Is College Free in Germany in 2024? Here’s The Truth!

Yes! Public universities in Germany offer tuition-free education. The difference lies between public and private institutions. Public universities are funded by taxes, making them tuition-free for students. On the other hand, private universities can set their tuition fees as they see fit.

  • Public universities in Germany offer tuition-free education.
  • Public universities are funded by taxes, making them accessible to domestic and international students.
  • Private universities in Germany charge tuition fees, which can vary depending on the institution and program (can go up to €20,000/year for Master’s programs).
  • Additional costs for students at public universities include semester fees, which cover administrative and other expenses (max ~€300 per semester).
  • Scholarships, grants, and part-time work opportunities are available to help students cover living expenses and tuition fees.
  • International students in Germany are allowed to work part-time during their studies.

Why Are Public Universities in Germany Free?

Germany believes education shouldn’t be a money-making venture. They think free access to higher education benefits everyone by promoting economic growth and well-being. There were small annual tuition fees of 1,000 euros in the past, but public protests led to their abolition in 2014. 

Today, very few exceptions allow public universities to charge tuition fees. Germany’s government recognizes the advantages of attracting talented students worldwide, so they don’t charge tuition fees to international students either. This helps bring smart minds to study, and they hope these graduates will stay and work in Germany.

Germany’s free college education system has a notable exception in the state of Baden-Württemberg. Here, students who are not citizens of the European Union must pay a fee of €1,500 per semester to attend college, unlike the usual €100 to €300 in other German states.

Is College Free for International Students Too?

Yes. In many federal states, Germany offers tuition-free education at public universities to both domestic and international students. All students at public universities must pay a semester fee, typically ranging from €100 to €300. This adds up to a maximum of €700 per year. 

While it’s an expense, it’s much lower than tuition fees in other countries. However, it’s important to note that while tuition fees are reduced, you should consider other costs, such as semester fees and living expenses.

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Here are some of the free colleges international students can attend:

  • . The Free University of Berlin is among Germany’s top-ranked universities, known for its arts, humanities, and social sciences programs, although it offers other fields. Its campus is located in Dahlem, southwestern Berlin.
  • . Commonly known as TU, this university is highly regarded for its technology and engineering programs in Germany. While its campus is spread across Berlin, the main buildings are in the Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf borough.
  • . Heidelberg, another public research university, invites international students to study in a charming German town. Currently, there are many English-taught Master’s programs available, covering various subjects like international health, international studies, economics, literature, and more.
  • . Humboldt University, a public research university in Berlin, provides degree programs in nearly 200 different fields. It has an impressive list of notable alums and faculty, including Albert Einstein, who worked there. The university is situated in Berlin’s central borough of Mitte.
  • . Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich is Germany’s second-largest university with a significant international student population. The university offers a wide range of study programs. It’s located in the vibrant city of Munich, known for its exciting places to explore, which adds extra fun to your studies.

What About Master’s and PhD Programs?

The tuition-free policy generally applies to bachelor’s programs, but master’s and Ph.D. programs may have varying fee structures (see ‘What Are the Exceptions?’ section below). Some master’s programs are still tuition-free, while others may have modest fees. Ph.D. programs often have no tuition fees, and students receive research stipends.

> Master’s Degree in Germany

> PhD in Germany

What Are the Exceptions?

  • Private universities are not free. Studying at a private institution in Germany will cost around €10,000–€15,000/year for Bachelor’s programs and between €10,000–€20,000/year for Master’s programs. 
  • Non-Consecutive Master’s Programs are not free. Non-Consecutive Master’s programs, also known as “Conversion” Master’s programs, offer postgraduate education that does not directly continue the field of study from the student’s Bachelor’s degree. To enroll, students with a university degree must typically demonstrate at least one year of relevant professional experience. Unlike many Consecutive Master’s Programs, Non-Consecutive Master’s programs usually require the payment of tuition fees.
  • Secondary Degrees (“Zweitstudium”) are not free. A “secondary degree” refers to obtaining a second Bachelor’s degree in a new subject when you already have a Bachelor’s degree or pursuing a Master’s degree in a different field after already holding a Master’s in another area. Fees for these programs usually range from 500–650/semester.
  • Public universities in the state of Baden-Württemberg are not free. Baden-Württemberg is the only federal state among the 16 to charge tuition fees at public universities for students from outside the EU. These fees amount to 1,500 euros each semester, culminating in a yearly total of 3,000 euros.
  • Public universities in the state of Bavaria have the option to charge tuition fees. In 2023, Bavaria, a federal state in Germany, updated its Bavarian Higher Education Innovation Act (BayHIG). This revision permits universities to charge tuition fees to international students from non-EU countries. Currently, TUM is the only Bavarian university to introduce fees for non-EU international students, starting winter 2024/25: €2,000-3,000 for bachelor’s and €4,000-6,000 for master’s programs per semester.

So, What Expenses Do I Consider?

When studying in Germany, you should budget a minimum of €934 per month, up to approximately €11,208 per year, to cover your living expenses (rent, utilities, food, entertainment, transportation, etc.)

This amount must be deposited into the German blocked account when applying for a German student visa, and it’s based on the BAföG, a state funding for students in Germany. 

It’s important to budget for living expenses, which include accommodation, food, health insurance, transportation, and personal costs. Additionally, you should factor in semester fees, study materials, and visa-related expenses.

Here are the living expenses of two of the most popular student cities in Germany:

Living Expenses in Munich Average Cost
Accommodation* 1,000€ – 1,900€ per month
Restaurants 09.80€ – 22.00€ per meal
Utilities 212.50 – 425.00€ per month
Transportation 49.00€ – 64.20€ for a monthly pass

 

Living Expenses in Berlin Average Cost
Accommodation* 900.00€ – 1,900€ per month
Restaurants 14.10€ – 18.70€ per meal
Utilities 250.00€ – 595.00€ per month
Transportation 49.00€ – 91.00€ for a monthly pass

*The accommodation price is based on a one-bedroom apartment in the city center. Various cheaper options, such as dormitories, homestays, or apartment-sharing, are available.

Some other expenses you should consider:

  • Visa-Related Expenses: You will likely need to apply for a student visa to study in Germany. This may involve fees for visa application, document authentication, translation services, and health insurance requirements. The German student visa application cost is 75€. 
    • Health Insurance: Germany requires students to have health insurance coverage. You can choose between public or private health insurance.
  • Pocket Money: Set aside some money for personal expenses, fun activities, and unexpected costs while studying in Germany.
Tom B: To get the study visa, they [international students] have to deposit 11,208 euros/year in a German blocked bank account to cover living expenses. Actual cost can easily be more, but the government has determined this to be the present minimal basic amount to survive as of the beginning of 2023. Almost certainly, one would have to take advantage of opportunities to have a room in a shared apartment rather than their own place and often eat at the subsidized university cafeterias to manage. []

Are There Scholarships for Living Expenses?

Yes, scholarships and financial aid options are available to international students in Germany to help cover living expenses. These scholarships come from various sources, including the German government, universities, and private organizations. 

  • DAAD Scholarships. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) provides a range of scholarships designed to support international students in Germany. These scholarships reduce financial burdens related to living expenses, accommodation, and health insurance. 

DAAD scholarships are accessible to students pursuing various academic levels, including bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. However, it’s essential to recognize that these scholarships are highly competitive, and applicants should prepare strong applications to increase their chances of receiving this financial support.

  • Erasmus+ Scholarships. The Erasmus+ program, which receives backing from the European Union, offers scholarships to international students seeking study exchange opportunities in European countries, including Germany. 

These scholarships are typically comprehensive, covering living expenses and travel costs incurred during the exchange period. Erasmus+ encourages students to explore different European nations, providing valuable cross-cultural experiences, including study opportunities within Germany.

  • University Scholarships. Many universities in Germany have established scholarship programs only for international students. These scholarships serve various purposes, including financial assistance for living expenses, tuition fees, and accommodation. 
  • Private Organizations. Various private foundations and organizations in Germany also offer financial assistance to international students. These scholarships can support living expenses, academic-related costs, or a combination. 
Charu Pathni: Firstly, I would like to tell you all that coming to Germany has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Learn new things, meet different people, get out of your comfort zone and enjoy each day in this wonderful country! 🙂 []

Gautam Sawala: Living in Germany, I’ve never felt more at home anywhere else. I come from India, and there we always find order in chaos and diversity. While Germany is like a well oiled machine that runs at high efficiency.

Most universities in Germany offer top of the line education. With almost zero tuition fees and flexibility to do studies in ones own time. This relieves pressure off the back of students.

Meanwhile, many students also work as a part time employees to cover up living expenses. Except for IT jobs, it can be challenging for a foreign student to find a part time job in a related field if you do. not know German. []

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