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Best Universities for International Students in Germany

Expatrio 2024-02-26
Picture of a german university


Germany is very welcoming to students coming from abroad, and it has increasingly become a popular study destination. In fact, 11 of the world's 100 most international universities in the world are located in Germany! 

In this article, we'll take a look at some of the best universities for international students in Germany and what each university has to offer.

Why is Germany popular for international students?

There are many reasons why Germany is a popular destination for international students. The country offers high-quality education at affordable prices, and its universities are renowned for their research opportunities. 

Germany is also home to several world-class higher education institutes, attracting graduate students from all over the world.


Do you need to speak German to study at a German university?

No, you don't need to know German to study at a university in Germany. However, you will likely need to take a course in German if the study program you want to pursue is not available in English. Of course, there are also many English-taught courses available at universities in Germany.


Are universities free for international students?

Yes, public universities in Germany are free, even for international students. Each federal state administers universities, so the rules vary depending on the Bundesland. Public universities are mostly free from tuition fees, and students will have to pay a small semester fee. However, in the state of Baden-Württemberg, non-EU international students have to pay €1,500 per semester on tuition fees.

Tuition fees in Baden-Württemberg are waived automatically for:

  • Students from the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA)
  • Students enrolling in a doctoral program
  • Double Degree students from partner institutions abroad, if mutual tuition fee waivers have been expressed within partnership agreements
  • Non-EU or EEA citizens who have an EU residence permit

Please visit the Ministry for Science Research and Art Baden-Württemberg for the complete list of exempted people.


So, which German university is the best for international students?

The following top universities in Germany are ranked in the world's top 100 most international universities. This ranking is based on the international student score, international staff score, international co-authorship score, and international reputation metrics for THE World University rankings.

1. Free University of Berlin

The Free University of Berlin (FU Berlin) was founded in 1948 and is ranked 62nd as the world's most international university. This university has a strong international focus, with around 23% of its students coming from abroad. It offers a handful of English-taught programs in various disciplines, so you have plenty of options to choose from.

2. Technical University of Munich

Ranked 69th as the world's most international university, the Technical University of Munich (TUM) is one of Germany's prestigious universities. Seventeen TUM scientists and alumni have received Nobel Prizes in chemistry, medicine, physics, literature, economics, and peace. You'd be glad to know that around 33% of students enrolled every year are international.

3. Humboldt University of Berlin

Humboldt University of Berlin (HU Berlin) is ranked 74th as the world's most international university. It is the oldest university in Berlin, established in 1810 by Prussian reformer Wilhelm von Humboldt. This university has a long tradition of academic excellence and its wide range of extracurricular activities available to students, such as university sports, choirs, and orchestras.

4. Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is ranked 76th among most international universities globally. It is also the youngest institution on this list, founded in 2009 after the merger between the University of Karlsruhe and Karlsruhe Research Center. KIT is known for its excellent research and offers a range of undergraduate and graduate programs in various disciplines, including engineering, natural sciences, and economics.

5. Heidelberg University

Ranked 79th as the world's most international university, Heidelberg University is one of Germany's oldest and most prestigious institutions. The university has a rich history and a strong focus on research – it's no wonder that half of the Nobel Prize winners in Germany are associated with it!

6. LMU Munich

Ranked 86th as the world's most international university, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU Munich) is a public research university located in Munich. This university has a wide range of faculties, with notable mathematics, economics, and neuroscience strengths. The university is also a breeding ground for successful startups, with seven $1 billion startups in Germany were founded by graduates of LMU Munich.

7. University of Tübingen

The University of Tübingen is ranked 87th among the world's most international universities. It is located in a traditional German university town with a vibrant nightlife. It offers more than 200 study programs and has nearly 20,000 students enrolled each year.

8. University of Bonn

Ranked 92nd among the world's most international universities, the University of Bonn is also one of the eleven German Universities of Excellence. Diversity is at its heart, with over 5,000 international students from 130 countries enrolled each year.

9. Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin is ranked 95th in the world's most international university. The university is home to 3,700 scientists, 220 professors, and 4,135 nurses. As one of the largest university teaching hospitals in Europe, it can provide appropriate treatment for almost any diagnosed condition. However, to get the most out of your experience at Charité, you need to be fluent in German, as this is the primary language of communication.

10. University of Mannheim

The University of Mannheim is ranked 98th as the world's most international university. It was founded in 1967 and is one of the leading business schools in Germany. Even though it's located in the second-largest city in the state of Baden-Württemberg, the cost of living in Mannheim is still relatively low compared to other cities.

11. RWTH Aachen University

Ranked 98th as the world's most international university, RWTH Aachen University is located in the historic city of Aachen, close to the borders of Belgium and the Netherlands. The university is home to one of the largest technical faculties in Europe. More than 26% of its students come from abroad, and every sixth Aachen inhabitant is a student.


How hard is it to gain admission to German universities?

German universities have low admission rates due to their student popularity. For example, the University of Heidelberg had an admission rate of just 17%. This factor means that for every 100 students who apply, only 17 will be accepted. However, the good news is that there are over 400 universities in Germany you could apply to and potentially get admitted. It is vital to have solid grades and language skills, either German or English, to increase your chances of being admitted to a German university.

Most German universities require an Abitur certificate for admission. This document is the equivalent of the British A-Levels or the American SAT exams. However, you can also attend a Studienkolleg if the qualifications from your home country don't meet the necessary criteria.

Once you have been accepted to a German university, the next step is to apply for a student visa. To do this, you will need to provide proof of your university acceptance, proof of financial means, and proof of health insurance.


Is Germany cheap for international students?

Germany is a relatively cheap country to live in, especially compared to other Western European nations. Accommodation, food, and transportation are all relatively affordable. That being said, some of Germany's most expensive cities (such as Munich and Hamburg) may be a bit pricier than other areas.

The cost of living for international students in Germany is estimated between €800 and €1,000 per month. This amount is usually enough to cover rent, food, health insurance, and other necessary expenses. As a student, you can also opt to work while studying to help offset the living costs. You can work part-time (20 hours per week) for 240 days per year or full-time (40 hours per week) for 120 days per year.

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