Education System in Germany: Understanding Higher Education in Germany for International Students Image
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Education System in Germany: Understanding Higher Education in Germany for International Students

Yocket Editorial Team
5 mins read

Germany is known around the world for providing excellent education and offering plenty of courses. The German higher education system is well known for high standards and enjoys a good reputation. Zero to low tuition fees at public universities coupled with an excellent reputation for offering world-leading technical degrees, has made Germany one of the most popular study abroad destinations among students from around the world. In this blog we help you  understand all about the education system in Germany including types of universities, programs, requirements, fees and much more.


Table of Contents:


  1. Understanding the University System in Germany

  2. Types of universities in Germany

  3. Study programs at German universities

  4. German university requirements and admission

  5. Tuition fees at german universities

  6. German university degrees and grading system

  7. Frequently Asked Questions About the German Higher Education System


Understanding the University System in Germany


The German higher education system functions upon the rules and regulations of the Basic Law “Grundgesetz”. The Federal Ministries of Education, Cultural Affair and Science is the main authority for making education, science and arts policy guidelines, and for adopting related laws and administrative regulations.


Coming to higher education in Germany, universities here place a lot of importance on research and academic freedom. Technical degrees are also a significant aspect of the education system in Germany because such degrees are given a lot of importance in the German university landscape. This is the reason why at a global level the Germany education ranking is quite high.


The universities in Germany follow two semesters, Winter and summer. Students can choose to apply for any semester of their choice.


Winter Semester

Summer Semester

April to September

October to March

Application Deadline - January 15th

Application Deadline - July 15th


When it comes to the language of instruction, some universities in Germany offer courses in English, especially at applied science universities. Majority of other courses are taught in German.


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Types of Universities in Germany


Education system in Germany comprises 3 types of universities, namely- academic universities, universities of applied sciences and universities of art/music. 


Given below are the main features of the types of universities in Germany




Academic Universities (Universitäten)

  • Programs are based on theoretical knowledge and methodological expertise.

  • Possibility to do a PhD, this is not possible in other higher institutions.

Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen)

  • Focus on the practical side of learning and professional practice.

  • Programs are related to technology, medicine, social work, business.

  • Provide ‘Praxissemester’ : a work placement for the period of one or several semesters at companies in Germany or abroad.

Universities of Art & Music (Kunst- und Musikhochschulen)

Offer courses on artistic careers in fine arts, performing arts and music, mass communications, architecture, design.


Public vs. Private Universities in Germany


All the above  universities are either Public or Private in nature.

Public universities in Germany represent universities funded by the government. These are usually heavily subsidized which means the tuition fees for such universities are almost zero.


Private universities in Germany on the other hand are not funded by the government so students do have to pay tuition fees. Private universities are mostly for courses related to applied sciences.


Study Programs at German Universities


The best part about the German higher education system is that there is an array of courses available for tertiary education in Germany. With thousands of degrees at over 400 institutions, there is definitely a lot of choice on courses. As a student you would be able to find a course on every subject that you could possibly think of.


Although Germany is famous for its technical degrees, courses related to other subjects are also equally amazing. The quality of education is never compromised.


Some of the top study programs in Germany are relate to the following  fields- 

  • Engineering

  • Business Administration

  • Humanities

  • Maths and Computer Sciences

  • Fine and Applied Arts


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You must take plenty of time to research and understand your course options and then go for the application process.


German University Requirements and Admission


The requirements for higher education in Germany for international students may vary depending on the course structure, university etc. However, some basic requirements which are common for all the international students are given below;


  • Hochschulzugangsberechtigung (certificate of high school education)

  • International students may be expected to sit for certain entrance exams in Germany like Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang (DSH, meaning “German language examination for university entrance”) and the TestDaF.

  • Language requirements

  • Academic transcripts

  • Health insurance


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Students are required to start their application process at least 6-7 months before the semester in which the course starts. Remember that the application process can be quite time consuming so make sure you keep all your scores and documents in place!


Tuition Fees At German Universities


One of the perks of studying in Germany is free education at public universities for all the students.


Since public universities in Germany are heavily subsidized by the government, the tuition fees for students are almost zero. However, students do need to pay registration fees for each semester which range between EUR 200-500. This amount has to be paid every six months.  Students will also have to pay some administration fees and fees for travelcard. Students must also cover the living costs.


Private universities in Germany do charge tuition fees which can reach 26,000 EUR/year for a Bachelor’s degree and 40,000 EUR/year for a Master’s. Programmes in Engineering and Business & Management are the most expensive.


The Germany higher education cost is very low as compared to other countries and this attracts a lot of students from all over the world. Low tuition fees and excellent quality education is something that you must definitely lookout for.


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German University Degrees and Grading System


Now that we have understood many aspects of the German higher education system, let us take a look at the type of degrees provided in Germany and their grading scale.


German University Degrees


German higher education used to be offered in integrated "long" (one-tier) programmes leading to Diploma- or Magister Artium degrees or completed by a Staatsprüfung (State Examination).


However it is changing now because Germany has started incorporating a different system. Many universities offer degrees at bachelors, masters and PhD level instead of just one long integrated programme except for most law and medicine related courses.




Doctoral / PhD Program

3-4 years

Masters Program

1-2 Years

Bachelor’s Program

3-4 years

Integrated Program

3-6 years


The Bachelor and Master's programmes are designed to provide an enlarged variety of the educational plans and experiences for students.


German Grading System


The German grading system is based on the GPA system. Germany uses a 1 to 6 (or 5) point grading system to assess the academic performance of students. 1 being very good performance and 6 being unsatisfactory performance.


Bachelor’s degrees are graded in the standard method for the Bologna system. This means students will attain a First Class, Upper Second, Lower Second, or Third Class degree.


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Frequently Asked Questions About the German Higher Education System


  1. Where does Germany Education Ranking stand at a global level?

Germany is one of the top study abroad destinations in the world. Infact because of its high quality and affordability, Germany education system for Indian students is considered a top choice.


  1. How is higher education in Germany for Indian students?

Higher education in Germany for Indian students is absolutely amazing. Indian students can greatly benefit from the quality education offered in Germany. Moreover, there are no tuition fees for public universities in Germany. Thus, overall, the German education system for Indian students is very good.


  1. Is education good in Germany?

Yes! Germany offers an excellent education system. The degrees obtained from Germany have worldwide recognition. German universities are also highly reputed.


  1. Is higher education in Germany free?

Higher education is extremely nominal at public universities as most of them will not charge any tuition fee even from international students! Students are only required to pay the additional semester charges that are rarely more than 400 EUR.


The Germany education system for international students gives them exposure to the excellent quality education, intensive research, modern methods of teaching and a great student life in Germany. Pursuing higher education in Germany can thus elevate your career and you can certainly enjoy an upper hand in the job market.

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