• Nearly one-tenth of world’s international students go to study in Germany
  • New bachelor-master system offers degrees which are internationally compatible
  • Emphasis on interdisciplinary studies, international outlook, and theory balanced with practical applications
  • Very green, environmentally aware society
  • Blend of modern and traditional cultures


Germany (Deutschland), the sixth largest country in Europe by land area (349,520 square kilometres), is situated in central Europe, with coastal access to the North and Baltic Seas. It is bordered by nine other European countries to the north, east, south, and west. It comprises lowlands (north), uplands (centre), and the Bavarian Alps to the south. Berlin (in the northeast) is the capital.


The climate of Germany is temperate (and marine in the north), with cool, cloudy, wet winters and warm summers, occasionally tempered by the Föhn, a warm mountain wind. There can be marked variations in climate from region to region.


The German nationals of today have evolved from several different tribal groups: Celts, Germans, Franks, Slavs, Romans. Germany has had a long and chequered history with periods of dominance, repression, and division.

Germanic invasions destroyed the declining Roman Empire in the 4th/5th centuries AD, and Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 800AD. From the 15th to early 19th centuries, the Hapsburgs ruled until the decline of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. Within this period was the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648), which devastated Germany and left the empire divided into hundreds of small principalities.

After the Napoleonic Wars of the 19th century, Germany reorganised and a German Empire was established. The growing influence of Germany then collided with the interests of other nations leading into World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, and the separation of West Germany and East Germany.

In the 1960s and 70s, a large immigration wave began in Germany, with workers from Greece, Turkey, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Tunisia, and the Balkans coming in to help with a labour shortage during a significant economic expansion (dubbed the “economic miracle”). East Germany attracted workers from Vietnam, North Korea, Angola, Mozambique, and Cuba. After reunification, another wave came from Eastern Europe (1990s). Many of these workers stayed and have permanently altered the composition of the German population, making it more multi-ethnic.

Following the German Reunification in October 1990, Germany became a united and sovereign state for the first time since 1945. It has a population of over 82 million and is the second-most populated country in Europe. Population density varies markedly from urban (very dense) to rural (less dense) areas.

The median age is 43.8 years. Over 95% of the population speaks German as their mother tongue; other languages include Sorbian, North Frisian, Danish, Romani, Kurdish and Turkish.


Germany is still basically a homogeneous ethnic society (German 91.5%, Turkish 2.4%, other 6.1%). A trend toward a more multicultural society is now occurring with a greater emphasis on integration of immigrants. Restoring the social unity between West and East has been an ongoing agenda of the German government since reunification in 1990, with living conditions, education, and health as important priorities. The family remains at the core of German society though traditional gender roles are disappearing, bringing German society and culture more into line with the modern Western world.

Culture in Germany has many facets. From world-famous orchestras, architecture, museums, churches, and traditional cuisine to avant-garde art and music, the international student will find a mix of modern and traditional. The Germans enjoy the outdoors along their beautiful riverbanks and in the gardens which can be found in most cities and towns. Germany is a sporting nation with football the no.1 sport. Walking and cycling are common leisure activities. Train travel is excellent and fast, making it easy to get around the country to festivals and other cultural events.


Germany is a member of the European Union (EU). Its economy is the largest in Europe and the fourth-largest in the world after the U.S., Japan, and China, and it is very export-oriented (second-largest exporter in the world). It is among the largest and most technologically advanced producers of iron, steel, coal, cement, chemicals, machinery, vehicles, machine tools, electronics, food and beverages, shipbuilding, and textiles. It is the leading producer of wind turbines and solar power technology in the world.

Some of the largest annual international trade fairs and congresses occur in German cities such as Hanover, Frankfurt, and Berlin. The currency is the Euro.


The political structure of the Federal German Republic is complex, consisting of a central federal government and 16 states. The government and economic systems today are based predominantly on those of West Germany prior to reunification. West German Basic Law (or constitution) became the cornerstone of the central, federal government in 1990. The Federal Constitutional Court has the power to repeal legislation if such legislation contravenes the Basic Law.

Most areas of government are centralised. The states, however, are responsible for schooling (and to a large extent tertiary education), internal security (including policing), as well as the organisation of local self-government. The federal government supplements the states’ income to assist them in managing and administering these areas.


International students living in Germany can generally live on €750–€950 a month: accommodation €230–€400, food €220, books/stationery €50 and other €250 (e.g., transport, entertainment, laundry, telephone) depending on location and type of housing. Tuition fees, where applicable, are an additional cost. Health insurance is usually around €50–€60 a month. Student accommodation is less expensive than renting a flat. International students should be aware that often flats are let unfurnished and that there may only be a sink in the kitchen area. Tenants then have to provide all other kitchen facilities.


The fundamental structure of the German education system is similar to that of many Western countries.  It consists of elementary (primary), secondary (lower and upper) and tertiary/higher education. It is in the detail – especially in relation to the range of institutions that deliver tertiary/higher education – where the differences lie. International students planning to study in Germany need to be able to identify these differences in tertiary/higher education; a brief outline follows:

  • Traditional universities (Universitäten)
  • Equivalent higher education institutions including technology (Technische Hochschulen or Technische Universitäten) and education (Pädagogische Hochschulen)
  • Colleges of art and music (Kunsthochschulen and Musikhochschulen)
  • Universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen)
  • Universities of applied administrative sciences (Verwaltungsfachhochschulen)
  • Professional academies for vocational education and training (Berufsakademien)

Most of these institutions are public (government). There are some privately run institutions; however, public education is the first choice for most (more than 90%).


Close to 250,000 international students are enrolled at German institutes of higher education. This makes Germany among the most sought-after destination countries in the world.

International students may have to pay some minor tuition fees. However, this is a recent situation and doesn’t apply to all higher education institutions. Therefore, it is essential to source such information from the individual institution to determine if tuition fees apply.

There is a German language proficiency requirement for entry to higher education institutions, the DSH (DSH-Prüfung). In some situations, basic language may be accepted dependent upon the course, the level of study, and the language of instruction. German-language courses are available at most institutions.

To gain acceptance, non-European Union (EU) students may have to prove financial capability. Applications should include evidence of capacity to meet the costs of studying/living in Germany.EU regulations govern the assessment students from EU countries wishing to study in Germany. Non-EU students may need to obtain a student visa prior to entering Germany. Students should first check with the German embassy or consulate in their own country to obtain the most up-to-date information about student visa requirements. Visa application processing for long-stay visas can take several months, so students must allow sufficient processing time prior to their intended date of entry. Students who wish to seek work while studying need to check if they will need a work permit.

Within seven days of arriving in Germany, all international students must register with the relevant district administrative office. Proof of, or application for health insurance coverage, must be submitted to the district office of the AOK (Allgemeine Ortskrankenkasse). After three months, all international students – regardless of country of origin – need to apply for a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis).

International students can work while they study in Germany, and because student jobs are subsidised (entailing lower social security costs for employers), many German employers find student workers an attractive option.

MORE INFORMATION – Deutschland Portal: Official portal to access information on Germany – Official site of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research – Study programmes in Germany – Deutsche Bildungs Server: Information on the education system and access to web-based education information in Germany – EU business site: Information on German economy – International Monetary Fund site for IMF reports on German economy – HRK: Information on higher education institutions – Deutsche Welle: Information on studying in Germany and student visas – German Foreign Office – Deutsches Studentenwerk (German Student Union) – ZVS – Central Office for the Allocation of Study Places website (university placement) – Information on German government, society, and culture – Information on German society: population, culture, education, healthcare – German National Tourist Board