The German higher education system stands out with the wide range of different kinds of universities that it offers. Many universities are focused on research and you can also enrol in specialised institutions that offer programmes in a certain field, like education or arts.
Depending on what you would like to study, it’s best that you get well prepared for all the surprises of studying a Master's in Germany. So, here are 8 essential tips to prepare you for a degree in Germany.
1. Make sure you know your German university names
As we know Germans are super fond of keeping everything neat and tightly organized. That's why they have a ton of different types of universities which they have given names with the most intimidatingly long strings of letters.
We have translated these for you so you know which type of university you're applying for:
- traditional universities (Universitäten)
- universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen)
- universities of technology (Technische Hochschulen or Universitäten)
- universities of education (Pädagogische Hochschulen)
- universities and colleges of art, music and film (Kunst-, Musik-, und Filmhochschulen und Universitäten der Künste)
- universities of applied administrative sciences (Verwaltungsfachhochschulen)
- universities of the armed forces (Universitäten der Bundeswehr)
- distance studies universities (Fernhochschulen) and universities of cooperative education (Berufsakademien)
Most of these higher education institutions are public institutions and many of them offer a significant number of English-taught degrees. Check out programmes offered by these German universities:
- IUBH University of Applied Sciences
- University of Hamburg
- Technical University Berlin
- SRH Hochschule Berlin
- Institute for Cultural Diplomacy
- Georg-August University Goettingen
2. Budget for wonderfully affordable tuition fees in Germany
Most of the states in Germany do not charge any tuition fees to EU as well as non-EU students. Students usually just pay a semester fee of around 40 – 60 EUR that often includes a public transport ticket for the region or even the whole state. Additionally, the semester fee covers parts of the administration costs of your university as well as social contributions to the Studentenwerk.
Find more detailed information about tuition fees in Germany.
Long-term tuition fees
Some universities request around 500 EUR each semester from those students who need three to four semesters longer than their fellow students to complete their programmes.
Apart from tuition or semester fees, you’ll also have to cover your living expenses which vary depending on the German city you will choose to live in.
3. Get informed about the university entrance qualifications
To qualify for admission to studies at a German university you must prove that you hold a higher education entrance qualification with which you can be admitted to higher education in your home country.
This would be a secondary school leaving certificate (for example, High School Diploma, Gaokao, Matura, A-Levels, Bachillerato). You might also have to deliver proof that you have successfully taken a university entrance exam. To be able to study in Germany, your school leaving certificate must be recognised as equivalent to the German higher education entrance qualification (Abitur).
Applicants from EU and EEA countries
If your school leaving certificate entitles you to study in your home country, this is also accepted when you apply for a study place in Germany.
Applicants from non-EU countries
The International Office or the student registration office (Studierendensekretariat) at your chosen university will check whether your higher education entrance qualification enables you for a successful admission. If your certificate is not recognised as equivalent, you must take an assessment test (Feststellungsprüfung).
Find out more in-depth information about how to apply to universities in Germany.
4. Make sure you meet the German/English language level
Before you can take up a course of studies at a German university, you normally have to prove that your German language skills are good enough for studying. The most common German language tests are:
- "Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang ausländischer Studienbewerber" (DSH)
- "Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache" (TestDaF)
- You can only sit the DSH at your German university
- TestDaF can be taken at many test centres located in Germany and abroad
Other language certificates are also accepted, but you will first have to check with your chosen university.
You can attend German language courses parallel to your normal studies once the academic year begins. Universities in Germany organise special German language courses for international students.
If you apply for an English-taught degree, unless you come from an English speaking country, you will have to prove your English language proficiency. Accepted English language tests are:
5. Make sure you get your German Student Visa in time
If you are from a non-EU country you should also check out German student visa requirements depending on your nationality:
- Indian students applying for German visa
- Iranian students applying for German visa
- Students from Egypt applying for German visa
- Turkish students applying for German visa
6. Get accustomed to the university calendar in Germany
The academic year is divided into two semesters (winter and summer semester) at German universities. Dates may vary slightly from one university to the next. Check the Registrar's Office at your university for the exact dates.
For Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen)
- Summer semester: March to August (lectures begin: 15 March)
- Winter semester: September to February (lectures begin: 15 September)
For Universities (Universitäten)
- Summer semester: April to September (lectures begin: 15 April)
- Winter semester: October to March (lectures begin: 15 October)
Semester vacation/recess (non-lecture period)
- Summer: end of July to September
- Winter: end of February to mid-April
7. Take the costs of your study materials into account
How much you spend on study materials and excursions will depend strongly on what subject(s) you are studying. Subjects like arts and humanities only require you to buy books. Although the university libraries hold the key textbooks you need, important standard works can often not be taken out on loan and can often only be read in the (reference) library.
It may make sense to buy the specialist books and literature that are important to you. You can buy many books second hand at reasonable prices, for example, via offers posted on the notice board in your faculty or in a second-hand bookshop.
On average, you would spend around 200 EUR per semester for books. Artistic subjects and medical courses are much more cost-intensive (requiring about 50 EUR per month).
8. Make sure you have enough money to cover the overall study costs
When calculating your budget, you must make sure that you include all expenses related to your studies:
- the semester fee (once per semester): around 50 – 100 EUR
- expenses for study materials and excursions: 50 – 70 EUR/month
- health insurance contributions : 80 – 160 EUR/month
- tuition fees (if needed): an average of around 2,000 EUR/year