There are more than 380 officially recognized universities in Germany which offer more than 17,000 study programmes. Germany has both state and state-accredited institutions of higher education. Institutions are divided into universities, universities of applied sciences and colleges of arts and music. While most institutes of higher education in Germany are public, there are private universities and some universities are run by the catholic and protestant church. Most privately run institutions are known as universities of applied sciences and do not possess the right to confer doctorates. Universities of applied sciences have a strong emphasis on practical work and provide a narrower portfolio of degrees than universities. Universities and institutions with an equivalent status are the only institutions with the right to confer doctorates. Normally, universities offer a wide portfolio of degrees and are strongly research oriented. Colleges of arts and music possess a similar status to universities but only offer education in creative subjects. Germany is highly welcoming to international students and in the winter semester of 2017/2018 approximately 374,951 international students were enrolled at a German university. For more information refer to the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (https://www.bmbf.de/en/index.html).
After the Bologna Process, most degrees offered in Germany are Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. While Bachelor’s degrees usually take three years (i.e. six German semesters), a Master’s degree demands additional two years (i.e. four German semesters) of study. However, some degrees such as law and medicine are accredited with a state examination degree (Staatsexamen). As such, studies of medicine and law usually take approximately five years (eight semesters) and are similar to integrated studies. In order to enrol for PhD studies, German universities demand a Master’s degree and usually such a degree has to be obtained with a minimum of 120 ECTS. PhDs can be obtained at specially accredited universities and usually last a minimum of three years depending on whether they are done full time or half time.
Enrolment to German universities differs depending on the degree, university and federal state. While some subjects are open to everyone with an Abitur or similarly recognized school diploma, others require a special GPA. Universities have special values. For those degrees that do not require special grades, individuals can usually enrol straight at the university. Other degrees require a special application which is mainly made via Hochschulstart. If students do not fulfil the grading criteria for a certain degree they have the possibility to enter a degree through their waiting time (Wartezeit). For example, if a student does not meet the GPA criteria for a certain degree he has the opportunity to wait for a few years and this time will beneficially be taken into account when applying again. For more information regarding enrolment it is best to recruit the website of the university of interest. While much education in Germany is taught in German, universities increasingly offer degrees in English.
Most universities in Germany are public institutions and education is generally free. However, some costs apply per half year (Semesterbeitrag) to cover costs for a train costs and some maintenance. Usually those costs are around 200 Euros per half year. Furthermore, students have to pay for health insurance (usually around 100 Euros a month). While education is mainly also free for international students, some federal states such as Baden Wuerttemberg charge international students some costs. In contrast to public universities, private institutions are usually not free but charge a monthly rate which can vary between 300 and 800 Euros.
Information for International Students
In order for international students to enrol at a degree taught in German, students have to provide tests of their language ability, such as the DSH 1. Similarly, if students want to study in English, they have to provide proof of their English language skills such with the TOEFL test. For more information refer to the university’s website you are interested in. It is uncommon for German students to live on campus and most students live in private flats. However, most universities offer special living homes (Wohnheime) which are generally more affordable than private housing but offer less luxury. Mostly, places in such homes are fully booked quickly and no one is granted a place to live.