Germany is one of the best countries to study abroad: It offers a unique combination of great universities and high quality of life, and rivals other popular destinations such as the United Kingdom or Holland.
And not only is Germany home to some of the best universities in the world – you can actually study there for free. If you want to learn more, check out our list of frequently asked questions about tuition fees in Germany:
Who can study in Germany for free?
Everyone can study in Germany tuition-free! That’s right: Germans, Europeans, and all non-Europeans can study in Germany free of charge – without tuition fees. It does not matter if you are from the EU or EEA.
This applies to almost all study programmes at public universities. There is a tiny catch: If you are from outside the EU, you will need to get a residence permit before you arrive in the country; and you will have to finish your studies in Germany.
At which universities in Germany can I study for free?
In Germany, you can generally study for free at public universities. There are almost 300 public universities in Germany, and there are more than 1,000 study programmes in total – so you have lots of options!
Some of the largest public universities include:
- University of Cologne
- Ludwig Maximilians University Munich (LMU)
- Goethe University Frankfurt
- RWTH Aachen University
- University of Münster
- Ruhr University Bochum
- University of Duisburg-Essen
- Universität Hamburg
- FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg
- Technical University of Munich (TUM)
- University of Würzburg
Why do public universities in Germany not charge any tuition fees?
Almost anywhere in Europe and the world, universities charge tuition fees – if only from foreigners who come to that country for their studies. Germany is one of the few countries in Europe where you can study for free, even if you are from Asia, Africa or elsewhere.
Germans generally believe that education should not be treated as a commercial product, and that free access to higher education ensures economic growth and welfare for the greater population. In the recent past, there was legislation allowing public universities to charge very modest tuition fees of 1,000 euros annually. But after years of public protests, the tuition fees were abolished again in 2014. Today, there are only very few exceptions where public universities can charge tuition fees.
Also, Germany’s governments of recent years have understood the economic and social benefits of immigration. Germany wants to get the smartest minds to study into the country, and ideally to stay and work after graduation. That is why there are no general tuition fees for foreigners, as well.
If tuition is free, does that mean the universities are not very good?
Far from it! Germany’s universities are among the best in the world, and you can expect to receive a world-class education as a foreign student. Many of the larger institutions regularly rank among the top 100 in international rankings.
Regardless of a university’s ranking, you can always expect high-quality teaching. Germany has very strict standards for accrediting its educational providers.
The fact that higher education at public universities is tuition-free is a purely political decision by the German government. A degree from a German university will be respected around the world and open many doors for your career choices.
Are there any tuition fees in Germany?
Generally, you can study in Germany for free. But there are a few exceptions in which you have to pay tuition fees:
- Only public universities are tuition-free. If you study at one of the roughly 100 private universities, you are expected to pay, and those tuition fees are on par with what you would pay in countries such as the UK or Ireland. However, because of their competition from the cheap public universities, private schools in Germany tend to offer specialised programmes, and other benefits so that you get your money’s worth. And of course, you might be eligible for a scholarship.
- German universities distinguish between “consecutive” and “non-consecutive” Master’s programmes. Consecutive programmes are those that you can enroll in immediately after you finish your Bachelor’s degree. Non-consecutive programmes usually require that students have post-Bachelor work experience. Such non-consecutive study programmes usually cost tuition fees, even at public universities. They are relatively rare; typical are e.g. “Executive MBAs”, but also some specialised Master’s programmes.
- Since 2017, public universities in the state of Baden-Württemberg can charge tuition fees from non-EU/EEA students. That includes the universities in Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Mannheim, Freiburg, Heidelberg, and some other cities. The tuition fees are set at 1,500 euros per semester – which is still much more affordable than in many other countries in Europe.
- Some federal states also expect tuition fees of 500 to 650 EUR per semester if you want to pursue a “secondary degree” (“Zweitstudium”). This does not apply if you enrol in a Bachelor for the first time, or a (consecutive) Master’s programme following your Bachelor’s degree. Instead, “secondary degree” means
- enrolling in a non-consecutive Master’s programme (see above),
- enrolling in a Bachelor’s when you already have a Bachelor’s degree in another subject, or
- enrolling in a Master’s programme when you already have a Master’s degree in another subject.
How high are tuition fees in Baden-Württemberg?
Baden-Württemberg, in South-West Germany, is the only of the 16 German federal states where students from outside the EU have to pay tuition fees at public universities. Tuition fees in Baden-Württemberg are 1,500 euros per semester; or 3,000 euros per year.
These tuition fees apply to all public higher-education institutions in “BaWü”, of which there are around 50.
Students who are citizens of the EU are treated the same as German students and therefore do not pay any tuition fees.
What other costs do I have to consider when studying in Germany?
While there usually aren’t any tuition fees at public universities, you normally have to pay something called a “semester fee” (“Semesterbeitrag”) or “administrative fee”. But that’s a small amount: often around 300 or 400 euros for the whole semester. This then also covers a public transport ticket for your city and sometimes even the surrounding areas, at a fraction of what you would normally pay for such a ticket.
For a Western European country, Germany is otherwise very affordable. Here is an overview of typical cost of living as a student in Germany:
|Item||Average cost per month|
|Rent and utilities||300 to 500 €|
|Food and drink||200 to 250 €|
|Health insurance||100 €|
|Phone and internet||30 €|
|Leisure and hobbies||50 to 100 €|
You can get by on 850 euros per month, give or take a bit, depending on what city you study in. Larger cities like Munich, Frankfurt or Hamburg are known to be more expensive than smaller towns.
What scholarships are available to study abroad in Germany?
There are many scholarships for foreign students in Germany. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has an official scholarship database which allows you to search for suitable scholarship options, e.g. based on your country of origin.
Can I stay in Germany after I graduate from university?
Yes: International graduates of German universities can stay in Germany while they look for a job. And that applies to all students, regardless of the country of origin. If you are a citizen from outside the European Union, you can apply for an 18-month residence permit for after graduation.
With such a “job seeker visa” (or “post-study work visa”), you can search for a job that fits your qualifications; and you are allowed to take any job during those 18 months. The German Federal Government offers more information about the graduate residence permit.