By many different measures and rankings, whether that’s affordability or quality of teaching (or amount of beer consumed at Oktoberfest!), Germany is repeatedly listed as one of the top countries for students in Europe. It’s also the third most popular destination in the world for international students. Read on to understand why students like the country so much, and what to expect once you’re there.
Flexibility and high quality learning
If you’re looking for top universities, Germany has many for you to choose from, with 45 institutions making it into the QS World University Rankings 2021. This means that almost every major city in the country is home to a world-leading university.
Studying in Germany, you’ll find that students have greater independence in organising their own degree programmes. The programmes are not linear, so students have much more control over what they study and when. Many even choose to complete their degree over more than three years, or link their work to other faculties to make their degrees interdisciplinary.
A majority of programmes in the country are taught in German, with a small but growing number provided in English. Outside of lectures, you’ll find that German people tend to know at least one extra language in addition to their own - normally English, French, Italian, or Russian - so you’ll be able to feel welcome in day-to-day life too!
For students from the EU and EEA, tuition in Germany is free at public universities. You’ll just need to budget for textbooks when it comes to studying. International students from outside the EU will often find that their tuition is also free or low cost, with a small ‘semester fee’ of around 100-350 EUR each academic term to cover the student union and public transport pass.
In addition to the low fees, you’ll also be able to apply for a scholarship or grant for your programme. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) provides many scholarships for international students, with an online database that can be filtered by your country of origin and programme. For example, the Baden-Wurttemberg Stipendium is offered to around 1,500 students from all over the world each year based on their academic achievements. Each individual university website will also be a good source of information about funding options, so make sure to take a look at them too.
Societies, sports and socialising
Germany is well-known for its unique clubbing scene, with Berlin labelled as the world’s techno capital. And that’s far from being the only thing you can do alongside your studying. You could finish dancing at a club at 10am in the city centre, and just minutes away will be a lake with lots of greenery or a student-led yoga class!
Universities in Germany have a range of student-organised societies, from international clubs to art groups, day-trips to cinema societies. The Technical University of Munich even hosts two large, student-run culture festivals each year - the TUNIX and the GARNIX - with live bands, cold beers and grilled food stalls.
While German universities in general don’t have their own gyms, they usually offer inexpensive sports classes of all kinds - including athletics, beach volleyball, sailing, and pilates - which usually take place in local sports centres nearby. Outdoor activities, like hiking, cycling, and skiing, are also very popular in the country. The country’s location in Europe and great transport network mean you can get to many different landscapes easily.
Independence and variety
Students in Germany are given a lot of freedom to adapt their lifestyle and programme schedule to suit their needs and interests. While you study in Germany, you’ll be in charge of organising your own accommodation and finances, which could give you greater freedom and flexibility than in other university systems. Neighbouring universities often share facilities, which means you’ll be able to meet students from different institutions, study in a variety of libraries, and visit new student bars.
Off-campus, the range of variety and choice continues. Trendy Berlin and glassy skyscrapers of Frankfurt contrast with traditional Munich and quaint Heidelberg - and both Munich and Berlin feature in the top five of QS Best Student Cities 2019. If studying ever becomes too busy, you can always take a day trip to the picturesque Middle Rhine countryside. When you stop to try the local pretzels, beer, and bratwurst, it won't cost too much either! Restaurant meals are usually 10-15 EUR and a beer is about 3.50 EUR. Make sure to leave room for ‘apfelkuchen’ apple cake afterwards!
Reasonable accommodation costs
A majority of people rent private accommodation whilst studying in Germany. City life is popular, Many students look for a ‘WG’ or ‘wohngemeinschaften’, the German for ‘flatshare’. Surprisingly, rents in Berlin are on the cheaper side for the country, which is a big difference from capital cities like Paris or London. Across Germany, rent is average for Western Europe, ranging from 550-800 EUR depending on your location. This cost can be reduced though by sharing with other students. Make sure to speak to your university’s international office to see if they can recommend trusted private accommodation.
A small number of students in Germany will choose to live in student dorms provided by their universities. These are not shared dorms as you might imagine them in the US, but rather individual apartments right on campus. They are relatively cheap at around 150-350 EUR per month, but naturally hard to get.
Whether you’re on- or off-campus, you’ll find that universities are keen to help new students settle in. For instance, at the Humboldt University Berlin, their team of ‘dormitory tutors’ are on hand to help students move into their new accommodation, adjust to everyday life, and navigate the paperwork of moving to a new country.
Germany is famous for its punctual public transport, limitless autobahns and high speed intercity trains. Most students will receive a ‘semester ticket’ each academic term, allowing them to travel for free on all public transport in their region. Not only does this mean you can save money whilst travelling, but it gives you even more freedom to maximise your experience in Germany without being too restricted by your budget. Your German student ID will also give you discounted or free entry to some of the local museums and galleries - helpful for when you’re exploring the local culture in your spare time!
If you’re trying to stick to a budget whilst studying, check out Unifrog’s Cost of studying in Germany guide for more help.
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