Finding the right fit for your study program is difficult enough without having to worry about high tuition fees. Many students wish they could study for free but are reluctant to look at programs which are advertised as free universities as it sounds too good to be true. Perhaps that’s the case in some countries.
But in Germany public universities are free of tuition for all (with few exceptions). You can pursue many degree programs without tuition. Don’t speak German? No problem! There are plenty of programs in English as well with over 2,000 bachelor's and master’s programs to choose from.
Public universities in Germany are free to all students, not just EU students! There are some specialized programs at public colleges which have marginal tuition fees but these are not the majority, the next section will talk more in depth about these study programs. The study programs which are free in Germany are free to all students who wish to attend those universities, there are no limits. Free tuition means free tuition for all, anyone can come and study in Germany for free!
Are there really free universities in Germany?
Simply put, yes, there are free universities in Germany. There are no tricks or hidden fees, public universities in Germany are FREE. Let’s break down what it means to study for free in Germany and how it differs from studying in other countries.
In addition to public universities, Germany has a great selection of private universities to choose from. It is important to note that private universities charge tuition to all of their students (not just non-EU students), though the tuition cost is generally lower than tuition fees at other private universities abroad, averaging between 5,000 and 7,000 € per semester. Our StudyFinder can help you find the right program for you, should you have your heart set on a private study program.
If you are interested in a free study program, then you should stick to using the “no tuition fees” filter option in the StudyFinder. While searching for your free study program, don’t be discouraged when you see a semester contribution fee, this is not a tuition fee.
What is the difference between semester contribution and tuition fees?
Every university in Germany charges a so-called semester contribution (Semesterbeitrag) which averages from 200 - 300 € per semester (there are also few colleges that charge higher or lower amounts). This contribution pays for administrative costs, social services, and your public transportation ticket which provides you with unlimited use of the local public transportation system. Since these benefits are granted to all students, the contribution is mandatory (and very useful if you know that the regular fee for public transport e.g. in Munich can cost more than 100 € per month).
Such contributions are also charged by all universities, even outside of Germany. The difference is that in other countries, or with private institutions, these costs are added in addition to the cost of tuition. The contribution is for the benefit of the student as study programs outside of Germany do not include a student transportation ticket allowing for unlimited use of public transport for the duration of the semester. A more detailed breakdown of the semester contribution and how it differs from tuition fees can be found below:
|Tuition Fee||Semester Contribution|
|What is it paying for?||Study program||Administrative costs, social services provided by the university, local public transportation ticket for unlimited use throughout the semester|
|How much is it?||
Universities outside of Germany: averages more than 8,000 € per semester
|Averages 200 - 300 € per semester|
|Do I have to pay it?||No! If you want to study for free, then choose a free program at a public university in Germany||Yes, all universities charge these costs, including public universities and study programs worldwide|
Are there any exceptions to free?
While more than 60% of the English study programs on our StudyFinder are tuition free, there are some exceptions we should fill you in on. Though public universities in Germany are free to all students, including international students, there are some specialized programs which charge a marginal tuition fee. Such programs charge this tuition fee to all of their admitted students.
Professional Degree Programs (e.g. MBA, L.LM)
Executive master’s programs are professional master’s programs which are offered at many public (and private) universities in Germany may charge a marginal tuition fee, some examples being an L.LM (Master of Law), an MBA (Master of Business Administration) or an MPA (Master of Public Administration). However, these make up only about 15-20% of all study programs, so you can breathe easy. Click here to check out these professional programs with our StudyFinder tool!
Non-EU students ins Baden-Württemberg
In the southwest of Germany lies the state of Baden-Württemberg. Baden-Württemberg has a mandatory tuition fee of 1,500 € per semester to all non-EU students. This means that some of the state’s more well known cities such as Heidelberg, Freiburg, Stuttgart, and Constance, will all charge this non-EU tuition fee at their universities. There can often be waivers or reduced tuition fees for students with special circumstances so make sure to contact the admissions office of the university you’re interested in, to ask about this should you have your eye on a university in Baden-Württemberg.
The two Universities of Germany that even call themselves “Free”
While all public universities in Germany are free, it should be worth mentioning a couple which happen to have “free” in the title! Check out the two universities below which don’t need an explanation to see that they are also free.
The world-famous one: Freie Universität Berlin
The Freie Universität Berlin, or Free University of Berlin in English, is one of Germany’s top-ranked universities and is top-ranked internationally as well. Since universities in Germany are free, you shouldn’t apply to the Free University just because it has free in the title. Located right in the heart of a great city, the possibilities are endless. From Biochemistry to Global history, there are plenty of degree programs available for you to study in English, our StudyFinder can help you find the one that is perfect for you. Additionally, Berlin is the capital of Germany and one of the most international cities in the country with a very rich history and culture. From museums and historical sights to foodie hotspots and bars, there is something for everyone in Berlin!
The one that only experts know: Freie Hochschule Stuttgart - Seminar für Waldorfpädagogik
The Free College of Stuttgart sounds catchy as it has "free" written right in the name, but again, there are so many other great reasons to consider it for your studies besides the fact that it’s free. For example, their international master’s program is taught in English to give you peace of mind from having to study in a new language. Moreover, Stuttgart is located in Baden-Württemberg which is full of green nature to go out and enjoy the fresh air in. If you like to travel, Baden-Württemberg borders the French and Swiss border, giving you plenty of opportunities to explore Germany’s neighboring countries.
Other Public Universities in Germany
There are more than 240 public universities available for you to study all around Germany. Whether you are interested in a fine arts study program or are looking for a more technical or STEM program, the public universities offer English-language programs for whatever topic of your interest, for FREE.
Let’s take a look at some of Germany’s top-ranked universities. Don’t worry, just because they’re top-ranked doesn’t mean they’re not free! The best ranking universities in Germany are public universities, so you don’t have to worry about high tuition fees as they are free to all students.
- Freie Universität Berlin (Free University of Berlin)
- Heidelberg University (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg)*
- Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Humboldt University in Berlin)
- LMU - Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (University of Munich)
- RWTH Aachen University (Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen)
- Technical University of Munich (Technische Universität München)
- University of Bonn (Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn)
- University of Freiburg (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg)*
*except for Non-EU students (cf. “Special case: Baden-Württemberg”)
Further ReadingTop Universities in Germany for your MS
If you want to come to Germany to study without paying high tuition fees, there are plenty of options available to you and the public universities all over the country. Here are a few tips to keep in mind on your search for the study program of your dreams:
- You can study a degree program in Germany for free with more than 2,000 English-language bachelor's and master’s programs to choose from.
- Every university in Germany charges a semester contribution which averages from 200 - 300 € per semester. This contribution pays for administrative costs, social services, and your public transportation ticket which provides you with unlimited use of the local public transportation system.
- Exceptions to the free tuition rule: (1) Executive master’s programs may charge a marginal tuition fee for their students but this depends on the program and the university. (2) The state of Baden-Württemberg has a mandatory tuition fee of 1,500 € per semester to all non-EU students.
- Even Germany’s internationally top-ranking institutions are free because they are all public universities.