information for global expats

Universities for Expats in Germany

Submitted: December 2013

If you make the decision to pursue higher education in Germany, you will be met with the daunting task of selecting the appropriate university for your particular academic needs and interests. There are hundreds of institutions that will allow you the opportunity to acquire an advanced degree or some other type of professional qualification.

In Germany, you will find that there are over 300 state-run universities, private universities and cooperative universities, as well as other schools offering a wide range of studies, full-time or part-time. While there are many universities that offer degree programmes taught in English, the vast majority of programs are taught in German, particularly in the state-run institutions.

Germany has several types of higher education institutions:

  • Universities: these universities provide broad general education and students typically attend them for up to six years. It is possible to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree after completing four years and a Master’s degree after five or six years. Technical universities are included and these universities are more geared towards training students who wish to choose specific career paths, and are usually attended for four years.
  • Colleges of Art and Music (Hochschulen): these universities are centered on those who wish to pursue a career in music and the arts
  • Universities of Applied Sciences

Entrance Requirements

When you are applying for entry into a German university, the following requirements must be met:

  • Visa – this is not required if you a national of an EU –country. If you are from Canada, Australia, Honduras, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, San Marino, and the United States you will need to get a visa to enter Germany but you may still need a student visa for study namely the  "VisumzuStudienzwecken" (student visa).
  • Residence Permit – this is primarily for non-EU applicants. It is issued specifically for the purpose of either applying to study or preparing for higher education studies. This application must be made within the first three months of your arrival in Germany. EU nationals do not require this permit but they must register with the residents' registration authority (Einwohnermeldeamt) in the same way as German nationals have to. See: www.daad.de/deutschland/in-deutschland/regeln/en/9143-reporting-to-the-authorities
  • Higher education entrance qualification – this is necessary to be able to study at a German university. If you attained your Abitur or Fachabitur in Germany, you will be treated in the same manner as German applicants. If you are an EU national, your school leaving certificate from your home country will be recognized as equivalent to Germany’s. Other foreigners must have their school leaving certificates evaluated to determine equivalency first. If it is not deemed equivalent then a higher education assessment test must be done. For more on this see: www.daad.de/deutschland/nach-deutschland/voraussetzungen/en/6017-university-admission-and-requirements and www.studienkollegs.de/en.
  • EU nationals must submit their applications to www.hochschulstart.de. Whereas, all other foreign nationals should submit their applications directly to the University of their choice.
  • Knowledge of German: generally, if you cannot prove your proficiency in German, you will not be admitted to higher education study. One exception to this rule is the International Degree Programmes, which are instructed in English. You may wish to consider obtaining a language certificate in German from your home country, before moving to Germany, as this is acceptable. Some certificates that are accepted are the DSH German Language Proficiency Certificate and the TestDaF (which can be taken in Germany and abroad, see www.testdaf.de). The Goethe Institute also have beginners and advanced courses to assist, see: (www.goethe.de/enindex.htm)


Many German universities are state-funded. In 2012, only two of the 16 states of Germany charged tuition fees up to 500€ per semester, at state-funded colleges; while in 14 states, tuition was provided free of charge. For an overview of tuition fees in different federal states, see: https://www.hochschulkompass.de/en/degree-programmes/fees-funding/semester-fees-tuition-fees.html



  • Do bear in mind that getting admitted to a German state university can often be a tedious process. Many programs are restricted regarding the number of new students; and acceptance of foreign credentials is difficult and credit transfers rarely happen without losses.
  • One of the most helpful online resources for an overview of higher education in Germany is www.hochschulekompass.de, and also www.studienwahl.de and www.daad.de All of the sites will walk you through every aspect of studying in Germany.
  • Some schools that offer degrees in English are: EBS Business School, Schiller International University, European University, Touro College Berlin.



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