Studying in Germany
There are three main types of higher education institutions in Germany:
- research-led universities – offering a broad range of courses and subjects and of particular interest to those interested in research and following a doctoral programme.
- universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen) – generally more vocational and often including internships and practical modules.
- colleges of art, film and music – covering subjects such as painting, design, architecture, music and drama.
There are generally three levels of qualification:
- Bachelors degrees – available in a wide range of subject areas.
- Masters degrees – the next level of qualification, intended to expand your subject knowledge.
- Doctoral degrees – involve the completion of a research paper and generally take three to five years to complete.
Most universities and colleges in Germany are public and receive funding from the federal government. Some are financed by the Church and there are also more than 100 private universities and colleges, largely universities of applied sciences, with officially recognised degrees.
What courses can you study?
- German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has a searchable database of first degree, graduate and doctoral level courses. You can include language of study in your search criteria.
- International bachelor, masters and doctoral programmes are also available, offering internationally recognised degrees that are taught primarily in English. They have been designed specifically to meet the needs of international students and include German tuition.
- Summer schools are also available in a wide range of subject areas.
- The DAAD website includes a searchable database of over 300 higher education institutions in Germany. It has also compiled rankings of universities in collaboration with the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit and the Centre for Higher Education Development.
How do you apply for postgraduate study?
If you have already graduated from a study programme in the UK, you will generally be able to study in Germany. However, not all foreign academic degrees automatically qualify you to take up a postgraduate course. For example, bachelors degrees are sometimes only recognised as an intermediate qualification (Zwischenprüfung or Vorprüfung) in Germany.
If you have questions about this, it is best to contact the international office (Akademisches Auslandsamt) of any university in which you are interested. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has a list of these offices on its website.
Application deadlines vary and you should contact the international office at the institutions you are interested in attending for information.
Applications are usually made directly to individual institutions. Online applications are usually accepted, although paper copies of academic certificates and transcripts along with other supporting documentation will have to be posted. A CV and a personal statement are usually requested.
Fees and scholarships
- Although you don't have to pay tuition fees at all German universities, some will charge a fee of around €500 per semester. See the Deutsches Studentenwerk – Information for International Students for a list of federal states that have introduced general tuition fees. It is more usual to pay fees for postgraduate courses (masters and PhDs) than for undergraduate courses.
- You must be able to prove that you have enough money to finance your studies in Germany (currently €8,040 for one year of study).
- Semester contributions (a registration fee) of between €50 and €150 are payable every semester.
- Health insurance, which costs around €60 a month, is compulsory. Students from countries that are members of the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA) and who have public health insurance (the European Health Insurance Card – EHIC) can get this insurance coverage approved by a public health company in Germany. This insurance may not, however, cover all costs in Germany so check what services you are entitled to. See Deutsches Studentenwerk – Information for International Students for more information.
- Check with individual institutions for more specific tuition and fee information.
- On top of any course fees, an estimated minimum monthly budget is €762, with books and other study materials with one-third of this generally spent on rent. While it is possible to live frugally on this amount, it is a bare minimum and more should be set aside if at all possible.
- German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) offers one-year scholarships for doctoral research, which can also be used to support masters courses. It also provides information on scholarships from other foundations. Search their scholarships database for funding opportunities.
- Individual institutions also often have some scholarships available.
Are there any exchange programmes?
UK students on both under and postgraduate degree programmes may be interested in studying in Germany through Erasmus+. This programme is open to all subject areas, but check with your institution’s study abroad/exchange coordinator to see which countries they have links with and in what subject areas.
Will your qualifications be recognised in the UK?
Following the Bologna Process and the creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), a postgraduate course from Germany is directly comparable to the UK equivalent.
Do you need a visa to study in Germany?
Most EU nationals do not need a visa or work permit but citizens of non-EU countries may be required to have these documents. See the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany website for full details.
If you are studying in Germany and are from the European Union, the European Economic Area or Switzerland, you do not need a residence permit. However, you must prove that you have health insurance and that you can finance your studies.
International students can get a residence permit either as an applicant for a university place, as a participant on a language course or as a student. Permits are issued for two years. Students with a residence permit are only allowed to work during the holidays.
AGCAS editors, May 2014