Studying in Germany - Step by Step
The German University System
In Germany you can study at different institutions of higher education. The universities offer strong theoretical and academically-oriented degree programmes and a broad range of disciplines, universities of applied sciences are strongly practice-oriented, and colleges of art, film and music, offer instruction in artistic subjects. Choosing the right type of university largely comes down to deciding what you would like to study. Universities are also divided into private and publicly funded institutions. The quality of instruction, however, is comparably high at all institutions of higher education. Most universities in Germany are publicly financed. A few universities receive their funding from the Protestant or Catholic Church. In addition, there are 120 private universities – most of them universities of applied sciences – whose degrees are recognised by the state.
University admission requirements
If you want to study at a German university, you will need a “Hochschulzugangsberechtigung” – “university entrance qualification”. This is a school-leaving certificate which qualifies you for university study.
A CSEC/CXC certificate together with CAPE, a High School Diploma (from ISPS) or an Ontario Secondary School Diploma is usually accepted as a university entrance qualification when you are applying for a Bachelor degree programme. If you want to apply for a Master degree programme Bachelor certificates from UWI and UTT are usually accepted.
However each university in Germany is responsible for making the final decision on admissions. Therefore, we recommend inquiring in advance at the International Office of the university of your choice as to whether you meet all the necessary prerequisites.
University – Find a degree programme
Over 423 institutions of higher education, including universities and universities of applied sciences, fine arts, education, theology and public administration, offer a huge choice of subjects and degree courses. There’s something for everyone in the complete spectrum of disciplines: languages, media studies, cultural studies, economics, the social sciences, art, music, theatre, design, medicine, agriculture, forestry, home economics and nutrition science. For every interest, you’ll find a corresponding course. Use the following links to help you find a degree programme that meets your needs:
German is the language of instruction in most bachelor degree programmes at German universities. That’s why foreign applicants are usually required to prove their knowledge of German before gaining admission. You can prove your German language proficiency by taking a language test, such as the TestDaF or DSH. More information about DSH More information about TestDaf (only in German)
However, German is not a prerequisite if you enroll in an international degree programme or a special post-graduate course. Some universities do not ask for proof of German language proficiency if you plan on studying there for only one or two semesters. This rule does not apply everywhere. It’s best to inquire directly at the university of your choice about the language requirements for incoming students.
In Trinidad and Tobago you can take German language classes at the University of the West Indies, Centre for Language Learning, or you can start learning German online.
Germany is a relatively inexpensive European country. However, secure funding is very important for the success of your studies.
International students who are completing their course in Germany need to consider the following costs. To get a better overview, you can distinguish between education and living expenses.
Education expenses and tuition fees
Publicly funded universities offer bachelor’s degree programmes free of tuition. Fees are sometimes charged for certain master or PhD programmes. Most private universities charge tuition fees. The cost of tuition can vary significantly, but be aware: the level of the fees do not necessarily reflect the quality of the education.
A semester fee, not tuition fee, is payable at all universities and for all students in Germany. It consists of fees for the student union and for the student administration (AstA). At many universities the semester fee also includes a semester ticket for local public transport. The actual amount differs for each university, but it ranges between 100 and 250 euros. The semester fee needs to be transferred upon enrolment before the start of every new semester. Whether there are any additional costs for course material or textbooks depends on the specific course.
Living expenses in Germany are slightly above average in a European context. An average students’ monthly budget amounts to 800 euros. This includes the rent, travel expenses, costs for food, clothing, learning material, health insurance, phone, internet, radio and television fees and expenses for leisure activities. It does not include the semester fee, which needs to be paid prior to every semester as part of re-registration. This means that higher costs arise at the start of the semester. What do students in Germany pay money for every month on average?
- Rent (incl. ancillary expenses): EUR 298
- Food: EUR 165
- Clothing: EUR 52
- Travel expenses (car/public transport): EUR 82
- Health insurance and medical costs. Medication: EUR 66
- Phone/Internet/Radio/TV fees, postage: EUR 33
- Course materials/learning materials (books, etc.): EUR 30
- Leisure, culture and sports: EUR 68
The total is EUR 794.
A wide range of institutions in Germany offer scholarships to international students, e.g. the DAAD, party-affiliated foundations, religious organisations and commercial enterprises. You can also look into scholarships or other funding opportunities available in your home country.
The DAAD offers many scholarship programmes targeted at German and foreign students, graduates and researchers. Please note that the DAAD and most other institutions for that matter do not provide scholarships for entire degree programmes, i.e. from the first to the last semester. The selection process is very rigorous and first-time students are rarely eligible for funding. You should bear in mind that no applicant is ever entitled to a scholarship!
There are different ways to apply for admission to a German university. The application procedure depends on which subject you would like to study and where you come from.
If you have met the general admission requirements and found your course of choice, you will often not be able to enroll directly. There are many courses for which demand is greater than the supply. In this case, applicants first have to pass through an admission procedure. A restricted course could either have local or national admission restrictions. Direct enrolment is possible for all other courses that are not subject to admission restrictions.
National admission restriction
Medicine, pharmacy, veterinary medicine and dentistry are so popular that admission restrictions apply at all universities in Germany, i.e. a Numerous Clausus (NC, Latin for "closed number"). The application and admission procedures for places on these courses are run by the Stiftung für Hochschulzulassung. However, in some cases, international applicants have to apply directly to the universities or via the Application Services for International University Applications (uni-assist).
The application generally needs to be submitted by 15 January for the summer semester and 15 July for the winter semester. However, the application deadline for international students may differ for each individual university.
Local admission restriction
Some courses may only have admission restrictions at certain universities. Courses with local admission restrictions are generally also identified as NC courses. The NC is not specified by an individual; rather it changes every semester based on the demand and supply of university places for a course. The applications currently available are used to calculate an average grade that must be met for admission. The level of the NC in the semester the application is submitted is unknown in advance, but the values from previous semesters are useful starting points. In some cases, certain grades are weighted more heavily than others – such as maths and physics for an engineering course.
Apart from the average grade, universities may also define additional criteria that are relevant for selection, such as letters of motivation, tests or selection interviews. The criteria differ for each university and course. So it is important that you approach the university's Student Advice Centre before submitting your application. The Higher Education Compass website provides more information about the Student Advice Centres.
Application documents, dates and costs
Anyone who has decided on a university and a course first needs to contact the International Office of that university. This is where you will find out about the application process and which documents need to be submitted. Application fees may be charged depending on the university that you apply at.
In general, the following documents need to be submitted:
- an officially certified copy of the higher education entrance qualification in the original language
- an overview of the subjects and marks as a certified translation
- an officially certified copy of any previously acquired secondary education qualifications with an overview of the subjects and grades
- a passport photo
- a copy of your passport (only the side with your personal information and photo)
- language proficiency (an officially certified copy or with an online verification code)
For many universities, the application period for the winter semester commences at the start of May and generally ends on 15 July. The application period for the summer semester generally commences at the start of December and ends on 15 January. The notice of admission is then sent in August/September or February/March.
Applications often fail for formal reasons – for example, because the documents are incomplete, or not submitted on time. You can avoid any errors by carefully checking your application. You may find the following questions useful:
- What requirements do you need to meet for “your” course?
- Where do you need to send you application to?
- When is the application deadline?
- What documents need to be enclosed?
International students looking to study in Germany will generally need a visa to enter Germany.
More information about the Student visa, required documents and application process