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There are over 500 universities in Germany, offering more than 20,000-degree programmes. That’s quite a lot of choice!  Many of those universities are top ranking in Europe !! Here’s how to make sense of your options:

Types of German universities: There are four types of German universities:

  • Research Universities (Universität) carry out original academic work (i.e. research) in various subjects. They award a range of Masters and PhD degrees.
  • Technical Universities (Technische Universität) traditionally specialise in science, technology and engineering research. Many now offer qualifications in other subject areas.
  • Universities of Applied Science (Fachhochschulen) focus on practical subjects such as engineering, business or social science. They are often partnered with commercial or professional organisations.
  • Colleges of Art, Film and Music offer specialised practical instruction in creative disciplines. Candidates are normally required to demonstrate appropriate creative skills and experience.

Difference between Public & Private universities

Germany is divided into 16 states, or landers, each of which is responsible for administering its own public universities. This extends to providing them with state funding and regulating the fees they can charge.

There are over 300 public universities in Germany. Around 120 other institutions are private universities. They don’t receive state funding and are free to set their own tuition fees. This can mean that they charge more than public universities. Both categories of universities offer properly accredited courses and are free to develop their own degree programmes. The main difference between them concerns the fees they might charge you.

As taught courses, most German Masters degrees award MA (Master of Arts) or MSc (Master of Science) qualifications. Alternative degree titles may be used for some specialised subjects. The main difference between programmes concerns the way you come to study them. As postgraduate courses, German Masters degrees may be classed as either consecutive or non-consecutive

Consecutive Masters degrees follow directly from a closely-related undergraduate degree (for example, you might study an MSc in Biochemistry after a BSc in Chemistry or Biology. These courses do not usually charge fees.

Non-consecutive Masters degrees focus on a different or more highly specialised subject area. Such a course may require practical or professional experience as well as an undergraduate degree. These courses are more likely to charge fees.

Germany is renowned for its generous approach to higher education: public universities in 15 of its 16 states charge no tuition fees to students, regardless of nationality. This means you can study for a Masters in Germany for free, whether you are a German, EU or non-EU student.

However, please be aware of the following exceptions :

  • Fees may still be charged at private universities. However, most of the German higher education system is publically funded.
  • The state of Baden-Wuerttemberg charges €1,500 per semester to international (non-EU) students.
  • Some non-consecutive Masters will charge fees. This represents a small number of courses, many of which are designed for experienced professionals.

The German higher education system offers various opportunities for students to combine theoretical academic education with the development of practical skills and knowledge. Most significantly, Universities of Applied Science come to mind as a great opportunity to focus on the practical application of academic subjects.

Tuition-free Universities in Germany taught in English

International students have more than 200 tuition-free universities in Germany that offer more than 1,200 English language degree programs with no tuition fees.

Public universities in Germany are tuition-free for ALL students, whether you’re an EU citizen or not (except for the special case of Baden-Württemberg where Non-EU students must pay 1,500 € per semester).

While private universities charge a tuition fee to their own discretion, the fees are still significantly lower (average of 5,000 € – 7,000 € per semester) than at private universities in other countries.

Dual Study Program

A dual study programme combines academic studies with experience in a company and vocational training. Dual study programmes are very popular in Germany due to their practical orientation.

In addition to traditional Bachelor’s, Master’s and state examination degree programmes, it is also possible to combine a degree programme in Germany with vocational training. On dual study programmes, practical experience is a component of the degree programme. If you choose a dual study programme, you also have to sign a contract with a company. The training then usually takes place at two separate locations: on the company’s premises and at the higher education institution.

What types of degree programmes are there?

Dual study programmes can be training-integrated, career-integrated or practice-integrated.

Training-integrated: The degree programme is combined with training in a recognised occupation requiring formal training. Study phases and vocational training  (Duales Ausbildung) are linked in terms of time and content.

Practice-integrated: Study phases alternate with practical phases in a company (Ausbildungsbetrieb). The content of the courses at the higher education institution and the content of the practical training is related. Students gain a first degree that qualifies them to practice a profession, but not a qualification in a recognised occupation requiring vocational training.

Career-integrated: Here academic studies are combined with vocational further training. The learning content of the two forms of training is also connected in this model. Alongside full-time employment, students learn largely through self-study in a manner similar to a distance learning course.

What are the advantages of a dual study programme?

You gain two qualifications (an academic degree and a vocational qualification) in a relatively short time, along with valuable experience and many professional skills. In most cases, companies pay students on dual study programmes for their work and cover their tuition fees. The corporate contacts you establish during your degree programme will help you gain a foothold in interesting fields and improve your chances on the labour market later on. Many of the companies that offer dual study programmes retain their former students as employees once they graduate.

For whom are dual study programmes suitable?

If you want to complete a dual study programme, you should be highly motivated. Working at a company while completing a degree programme requires a lot of stamina and resilience. The phases working at the company have to be carefully planned and coordinated with the higher education institution’s curricula. You also have to persuade a business of your qualities at the beginning of your degree programme.

What challenges do international students face?

For international students, a dual study programme not least provides an opportunity to enter the German labour market. Specialists are in demand in Germany. At the same time, this form of study involves some challenges: As there are currently only a small number of English-language programmes, good proficiency in German is an important prerequisite for applying for a study place. Depending on your country of origin, the legal requirements surrounding work permits may also be a significant issue. Preparing for a dual study programme is therefore especially time-consuming.

International students who appreciate the integration of practical elements at UAS in Germany will be interested to learn about dual study programs, as well.

Dual studies (German: duale Studien) refers to a mode of study that combines practical work placements with academic training. It is popular with students because it provides academic education as well as practical experiences. Furthermore, students get paid with a fixed salary (approx. 700 – 1,500 € per month) throughout their dual studies.

Students of dual study programs are enrolled at a higher education institution where they pursue a bachelor’s degree, or less commonly a master’s degree. This higher education institution has cooperation contracts with various companies. Students in a dual studies program are employed by one of these companies. Their training is alternatingly conducted in their higher education institution and in their company. There are a number of variations of dual studies programs, but they always refer to a somewhat equal distribution of theory and practice.

Before we drive into the topic more detailedly, let’s provide you with some quick examples:

I ) The block model

For example, if you study mechanical engineering in a dual studies program in Germany, you may then often spend the lecture period at the university, which means you will study from April to July, and then from October to January. The lecture-free periods, i.e. from February to March and then again from August to September will be filled with the practical portions, for example, work periods at a car manufacturer in Germany.

2) The week model

A different example could be that you study social work at a university and hold a work placement in a provider of social services, for example, an institution for informal youth education or a support home for the elderly. In this example, your work and study routine may be structured in a way where you focus on your university studies 3 days a week, and then go to work at your job for the other two days.

These examples alone illustrate that dual studies can be differently structured, organized, and are available for a wide array of subjects. The following article clarifies for you:

 A dual study program leads to a double qualification. On one hand, in the form of an academic degree (most often: bachelor’s degree, but master’s degrees are also available in dual formats). On the other hand, in the form of practical work experience, which in some cases includes the completion of officially recognized vocational training.

Advantages of dual study programs in Germany

More than 100,000 young people are now studying in over 1,500 dual study programs. 

  • So what is it that makes dual studies popular and a good choice for students? One important aspect is that students of dual programs get to experience the best of both worlds: They do not only get academically trained but gain practical experiences, sometimes even completed vocational training. Their double learning gets rewarded with two certificates and thus double the qualifications than they would have after “only” finishing a regular program.
  • This qualification and the hybrid education model leave graduates of dual programs with excellent job opportunities: Not only do they have a network with a company and a university, but they also are considered highly qualified specialists. After paying for the students’ education, companies often have an interest in employing them more permanently. Even if they are not hired by their dual studies company, graduates can present an excellent and convincing resume to future employers.

Challenges for students of dual study programs in Germany

  • High workload : Students in dual programs face a high workload. While students of regular programs in Germany have months-long lecture-free periods or semester breaks to finish study projects, learn for exams, plan independent internships or vacations, dual students often have this time planned with work placements. After all, they will have to complete the workload for a study program (including studying for exams, reading texts, and visiting courses) AND have to fulfill work hours, as well. The ideal dual student should therefore be driven, highly motivated, resilient, and willing to take on challenges of self-organization.
  • Contractual obligation : While students of regular programs can relatively easily decide to drop out of a program or change courses, dual students may have a contractual obligation with their employer to finish the study program. This may be the case if the company you work for finances your tuition fees, and pays you throughout the study periods in which you do not actually work for the company. Details differ from one case to another, but we recommend carefully thinking through your decision before you sign contracts. It is a big yet rewarding commitment.
  • Additional challenges for international students : International students face additional challenges when it comes to taking up dual studies in Germany. This is because, with few exceptions, dual opportunities require excellent German language skills. Furthermore, you will have to go through an application process with a university and a company, which is double the work and may include logistical challenges, namely if a company expects you to sign up for an assessment center.


German courses in medicine, law, teaching and pharmacy lead to state examination degrees. That means that the final examination is organised and marked not by your higher education institution but by a government body in the regional state where you are studying. Law students and students in teacher training usually undergo a traineeship in a court or a school after taking their first state examination. This is the practical phase of their education in which they prepare for the second state examination.

Requirements for application: Medicine, pharmacy, veterinarian sciences, dentistry and geographical information management are popular subjects and admissions are limited at all German institutions of higher education. Therefore different factors apply which means that successful applicants need to have certain marks to be admitted. An organisation called the Foundation for Higher Education Admissions allocates the available spots.

Before you apply to one of these courses, you should find out whether German state examinations are recognised in your home country.