Studying in Germany explained for international students

Learn all about universities in Germany- top reasons to study here, education system, tuition fees, grading, teaching style, cost of living.


7 minute read
Updated on 9 Oct 2023

It’s easy to see why so many international students are opting to study abroad in Germany. Germany is one of the most affordable countries to study in Europe. The country also offers world-class educational and professional opportunities to several internationals every year.

As you begin to think about moving to Germany for higher education, we’ve created this helpful guide about studying in Germany to provide answers to your most common questions. You’ll learn all about the universities in Germany, including tuition fee’s, the grading system, lectures and seminars, and the student culture. So, let’s get started!

Is Germany good for international students?

Germany is a fantastic place to study abroad; you'll have access to world-class universities, vibrant student culture, historic and cultural backdrop, modern and urban scenes, and work opportunities post graduation.

Here’re top reasons why you should study in Germany as an international student:

  1. There’re numerous good German universities for international students that offer courses in English. All of them provide internationally recognised degrees and quality education. Explore some of the best German universities for international students in Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, Cologne, Hamburg, and Stuttgart.

  2. You can enjoy tuition free university in Germany at most public schools. Yes there're free universities in Germany for international students too!

  3. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to find work in Germany after graduation. Germany has a stable labour market and a strong economy; even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy didn’t get as negatively affected as other countries in the EU.

  4. Language barrier won’t be an issue in Germany, as most Germans can speak English. At the same time, locals will certainly appreciate if you learn a few German phrases before moving to Germany. It will make your daily interactions much easier.

  5. You’ll have a legendary student life in Germany. On one hand Germany has a low cost of living for students. On the other hand, you can enjoy Germany's thriving nightlife scene or join one of the various student associations such as ESN, AEGEE, AIESEC who host introduction weeks and various events to help you settle in.

  6. Whether you decide to study in Germany to take in history, culture, nightlife, art, or nature, there’s something for everyone here. Compare what the cities offer and find the best German city for you.

  7. Exploring Germany and its neighboring countries is easy. You can opt for student train discounts to travel within Germany. Vienna makes for a good three- to four-day getaway, as does Rotterdam or Amsterdam.

How is the German university system?

The German higher education system is top notch. Students flock to Germany not only for the low tuitions costs but also for its long list of world-class universities.

If you intend to study in Germany, you’ll notice that Germany has a few different types of higher education institutions. The ones most relevant to international students are the universities, universities of applied sciences, and art & music colleges.

Universities tend to offer more courses; they have a theoretical approach and there’s a strong emphasis on self-learning and academic excellence. Universities of applied sciences are more practical oriented; they focus more on vocational training and preparing you for the labour market. Often these courses also include a period of internships or work placements within Germany.

The art and music colleges are hyper-focused on teaching subjects such as fine arts, architecture, acting, dance, etc; you do need to know German to enrol in these courses and demonstrate your skills for acceptance.

At any of these universities, students can obtain an internationally recognised degree. A degree in Germany typically lasts:

  • Bachelor’s Degree- 6 semesters
  • Master’s Degree- 2-4 semesters
  • PhD- 4-6 semesters

In order to benefit from free tuition, you should do a Master Degree in Germany immediately after your Bachelor degree and in the same field of study.

Study in English in Germany

There're quite a few universities in Germany with English programs. Of the more than 18,000 degree programs, there’re 2155 international programs in Germany in 2021. Of this, 1,605 degree programs are purely taught in English - 24 Bachelor degrees, 236 Master degrees, 13 PhD degrees, and 273 Double degrees.

As you can see, it’s possible to study in Germany in English, but the English taught courses are more common at the Masters level.

Keep in mind that if you'd like to do your studies in German you will be asked to supply a verified certificate of your B2 level in German.

Some tuition free universities in Germany for international students include the Humboldt University of Berlin, LMU Munich and the University of Hamburg.

Lectures and seminars

The study courses offered in Germany are designed and continuously revised in such a way that they reflect the current developments and meet the modern standards of teaching. As such, the German teaching system does not focus on only expecting students to listen and make notes; the universities in Germany take on several approaches to learning that will prepare students to take on modern global challenges confidently.

  • Lectures (Vorlesung)- As you may expect, lectures involve professors teaching groups of students about the topic in question. Lectures form the basis of your theoretical knowledge as lecturers introduce key concepts to you for the first time. Group sizes can vary depending on your course and can range anywhere between 20 and 150 students. The professor will guide the presentation and then open up the floor to questions.

  • Seminars (Seminar)- This aspect of higher education typically involves a smaller group of students — usually no more than 30. In this type of learning environment, the students typically lead the discussion and present their learnings through presentations or group work. The professor serves as a moderator.

  • Training class (Übung)- In this teaching method, students will participate in a hands-on process where they learn through carrying out practical tasks or completing group projects. They’ll be divided into smaller teams, which encourages the idea of thinking independently.

The grading system in Germany

In Germany, the grading levels are based on a five-point grading system. It’s good to know that in Germany, a lower score means outstanding performance and a higher score means unsatisfactory performance.

  • 0–1.5 - Very good (sehr gut)
  • 1.6–2.5 Good (gut)
  • 2.6–3.5 Satisfactory (befriedigend)
  • 3.6–4.0 Sufficient (ausreichend)
  • 5.0 Not sufficient (nicht ausreichend)

Some universities may translate this into a 15 point scale and give you a grade with decimals to be more specific.


It’s important to note that a lot of courses will have a final exam at the end of the semester, containing everything you would have learnt from each module. As most courses don’t have that many assignments, a large percentage of your grade will be dependent on the final exams. As there are about 3 months of classes, students who choose to study in Germany need a lot of self-discipline to keep up with their studies throughout the semester.

Listen to our interview with Bulgarian student Sonya to learn how EU students can enroll in a German university:

How much does it cost to study in Germany?

Now, are you excited to study in Germany? Because we've good news. Studying abroad in Germany is ‘free of cost’ to both local and international students enrolled at a public university. You’ll only need to pay Semester fees (Semesterbeitrag) of €250 - €300 per semester that will provide you with a student public transport card and fund improvements of the sports fields, student union, etc.

There’re some exceptions. If your Master’s degree is vastly different from your Bachelor’s degree; if you’re not pursuing the Master’s degree directly after your Bachelor’s degree; if you do not finish your studies in time; or if you study in certain federal states, such as Baden- Württemberg, you’ll need to pay tuition fees.

Studying at a private German university or at a university of applied sciences is not free for local or international students. On average, this typically costs €20,000/year for a Bachelor’s degree and €40,000/year for a Master’s degree. The upside, is that these universities have more courses taught in English compared to the free state universities.

What is the cost of living as a student in Germany?

On average, most students in Germany should expect to budget a minimum of €861 per month to cover the costs of rent, food, leisure, transport, and health insurance. But remember that your monthly living costs will also vary depending on the city where you attend a university.

All international students need to prove they’ve €10,332 in a bank account to cover their costs during their first year in Germany. This roughly amounts to €861 per month.

Student Housing in Germany: When looking for student accommodation in Germany, you can choose from shared flats (WG) or student dorms. The average rental price in Germany for a single room is €500.

Food costs in Germany: Expect to pay around €150 for food in Germany per month. Students will generally receive discounts at some restaurants and have access to low cost healthy meals at the university cafeterias. Additionally, you can save money by cooking your meals at home, shoppping at discount grocery stores such as Lidl or Aldi, and shopping at the local markets.

Leisure, sports, shopping costs: You should budget approximately €220 for going out for food and drinks, sport membership, and shopping per month..

Public transport for students in Germany: Any student who pays for the ‘Semesterticket’ can use public transport in Germany for ‘free’. The price of the Semesterticket varies depending on the university you'll be studying at.

Ask the international office at your new university how much the semesterticket will cost you.

A standard ticket is valid for six months and works within a selected region. It includes all forms of public transportation from 06:00 to 18:00 throughout the week and 24 hours on weekends and holidays. An extended option is also available, which includes public transportation seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Health insurance for students: Health insurance is compulsory for anyone living in Germany, regardless of their income level. The cost for public health insurance in Germany is approximately €110 per month.

Financial tips for students in Germany

Overall, the cost of living for students in Germany is not high compared to other countries. But there’re still ways to reduce your costs.

All students can work part time next to their studies. International students specifically can work for 120 full days or 240 half days and earn up to €450 a month without any tax obligations.

There’re also several German scholarships for international students for local and international students. In fact, with the growth in Erasmus funding in the next few years, more scholarships will be available for Erasmus students wanting to study in Germany!

Now that you know what to expect when you study abroad in Germany, find out how to arrange for your German Student Visa and have a look at the moving to Germany checklist to prepare for your next new adventure!

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