Universities in Germany - Top Courses, Rankings, PhD, International Programmes

by ashmita.tamta

Germany is home to some of the world’s most renowned universities. Twelve of the country’s universities are among the top 200 in QS World Rankings.

  • Total number of state-accredited colleges and universities in Germany - 426 in nearly 170 towns and cities
  • Total number of degree programmes offered at German universities and colleges - 18,650-degree programs
  • Number of courses taught in English: 1,104
  • Total number of students enrolled per semester - 2.75 million+ students

A tuition-free university education has made Germany an attractive option for prospective students. Ranked as the fourth most popular destination for international students in the world (after the US, UK, and Australia), universities in Germany witnessed 358,895 enrollments in 2018.

Top universities in Germany

UniversityQS World University Rankings 2019Semester Fee
Technical University Of Munich#61EUR 129.40
KIT, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology#116EUR 153.69
Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin)#147EUR 305
Technische Universität Darmstadt#=253EUR 298.34
Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn#255EUR 290

Types of Universities in Germany

Choosing the right college or university is easier as there are only three types to pick from. The type of institution that is best for you depends on your interests and career plans.

Type of German UniversityNumberNumber of Enrollments/Semester
Universities1291,756,452
Universities of applied sciences215929,241
Colleges of art, film, and music5235,536

Universities

  • Ideal for those interested in a scientifically-oriented education and for those who would like to pursue a doctoral program in Germany
  • Universities mainly focus on theoretical knowledge and offer a broad range of courses and subjects.
  • Their curriculum is academically oriented with many different subject groups.
  • Some schools specialize in specific disciplines such as advanced technology, medicine, and
  • education. They are called technical universities (Technische Universität) or colleges of education (Pädagogische Hochschule).

Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen und Hochschulen für angewandte Wissenschaften)

  • Ideal for those looking for a more practice-oriented education.
  • These institutions focus more on professional application than theory.
  • Their curriculum is tailored to the demands of professional life.
  • Usually include internships and a practical module that last one or more semesters.
  • Subjects include technology, economics, social work, and medicine.
  • You can not study for a doctorate (doctoral degree) at most Universities of Applied Sciences.

Colleges of Art, Film, and Music

  • Ideal for those who wish to study an artistic or design-oriented subject such as instrumental music, graphic arts, drama, dance, architecture, industrial and fashion design.
  • Most courses in these colleges are taught in German.
  • Colleges of modern media train students to become directors, producers, cinematographers, screenwriters, and other film and television technicians.
  • You must exhibit a high degree of artistic talent in an aptitude test.
  • Exceptionally talented students can apply without a Hochschulzugangsberechtigung (certificate of aptitude for higher education).

Difference Between Public and Private Universities in Germany

Most universities in Germany are public which means they are funded by the federal government. Some are even financed by religious organizations. These public institutions do not charge any tuition fee.

Apart from these subsidized universities, there are nearly 120 private universities which grant degrees. Most of them include universities of applied sciences. These private universities charge high tuition fees.

More than 90 percent of students are enrolled in public universities and only 7.1 percent of students attend a private institution. However, both types of universities maintain high standards of education.

Degree Programs in Germany

Universities in Germany offer a plethora of degree program to match your needs and educational level.

Undergraduate Programs in Germany

  • Beginners can attend university in Germany and can gain international experience to add to their degree programs at home.
  • No tuition fee at public universities.
  • Only a semester fee of not more than EUR 250 for enrolment, confirmation, and administration.
  • Tuition fee for private institutions - EUR 20,000 a year

Masters and Postgraduate Programs in Germany

  • Easier to enter Germany if you have already completed your undergraduate studies.
  • Mostly free if they are consecutive i.e. followed directly on from a related bachelor’s degree attained in Germany.
  • A fee per semester of EUR 250 for administrative costs including a Semesterticket.

Tuition Fees for Non-Consecutive Masters Degrees

Public institutionsEUR 20,000 per year
Private German universitiesEUR 30,000

Here are the tuition fees for non-consecutive master’s degrees at Germany’s top-ranked institution, the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg.

CourseTuition Fee
Master of Medical Education (MME)EUR 5,000 per semester
Master of Arts in American StudiesEUR 2,500 per semester

P.h.D in Germany 

  • No tuition fee at any universities in Germany – for the first six semesters at least.
  • Ph.D. students at public universities have to pay a nominal semester fee of EUR 250 to cover administrative costs.

Degrees granted by German universities

Bachelor’s degree (B.A., B.Sc., Bachelor of Engineering, etc.)

  • Duration of Bachelor’s degree in Germany: 6 to 8 semesters
  • It is the first-level academic degree recognized in the international job market.
  • Equips students with the fundamentals of their subject of study.
  • After receiving your bachelor’s degree, you can either set foot in professional life or go for the second-level academic qualification i.e. a master’s degree.

Master’s degree (M.A., M.Sc., Master of Engineering, etc.)

  • Duration of Master’s degree in Germany: 2 to 4 semesters
  • It is the second-level academic qualification.
  • Requirement: A bachelor’s degree or an equivalent academic qualification
  • Deepens your knowledge in a specific area of study.
  • After receiving your master’s degree, you can either set foot in professional life or go for the next academic qualification i.e. a doctoral degree.

Note: As mandated by the Bologna Process, the new bachelor’s and master’s degree programs have replaced the traditional Diplom and Magister Artium programs at the majority of German universities.

  • Diplom - Conferred to students who study Natural Sciences, Engineering, Economics, and Social Sciences
  • Magister Artium (M.A.) degree - Conferred to students who study humanities.
  • Both degrees are comparable to a master’s degree.

Doctoral degree

  • Duration of doctoral programs: 2 to 5 years
  • The program includes the completion of a research paper (dissertation).
  • Concludes with the conferral of a doctoral degree.

Dual Courses or cooperative study courses

  • Ideal for those who want to do an apprenticeship along with a vocational course.
  • Most cooperative programs are taught in German.
  • Offered at Universities of Applied Sciences, Universities of Cooperative Education and some individual universities.
  • Academic training helps you progress quickly into employment. It takes place on the company's premises and at the higher education institution.
  • The work phases and tuition fees are paid. You will also have to sign an agreement with the company.

International degree programs

  • Total number of internationally-oriented degree programs at German universities - 1,420
  • A majority of courses are taught in English.
  • These programs are well-structured and high-level international bachelor, master, and doctoral Programmes”.
  • Involve intensive student counselling and academic guidance.

Double degree programmes

  • These programs have an international or bilateral orientation.
  • Generally offered by a German university in association with one or more partner universities abroad.
  • Students participating in these program study at the partner university for some semesters. They receive full credit for completing pre-approved courses from their university at home.
  • Some degree programs necessitate students to spend nearly half their time at the partner university.
  • On completion, students receive a double degree - one from each university.

Excellence Initiative by Graduate Schools and International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS)

  • Various programs are tailored to the needs of international doctoral candidates and come with special funding opportunities.
  • Offered to brilliant German and international graduates to pursue their doctorate at the best science centers in Germany.

Most of them are taught in English.

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