Study in Berlin

University in Berlin
Updated 2022-11-13 03:37

Studying in Germany is a rewarding and fulfilling experience, which may open many doors to professional opportunities in Germany and abroad. Like any capital city, Berlin offers an abundance of options to students in higher education, and that's why it is a top destination for thousands of international students.

Berlin has over 30 universities, ranking differently depending on the quality of research, alumni's employability, and delivery of education (i.e., traditional lectures, project-based learning, distance learning). Some of Berlin's top universities are Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, and Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

Reasons to study in Berlin

  1.  A world-class education at a low cost 

Most universities in Germany are governmentally-run, meaning that tuition fees are minimum and target enrolment costs per semester and other administration costs. Nevertheless, there are private universities as well, whose operating costs are covered mostly by tuition fees. Therefore, students who wish to enroll in a private university should expect to pay up to 20,000 euros per year, depending on the level of the degree (i.e., Bachelor's, Master's, Doctorate) and the reputation of the university. However, most top universities in Berlin are public institutions, meaning that the competition to enter is high, entry requirements strict, and applications are thoroughly scanned by experienced staff members before a decision is made. Once admitted to the university, international students study under the same conditions as German citizens and are free to immerse themselves in the German way of student life.

Good to know: 

Freie Universität Berlin (Free University of Berlin) ranks 55th on the Global List by the Center for World University Rankings (2021). On the same list, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin ranks 60th in the world. 

  1. Engaging learning culture 

Depending on your level of education and type of studies, you may be part of a group that follows the same schedule, or you may choose your courses individually. You'll attend reading lectures (Vorlesungen), where the professor covers the theory at a rather quick pace, and you will have access to more hands-on seminars (Seminare) in smaller groups, where you'll have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss topics to apply your newly acquired knowledge. Lectures tend to be non-compulsory and are often evaluated by an exam at the end of the semester, while seminars are mandatory and require submitting a paper (Hausarbeit) or a presentation (Referat) to pass the course. Some programs may include practices (Ãbung) that go along with the lectures and offer a practical revision of what you've learned in the corresponding lectures. Some classes are held in English, but for most programs, students need to have an acceptable level of fluency in German in order to enroll at public universities. Specifically, you should hold one of the following German language certifications: DSH (Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang), which is usually taken at the local university; TestDaF (Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache), which can be taken in the student's home country; ZOP (Zentrale Oberstufenprüfung); KDS (Kleines Deutsches Sprachdiplom), and GDS (Großes Deutsches Sprachdiplom), which is the most difficult exam of all. 


The education system is rather hierarchical, and you'll always address the teachers formally using 'Sie' or 'Herr/Frau'.

  1. Dynamic student life

Berlin has a lot to offer to international students with residents from all walks of life. According to the website, Berlin hosts about 160,000 students, of which 15 percent are expatriates. Hence, in Berlin, you won't only engage in a rewarding academic environment, but you will meet people from different backgrounds and with different experiences, who will help you expand your personal and professional network in Berlin. At the same time, the cost of living in Berlin is more affordable than in most northern and western European cities, even now that the whole world is witnessing prices of goods and energy climbing. For example, you can rent a room for 300 euros per month and get around Berlin with reduced ticket prices as a result of your student ID card. In the same way, you can make the most of the numerous museums, theatres, and social events. Overall, Berlin is known for its great nightlife and laid-back, bohemian, and non-conformist lifestyle. Most people cycle to get around town and there's no typical commuter crowd, unlike in Paris, London, and New York City.

  1. Independent study

German universities will be happy to advise you but not guide you completely. While enjoying the privilege of free education at a public university, you need to be organized to attend your lectures and study. You'll be treated like a local and it's unlikely anyone will remind you to catch up on missed classes. You only get out what you put in. This may be very different at private teaching institutions.

  1. Employability and high starting salaries

In Germany, higher education is seen as a way to prevent unemployment. Indeed, according to the Federal Statistical Office, the unemployment rate in Germany in August 2022 is three percent, of which most are under 25 years of age. It's worth mentioning that unemployed people in Germany are still more than they were before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the overall recovery process in Germany has been outstanding in terms of quality and speed. Hence, Berlin's labor market remains one of the most attractive in Europe. Regarding starting salaries, in 2022, the average salary for junior roles is 47,700 euros (gross) per year. As expected, positions in IT, engineering, natural sciences, and economics are better paid than positions in humanities and social sciences. 

Berlin's top universities

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU)

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU), which was founded in 1810, is a German university of excellence renowned for its world-class research in fields such as the history of science and quantitative economics. As one of Berlin's oldest universities, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin is associated with 40 Nobel Prize winners and is considered one of the best universities in Europe and among the top 100 in the world, with its highest performing subjects being arts and humanities and philosophy. HU is made up of nine faculties and 189 degree courses and hosts over 38,000 students, of which about 10 percent are expatriates. Concerning research, there are four clusters of excellence, 15 research centers, and 21 research training groups. HU is affiliated with Freie Universität and Charité Berlin, a teaching hospital and one of Germany's most research-intensive medical institutions.

Freie Universität Berlin (FU)

Freie Universität Berlin (FU) is one of eleven German universities of excellence and a leading university in research and teaching with an international presence. Founded during the Cold War in 1948, it belongs to one of Germany's largest universities and is known for its research focus on humanities and social sciences as well as natural and life sciences, physics, mathematics, and computer science. Among FU's alums are many awarded scientists, politicians, and philosophers, namely five Nobel Prize winners and 15 Leibnitz Prize winners. About 30,600 students attend over 180 bachelor's and master's programs across 12 departments, four general institutes, and six graduate schools. There are nine research fields for doctorate candidates in 13 subjects (e.g., veterinary medicine, philosophy, business and economics, law, and mathematics). Admissions remain highly competitive due to the high number of applicants, especially for the departments of medicine and psychology. Among FU's outstanding work is the university's ongoing support to refugees, who can either apply as guest scholars or students. 

Good to know: 

John F. Kennedy was awarded honorary citizenship on 26 June 1963 in front of the Henry Ford Building of Freie Universität Berlin. The award happened on the same day he held his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, appraising West Berlin's commitment to democracy, freedom, and progress.

Technische Universität Berlin (TU) 

Technische Universität Berlin (TU), or the Technical University of Berlin, has one of the highest proportions of international students and employees, with about 43,000 professors, students, and staff members coming from 150 countries. Together with RWTH Aachen University, the University of Braunschweig, Technical University of Darmstadt, Technische Universität Dresden, Leibniz University Hannover, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Technical University of Munich and the University of Stuttgart, TU is a member of TU9, the Alliance of leading Universities of Technology in Germany, which among other benefits, allows student exchange between the technical schools. The alumni and professor list includes ten Nobel Prize winners. 

Universität der Künste Berlin (UdK)

Universität der Künste Berlin (UdK, University of the arts) is the largest art and design university in Europe. With around 3,500 students across 40 courses (e.g., acting, church music, composition, architecture, cultural journalism, costume design, music therapy, stage design, opera), it is one of the most diversified universities of arts worldwide, with four colleges specializing in fine arts, media, architecture, design, performing arts, and music. UdK obtained the university title relatively recently, in 1975, meaning that it can award doctorates and professorships, making it the only higher education institution of arts in Berlin with university status. 

Good to know: 

Berlin is also home to five recognized private universities: the ESCP Europe Wirtschaftshochschule Berlin, Hertie School of Governance, Steinbeis-Hochschule Berlin, ESMT European School of Management and Technology, and Touro College Berlin, as well as various private, professional and technical colleges.

Useful links:

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU)

Freie Universität Berlin (FU)

Technische Universität Berlin (TU)

Universität der Künste Berlin (UdK, University of the arts)

Entry requirements for Berlin universities

If you are an EU citizen, you can study in Germany on the basis of your secondary school diploma (equivalent to the British A-levels or the French baccalauréat) and a recognized German language certificate. Citizens from outside the EU-EEA must apply for a student visa at the German embassy or consulate in their home country upon receipt of an offer letter from the university. Note that there are three types of student visas in Germany, depending on the length and level of studies: a temporary student visa valid for up to three months, a student visa per se, and a visa for language courses only. The programs of most universities have limited spaces and therefore accept students on the basis of NC (i.e., numerous clauses) because applicants tend to be more than the available places. In other words, applicants must ensure that they submit a high-quality application and meet the entry requirements if they want to raise their chances of being accepted. 


Application closing dates differ between universities. Generally, applications must be filed before January 15th for the summer semester (beginning in April) or before July 15th for the winter semester (starting in October). Make sure to check well in advance with your preferred institutions to be able to respect the deadlines for submitting your paperwork.

Useful link: 

Foundation for University Admission

Scholarships in Berlin

The Erasmus exchange program is a great option for EU students to study in Germany for up to one year. You can find more information directly through your university or through the German embassy or consulate in your area. You can also check with the DAAD, the German Academic Exchange Service, which grants scholarships to international students at various degree levels. Your host institution may also offer scholarships or grants, so do not hesitate to contact the international office for further information. Some foundations also offer scholarships. For example, the Einstein Foundation offers the International Postdoctoral Fellow program for international junior researchers who will support the work of high-achieving researchers in Berlin for up to five years. 

Good to know: 

Students from EU countries may be eligible for BAföG, which is an interest-free half-loan, half-grant from the state.

Useful links: 

DAAD - Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst

Einstein International Postdoctoral Fellow

Living in Berlin

The cost of living in Berlin is very affordable, with accommodation costs from 300 to 700 EUR for a shared flat or small apartment. Student dormitories are less costly but may be difficult to get due to the high demand, especially among international students. Also, shopping in the supermarket and eating out are more affordable than in other European student cities such as Amsterdam, Paris, and London. Students should be aware that health insurance is compulsory, and students from outside the EU will have to submit proof of insurance coverage with their visa application. Regarding student employment in Berlin, during the study semester, students may only work up to 20 hours per week. 

Berlin offers a wide range of leisure activities, which makes it an ideal city for students. Of course, the spring and summer seasons offer more opportunities for outdoor entertainment, such as sunbathing and swimming in the nearby lakes, enjoying the nightlife at open-air clubs, and cycling in the parks. Berlin hosts annual events, which attract international attention and has an active cultural scene with plenty of concerts, theatres, and cinemas. The most well-known annual events are the Berlin Fashion Week, the Berlin Film Festival, and International Green Week. Last but not least, the local cuisine is characterized by the cooking traditions of the immigrants from Silesia, Bohemia, East Prussia, Pomerania, and Mecklenburg as well as the Huguenots from France. Berlin is known for its fast-food Curry Wurst or Boulette and Kartoffelsalat and, of course, Spreewälder Gurken. Turkish food, such as Döner Kebab, has long made its way into German cuisine.

Useful links: 

Berlin Fashion Week

Berlinale International Film Festival

International Green Week

Student housing in Berlin

Most students live in shared flats or university housing, which you can find advertised online, on student notice boards, or through the local Studentenwerk (National Association for Student Affairs) at your university. Student dormitories are much more affordable, from 250 EUR upwards, though chances are they are not the most attractive, and you're probably better off choosing your own flatshare, known as a WG, or Wohngemeinschaft. Apartments and shared flats in trendy areas such as Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain, Mitte, Kreuzberg, and Neukölln are the most popular among students. However, if you are looking for more space per square meter, you should look around Charlottenburg, Wilmersdorf, Wedding, Moabit, and Tiergarten. Berlin City West is also up and coming and may be worth considering. You can start your search from's friendly Berlin forum, where you can start a conversation enquiring about student accommodation in Berlin and meet with other students before you even arrive in Berlin. 

Useful links:

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