll be asked to provide the following documentation with your application:
- A certified copy of your higher education entrance qualification (e.g. a high-school diploma) and any other relevant qualifications in the original language
- A translated overview of the subjects and grades of your qualifications
- A passport photo
- A copy of your passport (personal information and photo ID)
- Proof of language proficiency (a test certificate or online equivalent)
For most public German universities, the application period for the winter semester begins in early May and ends mid-July. For the summer intake, the application period is between early December and mid-January. You should expect to receive a formal acceptance or rejection approximately one to two months after the deadline has passed.
To ensure the best chances of acceptance, take care to provide all the documentation asked for, make sure all your documentation is certified (copies of documents also need to be certified by the awarding school) and check that you’ve filled out all your information correctly before submitting your application.
For more information on how to apply, see this article.
Whether you need a German student visa depends on your country of origin. If you are from a country within the EU or the EEA or from Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, you do not need a student visa. If you are from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan or South Korea you still do not require a student visa, but you will need to register for a residence permit upon arrival in Germany. If you are from Andorra, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Monaco, San Marino or Taiwan, you only need a visa if you plan on working in Germany before or after your studies. If your home country hasn’t been mentioned above, then you will need to apply for a German student visa at least three months before you are due to travel.
For detailed information on how to apply for a German student visa or a residence permit, check out this article:
A total of 45 German universities currently feature in the QS World University Rankings®, meaning that you have a great selection of world-leading universities to choose from. If you want to study in a world-renowned student city, you might consider Munich or Berlin, both ranked among the world’s top 10 cities for students in the QS Best Student Cities index.
However, there are lots of regions of Germany with something to offer, including North Rhine-Westphalia (home of cities such as Dusseldorf and Cologne), Baden-Wurttemberg (home of Stuttgart), Bavaria (home of Munich), Hesse (home of Frankfurt am Main), Lower Saxony (home of Hannover), Saxony (home of Dresden) and Hamburg (a state which is also a city).
To help you choose a university, the QS World University Rankings by Subject has rankings for 48 subjects as of 2018 – simply narrow the results down by country to select only German institutions. You can also use the compare tool to further narrow down your choices on factors such as international diversity and rankings history.
While all degree programs in Germany lead to a recognized bachelor’s or master’s qualification (or the German equivalent), there are some institutions, named fachhochschulen, which are more geared towards practical learning. Fachhochschulen or universities of applied sciences, typically offer degrees in fields such as engineering, natural science and business administration. Attending a university of applied science may give you a closer relationship with industry contacts and offer more opportunity for practical learning, including internships. If you wish to pursue an academic career, on the other hand, fachhochschulen may not be the best option, as there is less focus on theoretical work and they do not award PhDs.
Although tuition fees in Germany are non-existent at public universities, you still need to consider how you’ll cover living costs. If you don’t have a sponsor or supporting family member, there are countless opportunities to gain scholarships to cover these costs.
Scholarships to study in Germany can be obtained in several ways. The German government offers some funding to international students through the DAAD or the European Commission’s Erasmus+ scheme, but many opportunities are offered independently by German universities or external funding bodies. Browse the funding options on your chosen university’s website to see if they offer any international scholarships –these are often awarded based on merit, subject of study and/or country of origin.
For a selection of general and subject-specific scholarships to study in Germany, see this list:
To learn more about the lifestyle, student cities and the leading universities in Germany, take a look at the following resources.
Unfortunately, most German universities do not offer accommodation to enrolling students. This means that finding accommodation is up to you. With little to no tuition fees in Germany, rent is likely to be your biggest monthly expense, and this will vary depending on which part of the country you live in. In big cities within Western Germany (i.e. Dusseldorf, Cologne etc.) and smaller, student-oriented cities such as Heidelberg and Freiburg, you should expect to pay slightly more than if you were living in eastern Germany (i.e. Berlin).
When looking for accommodation in Germany, you should consider student residences, shared accommodation or an apartment. An unshared apartment is the most expensive choice, and this will generally cost in the region of €357 (~US$320) a month. Shared accommodation would be cheaper at around €280 (~US$250) a month, while student residences are cheaper yet again at around €234 (~US$210) a month.
If you struggle with finding accommodation, you can also look for somewhere temporary to cover your first few days or weeks in the country. In these instances, emergency housing may be provided by the university or you could try couch-surfing, staying in a hostel, B&B or hotel.
For more information on finding accommodation visit this article on the DAAD website. You could also use the Study-in-de’s accommodation finder, which includes information, addresses and application details on a large selection of student residence halls in Germany.
Yes, you can. If you are a full-time EU or EEA student (or from Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland) you can work for up to 20 hours per week. If you are a full-time student from outside of the EU, you will be limited to working up to 120 full days or 240 half days per year before you must apply for a work permit. Upon gaining paid work in Germany you should contact the German employment office to learn about the legal conditions.
Read more about gaining work in Germany during your studies:
Yes. After completing your studies in Germany as an international student, you’re able to apply for a residence permit to stay in the country and seek work for an additional period of 18 months. If you gain work in Germany within this time you should make sure that you extend your visa, residence or work permit to ensure you are living in the country legally. Find out more here.
If you have any further questions, please ask them in the comments below or in our international student forum.
This article was originally published in December 2014. It was last updated in December 2018.
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This article was originally published in December 2018 . It was last updated in January 2020