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German scholarships for foreign students [DAAD Scholarship]

Expatrio 2024-02-15
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Studying in Germany offers a blend of elite academic institutions, the chance to learn from global industrial giants, and the attractions of a welcoming, cosmopolitan culture. But with that comes the challenge of financing your education. Most German public universities don't charge tuition, but some programs may require small fees. Living expenses are also relatively low in Germany, but they can still add up.

The good news is that DAAD, the German Academic Exchange Service, offers a range of scholarships for international students wanting to study in Germany – including full scholarships covering all costs. When applying, the amount of scholarships is enticing, and there are plenty available. Let's explore some of the most popular DAAD scholarship in Germany, to help you find the financial support needed to succeed.


DAAD Scholarships

Also known in English as the German Academic Exchange Service

DAAD (Deutsche Akademischer Austauschdienst) is a popular academic exchange provider for international students. Since 1925, this Heidelberg-based institution has been dispensing grants for visitors from across the world.

In fact, it's the largest organization of its kind, worldwide.

What is DAAD scholarship?

DAAD's Scholarships program is the organization's centerpiece. Capitalized with €522 million, at any one time, it supports over 140,000 scholars.

Scholarships are provided via any one of DAAD's 365 member institutions, and cover subjects as diverse as chemical engineering, linguistics, and musical performance.

They are almost exclusively for higher-level masters or PhD study, not Bachelors or other qualifications.

How can I get DAAD scholarship?

DAAD scholarships in Germany requirements aren't too difficult to meet. To secure DAAD funding, applicants must have completed a Bachelors degree or be in their final year of studies. There is no upper age limit, although there may be a maximum time between finishing your Bachelors and taking up a DAAD grant.

Those already in Germany can also apply, providing they have been resident for less than 15 months. There may be language requirements, although a decent level of English is usually fine for most subjects. Requirements vary, so check the documentation for each grant.

Finding information is very simple. DAAD provides a comprehensive, centralized DAAD scholarship database. It's possible to conduct keyword searches for DAAD scholarships in Germany.

The application process for DAAD scholarship is also straightforward. Just head to the DAAD site and use the search function. Follow the instructions on the DAAD website and get your paperwork in on time!

When should I apply for DAAD scholarships?

With academic grants, it's usually best to apply early to get the best results. DAAD scholarship applications are no exception, but some key dates also need to be kept in mind.

Application period

In Germany, the application period for the following academic year's winter semester begins in May and ends on 15 July - so don't go beyond that point. However, there is also a summer semester, which starts in April. In that case, applications must be submitted from early December until 15 January.


Erasmus+ for European students

Opportunity to get funding for your exchange program

Erasmus is an EU-wide grant-giving program that is funded by the EU's member states. It offers funds for one-year exchange periods for international students at German universities.

Created in 1987, Erasmus has helped over 3 million students achieve their academic goals. And it's been expanded along the way, becoming 'Erasmus+' in 2014.

The enhanced organization now brings together youth, student, and lifelong learning systems, as well as industry-related work placements, vastly expanding the range of possibilities for recipients.

How can I get a scholarship to study in Germany?

Erasmus+ offers a wide range of scholarships in Germany, but they aren't available for everyone.

For starters, you'll need to be studying at a higher education institution. Moreover, both institutions involved (your university and a college in Germany) must have signed the Erasmus Charter for Higher Education.

For EU students, the requirements aren't that strict, and most major universities participate in the Erasmus scheme. With grants covering enrollment, travel, and basic living costs, it's a resource that's well worth exploring.

Qualify for an Erasmus

To find out about whether you qualify for an Erasmus+ exchange, head to the EU's website for more information. The "Find an Opportunity" section is easily the best way to find current grants and plot your European adventure.


Germany Scholarship

Provided by the German Federal Government and private finance

The Deutschlandstipendium (literally "German Grant") is provided for students with outstanding academic prospects. In 2021, the Deutschlandstipendium was provided to over 28,000 students. Funds are provided equally between universities, with each institution able to put 1.5% of their students forward.

But is it the right option for international students who need some extra support?

How can I get free scholarships to study abroad?

Importantly, the Deutschlandstipendium is explicitly available for students of all nationalities who are currently studying in Germany (you can't apply from abroad).

If students are accepted, they will receive a stipend of €300 per month, which is not linked to income in any way. This money can last for as little as two semesters, or be extended across an entire period of study abroad in Germany.

Applications are processed via your university, who must recommend you for a grant. This should be advertised as a service on your faculty's website. If not, inquire with the administrative office, as almost all German universities participate.

German scholarship with BAföG

Many students combine the Deutschlandstipendium with the BAföG (a major state-supported subsidy for low-income students). This can bump up income to €970 per month, enough for many scholars to live on, and a good alternative to full scholarships for masters degree students.


Other non-government scholarships

If the options we've covered so far haven't born fruit, don't worry!

Universities in Germany offer a variety of alternatives to DAAD or Erasmus+.

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung is a good example. Created in 1925, it seeks to promote "Social Democracy" via academic grants.

Any student resident in Germany can apply, providing they show evidence of their political beliefs and the public interest of their research. Places are limited, but it's a good option for those in the social sciences, politics, or humanities.

The Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung is another option. In its case, grants tend to be given to students with an interest in green issues and the environment.

Applicants can come from anywhere in the world and are restricted to post-graduate study. However, those applying must demonstrate fluency in German, and various expert references will be required as well.

What makes private grants different to German government scholarships?

These organizations will generally provide extensive financial support for specific purposes. They have charitable goals in mind, but are usually focused on specialist areas. And there may be requirements on students to provide feedback, submit to monitoring, or use funds in certain ways.

How can I study in Germany for free?

In summary, there are numerous ways to fund your undergraduate or post-graduate studies. And there are also some other things to bear in mind. 

DAAD and other German government initiatives are usually the best places to start your search. But if you don't qualify, or you want to focus on a specific area of study, there are always private grants available.


Undergraduates should know that several Germany's public universities are tuition-free universities. As of 2014, fees for Bachelors level courses at almost all colleges have been replaced by an 'administration fee', which usually costs around €250 per semester. The exception is the German state of Baden-Württemberg, where there is a €1500 tuition fee per semester for non-European students.


Just remember that most will require some form of German language proficiency. And while some support is provided for international students, it's generally much easier to find funding if you're already resident in Germany.

So, those seeking entry-level courses can focus on finding grants to cover living costs. And for higher-level students, there are bodies like the Heinrich Boll Foundation, or a DAAD scholarship. So you'll always have options and ways to make education more affordable.

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