Studying in Germany
Updated 2022-11-09 18:09

Germany has about 400 state-recognized higher education institutions, offering 20,000 study programs at all levels — from short and language courses to Bachelor's, Master's and PhD studies. Germany is the third most popular destination for international students, only after the anglophone United States and the United Kingdom. In other words, every year, about 100,000 students arrive in Germany for their graduate or postgraduate studies.

Some of Germany's top universities are the Technische Universität München (also known as the Entrepreneurial University), Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (the institution of 52,451 students for the academic year 2020/2021), and Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg (the oldest university in Germany). In fact, every major city in Germany has at least one university, guaranteeing high-quality studies. Besides the world-class curriculum and modern premises, international students in Germany enjoy promising employment prospects and good quality of life. 

Good to know:

Only degrees from state-recognized higher education institutions are accepted by international labor markets. 

Useful links: 

Technische Universität München

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg

Plan your studies in Germany

Start by deciding which university you want to apply to and for what study program. At first, you may feel overwhelmed with all the options in front of you, but keep in mind that each university has its expertise, and certain universities are suitable for particular studies. For example, Universität Heidelberg is an excellent choice for studies in medicine. However, if you wish to study renewable energy, you should consider the Technical University of Munich (TUM). And, for studies in anthropology, the Free University of Berlin ranks higher than others. 

Once you have decided on the university or universities you want to apply to, you should carefully go through the entry requirements because they differ from one university and course to another. If you have any doubts regarding the entry requirements, fees, or curriculum, you should contact the respective faculty representative for clarification. Naturally, non-EU and non-EEA students may have more questions with regard to their German student visa application and finances. Therefore, they should allow more time for their application. 

Another thing you should think about ahead of time, but most likely after you have been offered a place of study, is your accommodation in Germany. Student halls may offer limited spaces and give priority to younger or overseas students. Hence, a shared house or apartment might be a more viable option for you, or a studio, if you value your privacy. For more information about housing options in different German cities, go to our Accommodation in Germany Guide.   

Tip: Moving to Germany for university may lead to many questions. Follow the lively discussions in our Germany forum to find out more about studying in Germany from seasoned expats.   

Good to know: University rankings can give you an idea about the quality of education offered in different universities. However, keep in mind that they vary between publishers and aren't always completely unbiased.

Useful link: 

Deutsches Studentenwerk information for international students

The German higher education system

Germany has state-funded and private universities spanning across different categories: universities, universities of applied sciences, universities of art, film, and music, and duale hochschulen (which means dual study colleges). A university emphasizes theoretical knowledge and academic research; hence, if you wish to follow an academic career and complete a PhD, this is the type of higher education institution you should look for. On the other hand, universities of applied sciences offer vocational studies tailored to professional requirements in the technology, business, media, or social services sectors. Often, the study program requires an internship or a short-term work placement. 

Universities of creative subjects such as fashion design, acting, dancing, and directing are more competitive since they require an entrance examination to prove your artistic skills and talents — on top of the academic and German language qualifications. Last, a dual-study college is ideal for those students who want hands-on experience. In other words, studies are combined with a paid work placement, and education takes place both in the job environment and at the college. Germany is generally known for its dual study programs, especially popular in the automation, culinary, first aid, carpentry, and plumbing sectors, which are usually lacking in the labor force. 

Good to know: 

Most universities and colleges in Germany are state-funded, and some are church-run. In addition, there are private universities whose degrees are recognized by the state. 

*Useful links

Degree programmes database by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research

German university entry requirements 

To enroll in a German higher education institution, candidates need a school-leaving certificate (called hochschulzugangsberechtigung). If candidates apply with a qualification that is not equivalent to the German school-leaving diploma, they will have to study a foundation course (studienkolleg) before the degree. The course, which takes one year to complete, will include German language lessons and subjects relevant to your future degree program. Note that to enroll in a foundation course, you will need to pass an entrance examination first and prove sufficient (level B1 or higher) knowledge of German. For studies at a master's degree or PhD level, the academic entry requirements are usually a recognized bachelor's and master's, respectively.

Sometimes, meeting the academic and language requirements isn't enough to secure a place in programs of high demand, and other elements are taken into consideration, such as a good motivation letter and strong references. For such popular degrees (e.g., medicine, dentistry, pharmaceutical science, etc.), it is the Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung that makes the final decision. Note that these programs may have earlier application deadlines than the less sought-after programs. The restriction on admission because there are more applicants than places in the program is known in Germany as Numerus Clausus (NC), meaning limited number. 

Tip: Don't hesitate to contact the international office (Akademisches Auslandsamt) of your university of interest for information related to your studies, entry requirements, student visa, and more.  

Useful links

The DAAD entrance qualification database to find out whether your international certificate is recognised for university admission.

Anabin database for international qualifications

Foundation courses

Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung

Submitting your application to a German university

For more than half of the German universities, candidates can apply via the national online university application platform called Uni Assist. For other universities, candidates will have to apply via the institution's own platform or other websites such as Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung. 

Before uploading any documents of acquired qualifications, check whether your qualifications are adequate and recognised for your preferred study programme and university. For example, for a Bachelor's degree, you need a school leaving certificate, the German equivalent of which is the German Abitur or the German International Abitur (DIAP). 

The typical application documents include:  

  • A certified copy of your highest qualification
  • A translated and certified transcript of your classes and grades
  • A passport photo
  • A copy of your passport's biometrics page
  • Certified copies of language certificates

Tip: The more applications you send, the more chances you have of enrolling into higher education.

Good to know: 

Many undergraduate study programmes offer a summer start date (March or April). Usually, summer semesters are less popular among international students, meaning that there are more available spots. Applying for both summer and winter (October) start dates gives you more chances to secure a place. 

Useful links

Uni Assist

Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung

My Guide

DAAD admission requirements 

Scholarships in Germany

The German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) or DAAD is the leading organisation that grants scholarships to young graduates to help them finance their studies for a specific degree in Germany. Besides, there are non-governmental scholarships to study in Germany funded by organisations and foundations such as Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and Heinrich Böll Stiftung.

Good to know: 

Deadlines for scholarship applications are much earlier than for the study programme itself. Hence, learn in advance about the scholarships' conditions and requirements, as well as important and closing dates to avoid disappointment.

Useful links

German Academic Exchange Service

Konrad Adenauer Stiftung

Heinrich Böll Stiftung

Financing your studies in Germany

Finding a student job in Germany is relatively easy and allows good earning opportunities. Students from the EU or EEA are similar to German students and have free access to the German job market. During term break, students can work full-time for a full two months a year (or 50 working days). Different rules apply during lecture time, and regular students can work for only half time, up to 20 hours a week. Students from outside the EU-EEA can work up to 120 full or 240 half days a year. If you want to work more, approval by the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Employment Agency is needed. Note that unpaid work experiences count as work, and every day of unpaid work will be subtracted from the 120 days. 

Good to know: 

The minimum wage for student jobs in Germany is about 8 to 10 euros per hour.

Tip: As a student, you may be interested in summer jobs. Please, find out more about summer jobs in Germany in our Living in Germany Guide.

Useful links: 

Federal Foreign Office 

Federal Employment Agency

The Erasmus EU programme

The Erasmus programme is for students who wish to take a semester in another EU country to improve their employment prospects, experience life in a different country, or improve their language skills. Students may apply for a traineeship besides studying at Bachelor's, Master's, or Doctoral level.     

Useful link:


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