Education in Germany

Student with laptop

Student with laptop, © dpa/picture-alliance

15.02.2018 - Article

Are you interested in studying in Germany or would you like to apply for an internship? Do you need information on scholarship programmes? We have compiled lots of information on all those matters for you -please refer to the chapters on the left side for general information. Below you will find the latest news about education in Germany.

The German School System Explained

Germany's school system offers a variety of different paths for students based on their abilities and interests—from getting hands-on training at vocational schools to doing research at top-notch universities. Young Germany explains the system from the ground up.

Follow this link to find out more

Internship in Germany

An internship can be a great way to try a career on for size or get your foot in the door in your preferred field. This month at Young Germany we have all the information you’ll need to find, apply for, and keep an internship in Germany.

Information on an internship in Germany

Studying in Germany

Do you want to study in Germany? On Young Germany we have tips on where to start, how to enroll, finding a scholarship, and more! 

Information on studying in Germany


Would you like to spend time volunteering in Germany?  At Young Germany we’re exploring all the possibilities open to anyone looking to give back with a volunteer position.  Find out about the Voluntary Social Year and where you can find a volunteer position, even from outside of the country.

Informations for volunteers

Online courses in higher education

Starting mid-October, Berlin-based iversity.org, a platform for academic online teaching, will offer its first Massive Open Online Courses, known as “MOOCs”. Courses are taught by renowned German and international faculty and are available to students worldwide, for free.

Online courses in higher education

The portal for international qualified professionals www.make-it-in-germany.com

www.make-it-in-germany.com is the official multilingual online portal for international qualified professionals. It helps them find out how to make a success of coming to Germany – from preparations in their home countries to arriving and getting settled in.


Scholarship and support programme: students do better when they feel at home

 From welcome breakfasts to friendship programmes, German universities come up with lots of interesting ways of making it easier for international students to settle into their new surroundings. The DAAD offers them a combined scholarship and support programme (STIBET), which is funded by the Federal Foreign Office. It supports introductory events and country evenings as well as specialist support for foreign doctoral students. Projects like Die Brücke (The Bridge) in Münster have developed their own special approaches and act as examples for other universities.

Which mobile phone contract is the best deal for me? What university sporting activities and facilities are available? Where can I buy a second-hand bicycle? Zoha Moztarzadeh patiently answers all the questions together with two German tutors. They are sitting in a small circle with international students who will begin studying in Münster during the next few days. The newcomers earnestly follow the presentation on the laptop. They receive lots of important information about life in Münster that will help them find their way around. Zoha, who came to Germanyfrom Iran six years ago, remembers her own arrival. “I think about what would have been important to me at the beginning,” says the voluntary helper. Because she arrived a week after the semester began, she missed all the introductory events. “I didn’t know how I should phone my parents or where I could buy food. Even simple things become difficult when you have to deal with them totally on your own.”

For 55 years, Die Brücke – International Centre of the University of Münster – has been supporting students and doctoral students from abroad and providing a meeting place where they will always find someone to talk to. Events are held here almost every evening, while during the day study groups look for a space in one of the rooms or people just meet for a coffee. The project in Münster has already twice won the Federal Foreign Office prize for excellent support of foreign students at German higher education institutions. “We offer a complete support service from arrival from the home country to alumni services,” says Joachim Sommer, director of Die Brücke. “That’s almost unique in the German higher education landscape.” As part of the International Office, Die Brücke works closely with the university, which provides staff funding, among other things. A team of German and international assistants supports students when they have to visit authorities or complete official forms, organises welcome breakfasts and arranges links with German families.

In the light of high drop-out rates, attention has increasingly focused on support for international students in recent years. STIBET, the Federal Foreign Office’s combined scholarship and support programme, offers funding to universities to award scholarships and provide academic and social support for foreign students. “Targeted measures make a discernible contribution to improving the academic success of foreign students,” says Stephanie Knobloch, the responsible head of section at the DAAD. 250 higher education institutions in Germanyuse funds from the STIBET programme. The funding pays for scholarships for students from partner universities and for doctoral students as well as selected measures that create incentives for improved cooperation between different local institutions. Since 2006 there has also been a special STIBET programme division for foreign doctoral students that funds modules at many universities to enhance teaching and research experience.

Facts and figures

In 2011 the DAAD is funding support for students and doctoral students in German higher education with a budget of 9.3 million euros. // The STIBET programme was created in 2001 with funds from the Federal Foreign Office. // When STIBET was set up, the DAAD combined two existing programmes and significantly expanded their financial framework. // A separate programme for foreign doctoral students was established in 2006 that funds modules to improve teaching and research experience. // 250 higher education institutions in Germany participate in the STIBET programme. 

Text: Gunda Achterhold/Societäts-Medien

Facts about the German higher education system

Some 1.98 million students are currently studying at German institutions of higher education. Almost half of the them (48%) are women. A total of 376 higher education institutions offer study programmes, including 102 universities, 170 universities of applied sciences and 69 private colleges. In recent years, the number of foreign students has significantly increased.

University Ranking

How satisfied are the students in a particular department? How good are its study facilities? Students have lots of questions when they are looking for the right university or college. In Germany they can find appropriate answers in the rankings compiled by the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHE). The CHE list is considered the most comprehensive and most detailed comparison of German-speaking universities and universities of applied sciences. It covers a total of 35 subjects and can thus help three-quarters of all new students. In addition to facts about courses, teaching, facilities and research, the ranking incorporates more than 250,000 students’ appraisals of the study conditions at their higher education institution as well as the reputation of departments among professors of individual subjects.

The German higher education system

University of applied sciences, college of technology, university, university of cooperative education – the German higher education system has many facets, many different types of institution. This diversity enables students to select the best course for their needs. If you put more emphasis on practical knowledge, then you will be in good hands at a university of applied sciences; if you are interested in theoretical research, then a university is the place for you.


Research centres: the university is the traditional form of higher education institution. Germany’s 102 universities closely link research and teaching. Most universities offer the full range of subjects. However, a university with a strong technological orientation is known as Technische Universität (TU, technical university) or Technische Hochschule (TH, college of technology). Compared to universities of applied sciences, they place greater emphasis on basic research.


Practical training: Germany’s 170 Fachhochschulen (FH, universities of applied sciences) have a strong practical orientation and close ties with the world of work. The main emphases are technology, business, design and the social sector. However, you cannot study medicine or law or complete a doctorate at a university of applied sciences.

Kunst-, Musik- und Filmhochschule

The art of learning: 53 state recognized colleges of art, music and film usually only admit students who successfully complete an entrance examination. Germany’s 23 colleges of music are particularly popular with foreign students: the proportion of foreign students at these institutions is 35.7%. Although the entrance requirements for these arts colleges are high, the training given – frequently by individual tuition or in small groups – is excellent.


For career beginners: Germany’s 38 Berufsakademien (BA, universities of cooperative education) are not institutions of higher education, but some of their qualifications are recognized as comparable with of those universities of applied sciences. These institutions offer a specialized education in business, technology or the social sector combined with a vocational training programme. You can only study at a Berufsakademie if you have a trainee contract with an employer. Graduates have good job prospects with global players.

Private Hochschulen

For self-payers: 69 private colleges primarily offer small study groups, close ties with industry combined with a high level of practical orientation and short courses – for tuition fees ranging between 1,800 and 4,700 euros a semester. However, not all private colleges meet expectations. It is very important to check whether a private university or college is state recognized. Otherwise its degrees will not be accepted, which can lead to major problems when looking for a job.

Germany is an attractive place to study

The Initiative for Excellence, greater autonomy for institutions of higher education, the introduction of new subjects, more bachelors and masters degree courses and larger numbers of students from abroad than ever before: Campus Germany finds itself in a state of change – and as a result is more attractive than ever before.

German universities offer diverse options

Germany is one of the leaders in the international competition for the world’s best brains. Whether in a large city or in the country, whether traditional or modern, very few other European countries have such a diverse higher education landscape. 376 universities, universities of applied sciences, colleges of art, teacher training and theological colleges and specialist administrative colleges offer a huge range of subjects and courses. At the beginning of 2007, the Higher Education Compass, which is published by the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK), registered exactly 8,865 courses leading to a first degree and 2,807 postgraduate programmes. Whether medicine, European studies, vehicle design, economics or computer graphics, the academic possibilities are almost infinite. And if a subject is not available in , more than 18,000 international collaborations with almost 4,000 foreign institutions of higher education in 140 countries offer additional opportunities.

Academic excellence and international orientation at German universities

The academic excellence of German universities and universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen) is convincing more and more “high-potentials” from all over the world. Almost 250,000 foreign students are currently registered at German universities – nearly 100,000 students more than 10 years ago. In the 2004/2005 academic year alone, the number of US citizens studying in Germany rose by 10%. A German university place is especially popular with students from China, Bulgaria, Poland and Russia.

In the course of the “Bologna process” institutions of higher education will be replacing their Magister and Diplom courses with programmes leading to bachelor’s and master’s degrees by 2010. Almost half of all the study programmes at German institutions of higher education have already been restructured. As a result, students’ qualifications can be more easily compared with those from other countries. The universities themselves are also taking up the competitive challenge. The Federal Government and the individual Länder are making available 1.9 billion euros for the current Initiative for Excellence. This money will be used to support graduate schools for young researchers, excellence clusters for cutting-edge research and the research profiles of up to ten selected elite universities.

Studying in Germany – a good choice

If you’re looking to study or research abroad, why not come to Germany, Land of Ideas? Higher education in Germany stands for numerous innovations, increasing internationality and strong support for cutting-edge research. Many degree programmes have already been converted into internationally recognised bachelor’s and master’s as part of the Bologna Process, and the trend is continuing. Among them are a large number of joint programmes run in collaboration with universities in other countries, as well as more than 1,000 programmes offered in English that take an international approach and are aimed particularly at international students. And the benefits of German universities don’t stop there: you’ll find quality service, good support and no tuition fees.

A varied higher education landscape

Prospective students will find high-quality programmes all over Germany that will cater for their particular interests and needs. Our 423 institutes of higher education, including universities and colleges of applied sciences, fine arts, education, theology and public administration, offer a huge choice of subjects and degree courses. There’s something for everyone in the complete spectrum of disciplines: languages, media studies, cultural studies, law, economics, the social sciences, art, music, theatre, design, medicine, agriculture, forestry, home economics and nutrition science. For every interest, you’ll find a corresponding course. Use the selection assistant to help you choose:


Many scholarships available

When it comes to organising and funding a period of study or research in Germany, your most important point of contact is the German Academic Exchange Service. Better known by its German acronym, DAAD, it is the world’s biggest funding organisation for international exchanges among students and academic staff. In 2013, the DAAD provided funds for more than 50,000 foreign undergraduates, PhD students and teaching staff. There is a vast array of funding programmes that can provide the effective, tailored help that prospective exchange candidates need to embark on a stay in Germany. This might be a classic PhD scholarship, a grant for a relatively short research visit or a scholarship for a year, a semester or just a brief stay. A number of foundations in Germany also award scholarships. Beneficiaries are selected in line with the foundations’ own criteria and specific remits.

Doctoral students and other academics or scientists interested in university research at the highest level will find those German universities particularly relevant that have been successful in the Excellence Initiative. Forty-five graduate schools, forty-three clusters of excellence and eleven universities’ institutional strategies secured the five years of funding attached to that recognition in 2012. More information is available here

Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Alumniportal Deutschland

Alumniportal Deutschland is an editorially supported social online network, which sees itself as a service for all Germany-alumni as well as for companies, networks, organizations and institutes of higher education. A unique combination of topical and emotional services with a connection to Germany and an online community opens entirely new opportunities for maintaining contacts and networks. Career opportunities, language services and both on- and offline events complement the online community.

“Germany-alumni” are people from all over the world who have studied, researched, worked or completed a course of advanced training in Germany. We also welcome those who have attended programmes of training or advanced training abroad with the support of a German organization. Alumniportal supports your efforts to secure, expand and apply the skills and qualifications you have obtained. It also promotes the establishment of international networks among interesting protagonists from the fields of economy, society, culture, science and research.

Furthermore, Alumniportal Deutschland enables companies, networks, organizations and institutes of higher education to publicize their own services and to profit from the unique expertise of Germany-alumni.  

The portal is financed by several federal German ministries and is a joint project of Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation (AvH), German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and Goe-the-Institut, under the overall direction of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusam-menarbeit (GIZ).

On Alumniportal Deutschland, Germany-alumni can

  • Keep in touch with Germany
  • Establish new contacts and maintain existing ones
  • Take part in topical discussions, contribute their knowledge and ideas and profit by the experience of others
  • Establish contacts with organizations and companies
  • Find job vacancies and assignments and present themselves in a professional profile
  • Get information from funding organizations
  • Practice their German language skills
  • Research events and advanced training programmes
  • Stay informed on current issues

  Companies and organizations can:

  • Find qualified employees, experts and contact pers
  • Publish assignments and job vacancies or view professional profiles
  • Promote events

Institutes of higher education and foundations can:

  • Recover their alumni
  • Maintain contact with their international alumni
  • Present themselves and their alumni networks
  • Promote their degree and scholarship programmes

Simply register and join the community. Registration is free of charge.



Top of page