Updated: 2020-06-29 | Duration: 5:30 min.

Is college (really) free in Germany? Yes, it is!

Why international students can study in Germany without tuition fees - at more than 140 Universities and one of 1,100+ English Master's programs

In Germany, public higher education programs are free of tuition! Yes, that's right. You can re-read it, but it won't stop being true, they are FREE!

In Germany, public universities are free of tuition, even for Non-EU students. Why would Germany do such a crazy thing you ask?!

The idea is that after living, studying, and integrating into German culture for a few years, that graduating students will join the German workforce and boost the economy. 

With the strongest economy in the EU, it's safe to say that Germany could possibly be onto something! Many international students find a home in Germany and upon graduating from their studies, they stay here and create cultural bridges between their home-country and Germany. None of this would be possible without the free colleges which Germany has to offer!

Geeky Stuff Box

Germany: College vs University

As great as free college is, you will get some funny looks when you ask a German what college they studied at. This is because the term "college" is not used in Germany to refer to higher education institutions at the Bachelor and post-grad level. In Germany, the term used to refer to higher education institutions is "university". While "university" is a term also used in other countries, more prevalent abroad is the term "college" which refers to universities. "College", however, is not used in Germany, so don't be confused if you get a funny look when asking a German what college they go to. Practice your German by using the short name for university and say "uni" to let them know that you're in the loop of German higher education!

Free colleges in Germany: tuition-free is not a dream, but a reality!

a dream catcher with sun lights shining through it

Tuition-free is not a dream at universities in Germany

The soaring cost of universities has pushed many students to evaluate their options. From purchasing expensive textbooks to paying extravagant tuition fees, students around the globe are opting for more affordable ways to carry out their degrees.

In Germany, the solution for this was to eradicate crazy tuition fees so that students can focus on their studies and pursue an education without drowning in debt. Regardless of the public institution students choose, they can rest easy knowing that there won't be high tuition fees piling up while they study.

Tuition-free programs are not a rarity in Germany and students have thousands of programs to choose from. Although the boom of private universities continues, more than 240 public universities still dominate the German Higher Education System. Dominating higher education means that 9 out of 10 students attend public unis and that 90% of study programs are offered by public institutions, so keep your eye on them!

Should you have your eyes set on a private institution, just keep in mind that private universities always charge tuition and the fees are to their discretion. Though, these tuition fees are still rather moderate in comparison to other private institutions abroad, averaging 20,000€ for master's programs in English.

Some private institutions may charge tuition only for some programs or charge a different tuition price for Non-EU students. Be sure to keep this in mind if you are searching specifically for a private university. Should you have a private uni in mind, look out for tuition funding as some private institutions may offer reduced tuition or complete tuition waivers through scholarships or for students who qualify should they be from a specific country. For more details, visit the MyGermanUniversity page of your top-choice unis.

If a tuition-free program is important to you, then best keep your eyes on public universities!

International students can study for free: both EU and Non-EU students

If you aren't German, don't speak German, and have never even been to Germany, that doesn't mean that you can't come to study in Germany for free! Germany's tuition-free public universities welcome students of all walks of life from everywhere around the globe!

As mentioned above, public universities in Germany do not charge tuition and do not differentiate between EU and Non-EU students. German public universities are open to all students, not just German citizens or students for other countries of the European Union (EU).

This provides a diverse learning environment in many programs. Furthermore, German is not a language requirement as public universities offer more than 1,400 master's programs in English (that's more than 80% of all available programs!). This gives international students the opportunity to study at German universities without the stress and pressure of having to learn a new language before arriving.

Special case: Baden-Württemberg charges fees for Non-EU students (1,500 € per semester)

There is one exception to keep in mind when hunting for your new home at a university in Germany. In the state of Baden-Württemberg, located in the Southwest region of Germany, there is a small tuition fee (1,500€/semester) for students coming from outside of the EU.

If your top-choice universities are in Baden-Württemberg, the most popular cities being

don't let this non-EU tuition rule discourage you.

Many universities offer reduced tuition or tuition waivers to non-EU students who come from certain countries.

For more information on this non-EU tuition fee, refer to the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research, and Art's page which discusses this tuition-fee in detail.

germany map showing the Baden-Württemberg state and Berlin locations

Baden-Württemberg is the only federal state in Germany that charges general tuition-fees for Non-EU students

Even Germany's top-ranked universities are free!

woman sitting on top of a mountain staring at the horizon and the sun

While top universities in other countries can charge higher tuition due to their high demand, the top public universities in Germany uphold the same tuition-free principle that all other public unis have. Some of the more well-known unis in Germany, all are public universities and offer tuition-free studying. 

  • Munich is famous for being full of German culture and for hosting the well-known Oktoberfest in the fall. Munich is also home to the Technical University of Munich and the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, two renowned universities in Germany. You can study at these top-ranked unis in the heart of Bavaria, enjoy winter skiing in the South of Germany, and have a Bier at Oktoberfest, all while paying no tuition!

  • Heidelberg is often called the most picturesque city in Germany and is located in the state of Baden-Württemberg, nestled along the Neckar river. The famous Heidelberg University can also be found here, its campus blending into the background of beautiful old buildings that make up the city. Heidelberg University is Germany's oldest university and one of the oldest in the world! And yes, you too can study here, tuition FREE. Though, please keep in mind the special circumstance which universities in Baden-Württemberg hold for Non-EU students, explained in depth in the previous section.

  • 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! In addition to great food and history, Berlin is home to some of Germany's top-ranked universities. The Free University in Berlin has a selection of English programs, some of which even have dual partnerships with other top unis! Humboldt University, located in the heart of Berlin, has some partner programs with the Free University, providing students diversity in their study programs. The University of Potsdam is well-known for its picturesque campus and is located in Potsdam, just outside of Berlin. It's accessible by public transport and also has partner programs with both the Free University and Humboldt University. Oh yes, and these are all available, tuition-free!

No tuition fees, but semester contribution

3 yellow trams in the city of Berlin, capital of Germany

Public transportation in Germany, covered by the semester contribution

International students are sometimes reluctant to believe that public universities in Germany, even the top-ranked ones, are tuition-free. Visiting each individual university website can be misleading and overwhelming as not all information is available in English, and seeing some prices listed under "semester fees" confuse students to lead them to think that tuition-free is too good to be true. It's time to clear up this confusion now!

Table: What's the difference between Tuition Fees and Semester Contribution?

Question

Tuition 

Semester Contribution

German word?

“Studiengebühren”

“Semesterbeitrag”

What’s my money actually paying for?

Degree program

Free use of local public transport (“Semesterticket”) and social services offered by the University

Who charges them?

All private universities,
plus the special case of Baden-Württemberg (for Non-EU-students only)

ALL universities

Can I avoid them?

Yes! (by choosing a public university)

No, they are mandatory

How much on average?

Public universities: 0€

Private universities: 5,000-7.000€ per semester 

200-400€

German universities have a "semester contribution" which is a small charge used to cover things like

  • administrative costs
  • counseling and social services for students 
  • and public transportation.

This can range from 200€ - 400€ per semester and depends on the university and program. However, none of this money is used to pay for a student's education, rather the contribution is used to cover costs that the university cannot control.

A discounted public transport ticket (the so-called "Semesterticket"), for example, is included in this cost which provides students with unlimited use of the local public transportation system. Other administrative fees are also part of this cost, a sample breakdown that can be observed above.

 

It's important to note that these costs also exist in all other universities around the globe and are added to the bill in addition to the tuition fees. Additionally, most universities outside of Germany do not provide students with a public transport ticket. The semester contribution actually benefits the student more and does not create profit for the university or even the local public transport since the rate included is highly discounted to provide students with mobility during their studies. Should you see any costs like this on university sites, don't be discouraged, it's only the semester contribution! To play it safe though, it's best to use MyGermanUniversity's StudyFinder which clearly lays out all of these details (in English!) to avoid any confusion for prospective students. There you can also find a breakdown on the program, admissions deadlines, and any fees which may apply to you.

Summary Box

Free Colleges in Germany:

  • All public universities in Germany are FREE of tuition*. There is a semester contribution (not tuition!) which is mandatory at all (private or public) universities. This averages from 200€ - 400€ per semester and covers administrative costs and the unlimited use of local public transport.
  • Private universities charge tuition (average of 5,000€ - 7,000€ per semester) but are moderately less expensive to similar institutions abroad. There can be reduced tuition or tuition waivers for students with special circumstances.

*In the state of Baden-Württemberg, located in the Southwest region of Germany, there is a small tuition fee (1,500€/semester) for students coming from outside of the EU.

More than 140 (public) German Universities offer English Master's programs for free

Sort by:

Aalen University

public University of applied sciences · No. of Students: 5,900

Program Fees: 0,- € - 1,500 €

M.Sc. (Master of Science)

Anhalt University of Applied Sciences

public University of applied sciences · No. of Students: 6,900

Program Fees: 0,- € - 3,000 €

M.A. (Master of Arts)

M.Eng. (Master of Engineering)

M.Sc. (Master of Science)

Ansbach University of Applied Sciences

public University of applied sciences · No. of Students: 3,000

Program Fees: 0,- €

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Aschaffenburg University of Applied Sciences

public University of applied sciences · No. of Students: 3,200

Program Fees: 0,- €

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Augsburg University of Applied Sciences

public University of applied sciences · No. of Students: 6,600

Program Fees: 0,- €

M.A. (Master of Arts)

M.Sc. (Master of Science)

Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

public University · No. of Students: 3,700

Program Fees: 0,- €

M.F.A. (Master of Fine Arts)

M.Sc. (Master of Science)

Berlin University of the Arts

public Academy of fine arts · No. of Students: 3,900

Program Fees: 0,- € - 2,700 €

M.A. (Master of Arts)

M.Mus. (Master of Music)

Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin

public University of applied sciences · No. of Students: 13,000

Program Fees: 0,- € - 2,800 €

MBA (Master of Business Administration)

M.Eng. (Master of Engineering)

M.Sc. (Master of Science)

Bielefeld University

public University · No. of Students: 25,000

Program Fees: 0,- €

M.A. (Master of Arts)

M.Ed. (Master of Education)

M.Sc. (Master of Science)

Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg

public Technical University · No. of Students: 7,300

Program Fees: 0,- € - 4,500 €

M.A. (Master of Arts)

M.Sc. (Master of Science)

← Prev page

1

2

3

...

17

Next Page →