Germany has some of the best universities in the world. In fact, 23 higher education institutions in Germany made it into the 2019 top 200 World University Rankings, making the European republic the third most represented nation on the list after the USA and the UK. The rankings look at key performance indicators, including teaching, research, knowledge transfer, and international outlook across 1,400 schools in 92 different countries. According to the rankings, the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich is the top university in Germany. The university ranked as the 32nd best university in the world, while Berlin plays host to four schools in the top 200.
A long, enlightened tradition
Germany was the birthplace of some of the most influential thinkers, scientists, and writers of the last 400 years. From Immanuel Kant to Nietzsche, Goethe to Thomas Mann, or Max Planck to Albert Einstein, the German intellectual tradition has made an enormous contribution to the history of ideas which have shaped the world we live in today. The first German university opened in 1386 in Heidelberg and it is now the sixth oldest university in Europe. And Heidelberg is certainly carrying on the fine German tradition; in recent years, it's produced over 30 Nobel Prize winners.
Broaden your horizons
As crucial as those final grades are, there's much more to university life than spending long hours in the library with your nose stuck in a textbook. University is a chance to meet new people, expose yourself to different cultures, and learn the value and rewards of personal independence. And while you can always do this in your home country, spreading your wings and studying abroad, for example in Germany, is an excellent way to challenge yourself and push your personal development to the next level. International students in Germany graduate with the same degree as domestic students, but they often leave university with a greater sense of independence, confidence, and a willingness to take on even more challenges -- all crucial skills which will help you succeed in your future career.
As one student wrote on Studying in Germany, "At home, I felt like I had wings, but they had been clipped. Suddenly, when I came to Germany, I had so many options and I was able to learn. I learn something new every day that I, now, feel like I have learnt how to fly!" The student also had plenty of complimentary things to say about all their new German friends and host country: "German people are friendly, but they also respect and value your privacy! Germans are curious, and they are friends for life. [...] Most German cities are artsy and have a vivid underground music scene, fashion, books and ideals, which will further expand your horizons and understanding."
Overcoming the language barrier
The German language has a reputation as being one of the hardest European tongues to master. To begin with you may have trouble with your pronunciation and or grammar (verbs in German often go at the end of sentences where they don’t in English, so you may find you often sound like Yoda!) -- but picking up the basics is much easier than many people think. Firstly, there are no silent letters, and the phonetics are consistent. Even some of the more complicated looking vowel sounds are relatively straightforward to articulate.
And for native English speakers or anyone with a good grasp of the language, you will soon notice a surprising amount of similarities. Over 80% of the most common English words have Germanic origins, while roughly 40% of German words bear a very close relationship to their English counterparts. To take a basic example, "what is that?" translates to "was ist das?". And you can probably guess what the words 'Oktober' and 'Dezember' mean in English. And to make things even easier for international students, many German university programs are primarily taught in English, especially at master’s level.
A safe and beautiful country
Germany isn't just one of the safest countries in Europe; it's one of the safest countries in the world. Crime is currently is at its lowest levels since the early 90s, and less than one percent of Germans are affected by serious violent crime.
National stereotypes should always be taken with a pinch of salt, but it's fair to say that the German reputation for efficiency is well deserved. Much like it's close neighbor Switzerland, Germany is one of those countries where everything just seems to work. The public transport systems in big cities like Berlin and Munich are fast, reliable, clean, and safe. Trams, buses, and underground trains interconnect through the cities and thanks to significant subsidies by the national government, fares are much cheaper than in many other European cities -- great news for students who need to keep a close eye on every penny they spend!
Germany is also famous for its large areas of natural beauty, providing plenty of opportunities for relaxing day trips or a weekend break from your studies. You can visit the ski resorts nestled in the stunning mountains around the small town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, take a boat trip along the Rhine, or spend a few days camping in the Black Forest National Park.
Great value for money
In 2014, Germany abolished tuition fees for all public universities, making it one of the few countries in the world with a free higher education system. This initially extended to all international students. However, to reduce the national debt, the government began reintroducing fees for non-EU students in 2017.
But it's not all bad news for anyone thinking about making a move to Germany. While there are university fees for some international students now, they are still a lot cheaper than many of the alternatives. On average, non-EU students pay around €1,500 per semester, while anyone studying for a second degree pays a reduced fee of €650 per semester. Non-EU students will require a student visa, which includes a small administration fee of €60 ($74). You will also need to show evidence that you have access to €725 ($890) per month for living expenses. Health insurance is another prerequisite for students from outside the EU.
If you are struggling to meet the costs, federal student financial aid schemes are available for all students, although funding is only available on a limited basis to international students. So if you think you might need extra financial assistance, apply as soon as possible. Aid programs are split in two: 50% is a non-repayable national grant, while the other half is an interest-free loan that is paid back in installments. These don't begin until four years after the first payment of the loan. Overall, successful applicants will receive an extra €300 ($327) per month.
Opportunities for graduates
After graduation, international students can apply for an 18-month residence permit while they look for a job. Graduates are eligible for any kind of work to support themselves while they hunt for their dream job. And with your experience as an international student, the demonstrable willingness to push yourself out of your comfort zone, many employers are likely to be impressed. As well as its thriving manufacturing and automotive sectors (perfect for would-be engineers), Germany is leading the way in several future-proof industries including robotics, nanotechnology, and environmental technology.
So now you know of all the great things this country has to offer, it's time to find the right university, pick your perfect program, and then brush up on your German in time for the start of the next academic year. So good luck...or, as the Germans say, Viel Glück!