Last year saw the last of Germany’s 16 states abolish tuition fees for undergraduate students at all public German universities. This means that now, both domestic and international undergraduate students at public universities in Germany are able to study in Germany for free, with just a small fee to cover administration and other costs per semester.
These low charges certainly help to make studying in Germany an attractive option for prospective students, with recent higher education data showing it to be the fourth most popular country for international students in the world (after the US, UK and Australia). German universities now also hold some of the lowest education costs in the world, based on countries providing internationally reputed higher education systems.
Based on official figures from the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), the average cost of studying in Germany is just US$10,520 (€9,170) per year, breaking down to US$540 (€470) for school fees and US$9,980 (€8,700) for 12 months of living – covering food, transport, accommodation, entertainment, course materials and other necessities.
Bear in mind that these figures are averages, and the amount you pay will fluctuate depending on the length of your program, your level of study, the German state (Länder) you live in and whether your university is private or public. Read on for more precise figures about the costs of studying in Germany for international students.
Cost of living in Germany
While many students are able to study in Germany for free, living expenses are unavoidable. The cost of living in Germany is more expensive in some areas than others (big cities such as Munich as well as cities across western Germany tend to be more expensive), with costs ranging from €350 to €1,000 (~US$482 to US$1,377) per month. Rent will be your largest monthly expense, but is cheaper if you live in a shared flat (average rent of €298/US$340 per month) or a student hall of residence (€240/US$275 per month).
Based on data from the DAAD, other average monthly costs are as follows: €165 (~US$190) for food; €52 (US$60) for clothes; €82 (US$95) for transport; €33 (US$38) for telephone, internet and TV license; €30 (US$35) for work/study materials, and €68 (US$80) for leisure activities.
You won’t need a visa to study in Germany if you’re an EU national or a citizen of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. Otherwise expect to pay around €60 (US$70) for your student visa, but there are also fee reductions or waivers for Schengen visas. In order to fulfill the visa requirements, you will need to show proof that you have, or have access to, around €8,040 per year (US$9,230) or €670 (US$770) per month to cover your living costs.
For more information on getting a German student visa, see this article.
You will also need health insurance as a pre-condition of registering at a German university. If you’re a resident of a country within the EU or EEA, there should be a social security agreement between your country and Germany. This means that if you have public health insurance, you should be covered in Germany as well (full list here). If your health insurance is not valid in Germany, expect to pay between €80 (US$90) and €160 (US$180) per month to cover this.
Undergraduate costs to study in Germany
Although you can study in Germany for free at public institutions as an undergraduate, there is a charge per semester for enrolment, confirmation and administration – usually between €150 and €250 (US$170-280) depending on the university. There may be an additional charge of around €100 for a “Semesterticket”, which covers public transport expenses for six months. If you exceed the standard period of study by more than four semesters, you may also face a long-term fee charge, which could be as much as €800 (US$920) per semester.
Most universities in Germany are public. Private institutions are usually primarily dependent on tuition fees for their funding (though some also receive support from foundations), and can charge up to €20,000 (US$22,850) per year. The University of Witten-Herdecke, for example, charges around €15,000 (US$17,150) for a degree, but offers flexible finance options, giving students the choice of whether to pay tuition fees from the start or pay a percentage based on income after graduation.
The Federal Student Financial Aid Program (BAföG: Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz) is available for German nationals and EU students, and even for foreigners under select conditions. Generally this aid is for those under 30 years old, or under 35 for those studying for a master’s degree. But exceptions can be made depending on circumstance. BAföG offer grants to cover basic living and training costs and also provides an Education Loan program, giving students the opportunity to take out a low-interest loan.
Master’s and postgraduate costs to study in Germany
Master’s degrees at German universities are usually free if they are classed as “consecutive” – i.e. following directly on from a related bachelor’s degree gained in Germany. Again, there is a small charge per semester for enrolment, confirmation and administration, plus a Semesterticket. However, a “non-consecutive” master’s degree, for those who have gained their bachelor’s degree elsewhere in the world, can cost more than €10,000 (US$11,450) per semester, and private German universities can charge up to €30,000 (US$34,300) per year for a master’s degree.
For example, Germany’s top-ranked institution, the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, lists fees for non-consecutive master’s degrees ranging from €2,050 (US$2,350) per semester for a Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering up to €6,000 (US$6,870) per semester for a Master of Science in Health Economics.
At PhD level, tuition is once again free at all universities in Germany – for the first six semesters at least. As at all levels of study, PhD students are also required to make a semester contribution of between €150 (US$170) and €200 (US$230) for administration and other costs.
Scholarships to study in Germany
The German Academic Exchange Service, otherwise known as the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst), provides support for German and international students to gain funding to live and study in Germany for free or at a more affordable cost. DAAD scholarships to study in Germany are offered to German and international students of all levels, as well as academics and researchers. To find relevant scholarships to study in Germany, you can search based on keywords, study level, country of origin and subject.
Another useful resource comes from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research or BMBF (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung), which hosts a site dedicated to providing information on scholarships to study in Germany.
You can also check out our own listing of Scholarships to Study in Germany.
Got another question about studying in Germany? We’ve probably already answered it here! If not, please let us know by adding a comment below.
This article was originally published in December 2013. It was updated in February 2015.