The German higher education system stands out through the wide range of universities it offers. Many universities are focused on research and you can also enrol in specialised institutions that offer programmes in certain fields, like Education or Arts.
When you decide to study abroad in Germany, it's important to learn as much as you can about the education system, organisation, and costs. It will help you adapt faster and you won't have any unpleasant surprises once you get there. So, here are 8 essential tips to prepare you for studying a degree in Germany.
1. Make sure you know your German university names
Germans are fond of keeping everything neat and tightly organised. That's why they have many different types of universities which are grouped by category. We have translated these for you so you know which type of university you're applying for:
- traditional universities (Universitäten)
- universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen)
- universities of technology (Technische Hochschulen or Universitäten)
- universities of education (Pädagogische Hochschulen)
- universities and colleges of art, music and film (Kunst-, Musik-, und Filmhochschulen und Universitäten der Künste)
- universities of applied administrative sciences (Verwaltungsfachhochschulen)
- universities of the armed forces (Universitäten der Bundeswehr)
- distance studies universities (Fernhochschulen) and universities of cooperative education (Berufsakademien)
Most of these universities are public institutions and many of them offer a significant number of English-taught degrees. Here are a few recommendations to get you started:
- University of Bonn
- University of Cologne
- IU International University of Applied Sciences
- RWTH Aachen University
- University of Göttingen
2. Budget for affordable tuition fees in Germany
Most of the states in Germany do not charge any tuition fees to EU/EEA as well as non-EU/EEA students. Students only pay an administration fee of 100 - 350 EUR/semester, which often includes a transit pass for public transport in the region or even the whole state. Additionally, the administration fee partially covers the administration costs of your university and the social contributions to the Studentenwerk.
You can also check out the Studyportals Scholarship to get some help on financing your studies abroad.
Find more detailed information about tuition fees in Germany.
Long-term tuition fees
Some universities request around 500 EUR each semester from those students who need three to four semesters longer than their fellow students to complete their programmes.
Apart from tuition or administration fees, you’ll also have to cover your living expenses which vary depending on the German city in which you live.
3. Get informed about the university admission requirements
To be admitted at a German university, you must prove that you hold a higher education entrance qualification with which you can be admitted to higher education in your home country.
This would be a secondary school leaving certificate (for example, High School Diploma, Gaokao, Matura, A-Levels, Bachillerato). You might also have to offer proof that you have successfully taken a university entrance exam. To be able to study in Germany, your school leaving certificate must be recognised as equivalent to the German higher education entrance qualification (Abitur).
Applicants from EU and EEA countries
If your school leaving certificate entitles you to study in your home country, this is also accepted when you apply for a study place in Germany.
Applicants from non-EU/EEA countries
The international office or the student registration office (Studierendensekretariat) at your chosen university will check whether your higher education entrance qualification allows you to be admitted. If your certificate is not recognised as equivalent, you must take an assessment test (Feststellungsprüfung).
Find out more in-depth information about how to apply to universities in Germany.
4. Make sure you meet the German/English language level
Before you can take up a course at a German university, you normally have to prove that your German language skills are good enough for studying. The most common German language tests are:
- "Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang ausländischer Studienbewerber" (DSH). You can only sit the DSH at your German university.
- "Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache" (TestDaF). It can be taken at many test centres located in Germany and abroad.
Other language certificates are also accepted, but you will first have to check with your chosen university.
You can attend German language courses in parallel with your normal studies once the academic year begins. Universities in Germany organise special German language courses for international students.
If you apply for an English-taught degree, unless you come from an English speaking country (e.g. the United Kingdom), you will have to prove your English language proficiency. Accepted English language tests are:
- PTE Academic
5. Make sure you get your German student visa on time
If you are from a non-EU/EEA country you should also check out German student visa requirements depending on your nationality:
- Indian students applying for German visa
- Iranian students applying for German visa
- Students from Egypt applying for German visa
- Turkish students applying for German visa
6. Get accustomed to the academic calendar in Germany
At German universities, the academic year is divided in two semesters (winter and summer). Dates may vary slightly from one university to another. Check the Registrar's Office at your university for the exact dates.
For Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen)
- Summer semester: March to August (lectures begin: 15 March)
- Winter semester: September to February (lectures begin: 15 September)
For Universities (Universitäten)
- Summer semester: April to September (lectures begin: 15 April)
- Winter semester: October to March (lectures begin: 15 October)
Semester vacation/recess (non-lecture period)
- Summer: end of July to September
- Winter: end of February to mid-April
7. Take into account the costs of books and other study materials
How much you spend on study materials and excursions will depend on what subject(s) you are studying. Disciplines like Arts and Humanities only require you to buy books. The university libraries hold the essential textbooks you need, but some books can only be read in the library, without the option of renting them.
It may make sense to buy the specialist books and literature that are important to you. You can buy many second-hand books at reasonable prices via offers posted on the notice board in your university or in second-hand bookshops.
On average, you will spend around 200 EUR per semester on books. Artistic subjects and medical courses are much more cost-intensive (requiring about 50 EUR per month).
8. Make sure you have enough money to cover the overall study costs
When calculating your budget, ensure that you include all the expenses related to your studies:
- the administration fee (once per semester): around 100 – 350 EUR
- expenses for study materials and excursions: 50 – 70 EUR/month
- health insurance contributions : 80 – 160 EUR/month
- tuition fees: only in private universities and in the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg, where non-EU/EEA students pay tuition even at public universities.