In 2014, Germany’s 16 states abolished tuition fees for undergraduate students at all public German universities. This means that currently both domestic and international undergraduates at public universities in Germany can study for free, with just a small fee to cover administration and other costs per semester.
This good fortune may not last however. In autumn 2017 the south-west state of Baden-Württemberg reintroduced tuition fees for non-EU students, and it’s possible other states will follow suit in the coming years. Non-EU students in Baden-Württemberg must now pay tuition fees of €3,000 (~US$3,500) per year, while those gaining a second degree pay a reduced fee of €1,300 (~US$1,600) per year.
For now, the low fees certainly help to make studying in Germany an attractive option for prospective students, and the country has previously been ranked as the fourth most popular destination for international students in the world (after the US, UK and Australia).
Cost of living in Germany
While many students can study in Germany for free, living expenses are unavoidable. The cost of living in Germany is more expensive in some areas than others – Munich, for example, is considered the most expensive German city to live in, with living costs averaging about €12,000 (~US$13,900) per year. By comparison, the average annual living costs in Germany are around €10,200 (~US$11,800).
Rent will be your largest monthly expense, though this is cheaper if you live in a shared flat (average rent of €280/~US$340 per month) or a student hall of residence (€234/~US$290 per month).
Based on data from DAAD, other average monthly costs are as follows:
- €168 (~US$205) for food
- €42 (~US$52) for clothes
- €94 (~US$115) for transport
- €31 (~US$38) for telephone, internet and TV license
- €20 (~US$25) for work/study materials
- €61 (~US$75) for leisure activities
You won’t need a visa to study in Germany if you’re an EU national or citizen of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. Otherwise, expect to pay €60 (~US$74) for your student visa, but there are also fee reductions or waivers for Schengen visas. In order to fulfill the visa requirements, you will need to show proof you have, or have access to, around €8,700 (~US$10,680) per year or €725 (~US$890) per month to cover your living costs.
You will also need health insurance as a pre-condition of registering at a German university. If you’re a resident of a country within the EU or EEA, there should be a social security agreement between your country and Germany. This means that if you have public health insurance, you should be covered in Germany as well (full list here). If your health insurance isn’t valid in Germany, expect to pay around €80 (~US$97) per month to cover this.
Undergraduate costs to study in Germany
Although you can study for free at public German universities as an undergraduate, there is a charge per semester for enrolment, confirmation and administration. This is typically no more than €250 (~US$290) per semester, but varies depending on the university.
There may be an additional charge to purchase a “Semesterticket”, which covers public transport expenses for six months – the price varies depending upon which Semesterticket option you choose. If you exceed the standard period of study by more than four semesters, you may also face a long-term fee charge, which could be as much as €500 (~US$540) per semester.
Most universities in Germany are public. Private institutions are usually dependent on tuition fees for their funding (though some also receive support from foundations), and set their own fees, which can be anything up to and beyond €20,000 a year (~US$24,400).
The Federal Student Financial Aid Program (BAföG: Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz) can be used by both German nationals and EU students, as well as some foreigners under select conditions. Generally, this aid is for those under 30 years old (under 35 if you’re studying for a master’s degree), but exceptions can be made depending on circumstance. The BAföG is usually split in two, with 50% taking the form of a state grant and the other half being an interest-free loan that must be paid back in instalments when the maximum period of assistance expires.
Master’s and postgraduate costs to study in Germany
Master’s degrees at German universities are usually free if they are classed as “consecutive” – i.e. following directly on from a related bachelor’s degree gained in Germany. Again, there is a small charge per semester for enrolment, confirmation and administration, plus a Semesterticket. Tuition fees for “non-consecutive” master’s degrees, for those who have gained their bachelor’s degree elsewhere in the world, vary between universities and may be around €20,000 (~US$24,400) per year at public institutions and up to €30,000 (~US$36,600) at private German universities.
For example, Germany’s top-ranked institution, the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, lists fees for non-consecutive master’s degrees ranging from €2,500 (US$3,050) per semester for a Master of Arts in American Studies up to €5,000 (US$6,100) per semester for a Master of Medical Education (MME).
At PhD level, tuition is once again free at all universities in Germany – for the first six semesters at least. As at all levels of study, PhD students are also required to make a semester contribution of no more than €250 or so for administration and other costs.
Scholarships to study in Germany
The German Academic Exchange Service, otherwise known as the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst), provides support for German and international students to gain funding to live and study in Germany for free or at a more affordable cost.
DAAD scholarships to study in Germany are offered to German and international students of all levels, as well as academics and researchers. To find relevant scholarships to study in Germany, you can search based on keywords, study level, country of origin and subject.
Another useful resource is the Federal Ministry of Education and Research or BMBF (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung), which hosts a site dedicated to providing information on scholarships to study in Germany.