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Technical Universities in Germany: A Guide for International Students (2020/21)

An overview of different university options along with top-ranking choices

The Technical Universities in Germany - or simply TUs - are a destination of dreams for many international students. After all, an engineering degree "made in Germany" enjoys an excellent reputation worldwide. Maybe you have already heard about the Technical University of Munich (TUM), RWTH Aachen, TU Berlin, TU Darmstadt, TU Dresden and the University of Stuttgart? These prestigious names stand for a centuries-old quality that is also reflected in university rankings. A degree from one of these top universities opens up great career options for you.

 

So let’s start with all you need to know about the TUs in Germany. This article will highlight key aspects of technical universities which may be important for students to keep in mind as they search for a study program. The sections below will service as your introduction and guide for choosing the perfect technical university for you. Additionally, we will provide you with an easy 3-step guide on applying! If you are looking specifically for engineering programs, please check our article about engineering universities in Germany for all types of universities that offer study programs related to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

What are the Technical Universities in Germany?

woman thinking about something

The term "Technical University" is more historically grown rather than precisely defined. For many international students, "TU" is a seal of approval under which they are known above all, by world-famous names such as Aachen, Darmstadt, Stuttgart or Munich. We have an extensive article about universities in Germany which you’re welcome to check out. Additionally, we have listed all study programs from technical universities for you. However, the basic information for anyone interested in study programs, is below:

  • Universities (Universität) are focused on academic work (i.e. research) in various subjects. These universities offer a range of Bachelor's, Master's and Ph.D. programs.
    • Technical Universities (Technische Universität) also categorized as a university along with research universities, but specialize instead in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) research. However, they offer programs in other subject areas.
  • Universities of Applied Science (Fachhochschulen, Hochschule fĂĽr Angewandte Wissenschaftem) focus on practical subjects such as engineering, business or social science. However, they also may offer programs in other subjects.
  • Colleges of Art, Film and Music (Kunst-/Musikhochschulen) focus on practical instruction in creative disciplines.

Technical universities in Germany can, therefore, be defined as follows:

The technical universities (TUs) form a special type of “universitäten” in Germany. They have the right to award doctorates and primarily offer natural sciences and engineering subjects. In contrast to the other universitäten, the TUs have their origins in non-academic institutions (polytechnic schools) that were established in the 18th/19th century and gained the university status only later (being Technische Hochschulen).

 

Currently, there are 17 Technical Universities in Germany (cf. the full list below). Most of them have “Technical Universities” in their names (e.g. TU Munich, TU Berlin, TU Darmstadt). However, some TUs will not follow this in their name (e.g. RWTH Aachen, University of Stuttgart, Leibniz University Hannover). All of them label themselves as TUs, tech universities or institutes of technology.

Geeky Stuff Box

History of technical universities in Germany

Did you know that the technical universities (TUs) are a comparatively young phenomenon within the German university landscape? While the oldest German universities can look back on a tradition of over 600 years (such as the oldest one: Heidelberg University, est.1386), the origins of the technical universities lie in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1745, the Collegium Carolinum was founded in Braunschweig, the forerunner of the TU Braunschweig, and in 1925, the Fredericiana was formed - later the University of Karlsruhe (KIT).

 

As vocational schools, these institutions had no academic status for a long time. Only at the end of the 19th century did they receive the right to award doctorates and therefore became "technical universities". However, it took until the 1950s/60s when the technical universities were given equal status to universities by name and finally renamed “Technische Universität”.

What subjects do Technical Universities offer?

two women engineers discussing something

Technical universities in Germany follow a particular style of education respective to the topics that are generally offered. Type subject areas which can be found at technical universities include, but are not limited to, the following:

 

  • Computer Science,
  • Engineering,
  • Natural Sciences,
  • Data and Analytics,
  • Information Technology,
  • Mathematics,
  • Architecture.

 

While many students believe that technical universities only offer “hard” subjects as seen above, our StudyFinder will show you that they offer a diverse range of degree programs. Programs in law, management, politics and technology, business administration, gender studies, and much more can also be found at technical universities. However, if students are seeking a traditionally technical program, they will find the perfect program as well.

 

For those students more interested in study programs outside of the STEM subjects at technical universities, make sure to search through all study programs under that university’s profile on our StudyFinder. For example, the RWTH University in Aachen has a master’s in European Studies and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) offers master’s in management, law, and cartography. 

List of Technical Universities in Germany

The only Universitäten included in this list are the ones that position themselves as a technical university by their name or their self-image (including membership in TU9). In addition, there are a number of other (full) universities which also have a strong technical orientation, e.g. Bergische-Universität Wuppertal or OVGU Magdeburg (cf. the section “Alternatives to Technical Universities” below).

280+ Bachelors and Masters are offered in English by the TUs

See all TU programs

Top-ranked Technical Universities

Just because international students can study at a public university for free doesn’t mean that they will sacrifice quality in their education. Public universities in Germany offer world-class programs that are internationally top-ranked. In fact, German ranks 3rd in the world for top internationally ranked universities (behind the US and the UK). The distinguishing factor which pushes Germany to the forefront is that students don’t have to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to receive that education. Take a look at some of the top-ranked technical universities in Germany below!

Further Reading

Germany in University Rankings

The TU9 alliance

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A significant factor that attracts many students to technical universities are the alliances and cooperations which exist among them in Germany. The well known TU9 Alliance is the alliance of nine leading universities of technology in Germany. Not only do these universities enjoy an outstanding reputation, they foster top-class networks with industry partners in and outside of Germany. Attending a TU9 partner university can potentially provide great opportunities for internships, research fellowships, or traineeships.

Cost of a Technical University

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Public universities in Germany generally do not charge tuition. The top technical universities in the previous section are no exception. Like many other countries, Germany also is home to private universities which offer great study programs. These private institutions charge a tuition fee to all of their students to attend. Be sure to keep this in mind on your search.

 

Technical universities in Germany are exclusively public - because the few private universities in Germany rather focus on non-technical subjects (mainly Economics, Law, Medicine). However, there are a lot of private universities that DO offer technical degree courses. Check out our article on engineering universities in Germany to view some of these. In addition to private universities, there are a couple of other exceptions when it comes to free tuition to note. For professional master’s programs such as Master of Laws (L.LM) or Master of Public Administrations (MPA), among others, there may be a tuition charge.

German Higher Education Costs

Tuition Fee vs. Semester Contribution
pays for study program   pays for administrative costs, social services provided by university, local public transportation ticket for unlimited use throughout semester
averages 5,000 - 7,000 €  per semester averages 200 - 300 € per semester
charged by private universities and specialized professional degrees (e.g. L.LM, MBA, etc.)* Charged by all universities

*In the southwest of Germany lies the state of Baden-WĂĽrttemberg. Baden-WĂĽrttemberg has a mandatory tuition fee of 1,500 € per semester to all non-EU students.

Keep in mind that while some programs are not tuition-free, you shouldn’t overlook them on your program search. Should you be interested in a program that charges tuition, keep your many funding options in mind. There are many scholarships available for international students. Also, be sure to refer to DAAD Scholarships for international students in Germany.

How to apply at TUs in 3 easy steps

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The application process can sometimes be overwhelming for students. Therefore, we have simplified it below in just 3 easy steps to help guide you on the basics of applying. These steps are simplified but provide a useful overview for those who don’t really know where to start:

1

Search for your study program

This process requires a significant amount of research as well as knowledge to know how to find a great comparison of different programs. We have taken the liberty to do this entire step for you and collected all of this data (language requirements, admissions requirements, deadlines, program info, etc). Our StudyFinder is the largest database of English-language degree programs, so make sure to use it to your disposal!

2

Collect required documents

Once you have narrowed down the selection to your top programs, you should observe all of the requirements to apply and submit all documents by the submission deadlines. Our article "Requirements for a Master’s Degree in Germany” is a great resource to use as a guideline. Be sure to begin this process early as some documents, such as official notarized documents and certified translations, may take longer to acquire. If you are applying via uni-assist, be sure to use their online platform to guide you through the process.

3

Submit application

The final step is to submit all official documents to your desired universities. If you are applying via uni-assist, then you only need to submit such required documents once. If you are applying directly to universities as well as other programs which use uni-assist, be sure to submit requested data to all parties. This may include the submission of hard copies via mail as well as digital copies. Consult the admissions office at your preferred programs for further process inquiries.

Alternatives to the Technical Universities in Germany

The term “Technical University” should not mislead you to believe that this is the only place where you can study technology or STEM subjects.

 

In fact, you can study technical subjects at a variety of other universities in Germany:

A

More than 100 Universities of Applied Sciences

Especially those which are called Technische Hochschulen THs in German, e.g. TH Ingolstadt, TH Köln, Deggendorf Institute of Technology.

B

Many other Universities (Universitäten)

Especially those which are not called TUs but also have many STEM programs
(eg. Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Duisburg-Essen, OVGU Magdeburg, Bergische-Universität Wuppertal).

C

Dual universities

Which combine training on the job and higher education, e.g. Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW).

For this reason, we recommend you should also have a look at our article about the engineering universities in Germany if you are interested in technical study programs.

Summary Box

Technical Universities in Germany are a great option for students who are looking for STEM degree programs, but also for students who are interested in a more interdisciplinary approach. Here are a few important things to remember:

 

  • The Technical Universities (TUs) in Germany are generally understood as the group of Universitäten (universities with the right to award doctorates) that primarily offer natural sciences and engineering subjects. Currently, there are 17 Technical Universities in Germany. Most of them call themselves as Technical Universities in their names (e.g. TU Munich, TU Berlin, TU Darmstadt), but some don’t (e.g. RWTH Aachen, University of Stuttgart, Leibniz University Hannover). However, all of them label themselves as TUs, Tech Universities, or Institutes of Technology.
  • Technical Universities (Technische Universitäten) specialize in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) research. However, they offer programs in other subject areas such as gender studies, law, and management.
  • A significant factor that attracts many students to technical universities is the alliances and cooperations which exist among them in Germany. Not only do these universities enjoy an outstanding reputation, but they also foster top-class networks with industry partners in and outside of Germany.