The MyGermanUniversity journey actually began in Berlin and is still connected to this great city: Tobi (a graduate from FU Berlin) and Stephan founded MyGU as a spin-off at Free University Berlin, Patricia has graduated from Humboldt-Universität and Jasmine is still living in Berlin… So we really know Berlin from our own experience and would like to help you to study in this great city, too!
In this article, we give an overview of the nearly a dozen universities in Berlin that have the status “Universität” under the German law (in simple terms: the right to award doctorates and offer all titles and subjects).
If you would like to have the complete overview and learn more about the other 20 Berlin universities and colleges, we recommend our other articles about the Universities of Applied Sciences.
Further ReadingUniversities of Applied Science in Berlin: A guide for international students (2021/2022)
Big and public: The 5 top Berlin universities (Universitäten)
Looking at the international rankings, there are four Berlin universities in the top:
- Humboldt-Universität (HU),
- Freie Universität (FU),
- Charité (the Medical School of the former two),
- and Technische Universität (TU).
The fifth in the group, the Universität der Künste (UdK), is only missing because the international rankings do not take art schools into account. As the largest university of arts in Europe, however, we can certainly count the UdK among the top universities.
The top institutions in this section are a great representation of what the German higher education system prioritizes: quality and accessible education. It is no coincidence that all of the universities listed in this section are public. Because public universities in Germany do not charge tuition fees, they are great options for international students who want to come to Berlin to study; every second student in Berlin is enrolled in one of the institutions below.
The oldest and most classic one: Humboldt University Berlin
Founded in 1806, Humboldt-Universität (HU) is Berlin’s oldest university, previously called Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität until 1949. One great attraction of HU is the beautiful and timeless architecture of its old campus buildings which are located in a historic area of Berlin on Unter den Linden boulevard in the city center. Humboldt Universität has many notable alumni including Max Weber, Friedrich Engels, Max Planck, Albert Einstein, and 55 Nobel laureates.
Humboldt Universität is not only considered one of the most prestigious universities in Germany but also in all of Europe. It is recognized as one of Europe’s pioneering higher education institutions. Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835), after whom the university was named, is credited with developing a model for universities that saw a closer relationship between research and teaching - a model that is still followed in higher education institutions across the world today.
The ‘German Oxford’ in Dahlem: Free University Berlin
Founded at the beginning of the Cold War in 1948, the Freie Universität Berlin (FU) was supported by the Americans which is why the main campus is not in central Berlin but rather in the outskirts in Dahlem which was part of the American sector at the time. The democratic mission of the university is directly reflected in the name “Free University of Berlin” which illustrates the idea of having an independent university free from political influence, a crucial matter during the Cold War.
While Freie Universität is still rather young, it has quickly become one of the most renowned universities in Germany and Europe, becoming the first university in Berlin to be named as a “University of Excellence”, a title it has been awarded since 2007. The Free University holds strategic partnerships with many universities abroad such as UC Berkeley, Oxford University, Hebrew University Jerusalem, and Peking University.
Tech, but not only: Technical University of Berlin
The Technical University of Berlin (TU) is one of Germany’s largest universities of Technology. The TU has a history of over 250 years (going back to the Königliche Bergakademie zu Berlin, founded in 1770), and has often written history itself: e.g. it was the first German university to establish a study program in Industrial Engineering and Management and to adopt the title of “technical university” in its name (1946). TU has a full range of programs from engineering and natural sciences as well as a well-renowned faculty of the humanities which holds top institutions such as the Center for Research on Antisemitism and the Center of Gender Studies.
The TU campus is located in central Berlin in the neighborhood, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, but they also have a satellite campus in Egypt (El Gouna Campus). Technical University Berlin is a member of TU9, an incorporated society of the largest and most notable German institutes of technology, was awarded a “University of Excellence” for the first time in 2019 (as part of the Berlin University Alliance, along with the Free University and Humboldt University). Among the universities (Universitäten), the TU has one of the highest proportions of international students in Germany (more than 25%).
The medical one: Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin
The Charité University Medicine program is a product of two medical schools, the Free University of Berlin and Humboldt University, joining forces in 2003 and creating a new collaborative health and medicine study program. Since then, Charité has positioned itself as an independent (though formally incorporated from both universities) institution and is an internationally recognized top-ranking institution of medicine.
The Charité medical faculty is part of the famous Charité clinic, established in 1710 and one of the largest university hospitals in Europe. The medical faculties is one of the largest in Europe, totalling to approximately 7,500 students. Charité is leading in world-class research; more than half of all German Nobel Prize winners in physiology or medicine have worked at Charité.
The fine arts one: Berlin University of the Arts
The Berlin University of the Arts (Universität der Künste as it is called in Berlin) is officially an academy or college of the arts. However, it is usually considered to be the fourth university of Berlin in addition to the Free University, Humboldt University, and the Technical University of Berlin. The reasons for this are obvious:
- UdK bears the name Universität in its title (which, under the German law, is reserved for this type of University).
- It has the right to confer the title Ph.D.
- Besides the wide range of artistic subjects, it also covers some scientific areas (which academies of fine arts or colleges of music usually don’t do).
Covering a wide array of topics, it is one of the few academies in Germany which covers the arts and music. Moreover, students can study architecture, design, sound studies, and other “non-artistic” programs such as cultural journalism and digitalization. The University of the Arts Berlin is the largest art school in Europe and has more than 300 years of history, dating back to the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts which was established in 1696.
Did you know that our StudyFinder allows you to filter for the study programs of all top-ranked universities in Berlin? Click here to see all the English Bachelors and Masters!
The other Universities (Universitäten) in Berlin
The 5 top universities mentioned in the first section of this article above are the biggest ones in Berlin (with more than 100,000 students) - but not the only “Universitäten”. There are also 7 more universities that have the right to confer the title “Doktor” (Ph.D.) which is one of the main points that differentiate Universities from Universities of Applied Sciences.
Hertie School of Governance
The Hertie School of Governance is a private graduate school located in the historical city center of Berlin on Friedrichstraße. A young university established in 2003, Hertie has quickly become a top study program and is part of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs, a network of graduate schools of international affairs with thirty-eight members around the world.
The Hertie School offers dual degree MPA programs with the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Sciences Po, the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), Bocconi University, and the University of Tokyo. Apart from dual degree programs, students can spend a semester abroad at one of their partner universities which include Georgetown University, George Washington University, Duke University, Syracuse University, and American University among many others.
European School of Management and Technology (ESMT)
The European School of Management and Technology of Berlin was founded by 25 leading global companies and institutions. The international business school offers a full-time MBA, an executive MBA, a master’s in management, as well as open programs for individuals and customized executive education programs. With the Inclusive Leadership Roundtable (ILRT) students, faculty, and staff prioritize the values and practices of diversity and inclusion within the school and champion these in academia and the business community.
The European School of Management and Technology Berlin has signed the “Charta der Vielfalt” (Diversity Charter) and is one of Berlin’s smallest universities with only three master’s programs. However, they also have triple accreditation by AACSB, EQUIS, and also AMBA.
ESCP Europe Campus Berlin
The ESCP business school is a European school of management that holds campuses all over Europe including Paris, Berlin, London, Madrid, Turin, and Warsaw. Originally based in France as the "Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Paris" in 1809, it is the first business school in the world. It is one of less than 100 business schools worldwide which hold a triple accreditation by the AACSB, EQUIS, and AMBA.
As a state-recognized university, ESCP Europe counts among the most prestigious and leading business schools in Germany. ESCP Europe regularly occupy top spots in both national and international rankings (#1 European business school in Germany, #1 Master in Management, #1 Executive MBA and #1 in Custom Executive Education in Germany). With the Inclusive Leadership Roundtable (ILRT) students, faculty, and staff prioritize the values and practices of diversity and inclusion within the school and champion these in academia and the business community.
Bard College Berlin, A Liberal Arts University
Bard College Berlin is a small private German-American university in Berlin, based on the American university system. A liberal arts university, Bard college students take a variety of different courses, including German language courses, a semester abroad, and an internship, in conjunction with their degree focus.
Bard College Berlin offers two different bachelor’s degrees; the BA in Economics, Politics, and Social Thought and a BA in Humanities, the Arts, and Social Thought. They currently are not offering graduate degree programs. Students who graduate from Bard receive an American bachelor’s degree certificate as well as a German Bachelor’s degree certificate.
International Psychoanalytic University Berlin (IPU)
The IPU builds up networks and establishes cooperative arrangements with national and international partners in science, training, and practice, which promote mutual enrichment in terms of content and a positive perception among the general public. The IPU fosters a (self) reflective attitude in teaching, research and on an application level, a close link between application and research, as well as an interdisciplinary and international dialogue. It contributes to the healthcare of the overall population.
Steinbeis University Berlin
The Steinbeis School of Management and Innovation offers several undergraduate and graduate study programs in different fields of management from executive management to personal management and process management. Steinbeis has campuses in Berlin, Munich, and Stuttgart. They are also home to the Steinbeis Institute of Executive Capabilities (IEC).
The staff of the IEC is not only specialized in program management but also experienced in technical and methodological areas of competence. Keeping the employee profile of the IEC staff and partners high guarantees the implementation of its programs on the basis of up-to-date knowledge, future-oriented technology, and impact-oriented methodology.
Psychologische Hochschule Berlin (PHB)
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The PHB is a (German-taught) private university in Berlin that offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field of psychology.
The B.Sc. and M.Sc. programs focus on various topics in psychology which range from family psychology to legal psychology. Additionally, there is a focus on therapy and psychotherapy depending on the study program. Located in the Berlin city center just 10 minutes from Alexanderplatz, it is easily accessible using local public transport.
More Universities in the Berlin Metropolitan Area
The institutions listed thus far in this article are located in Berlin. However, because the Berlin metropolitan area is so large, there are still even more universities that you can attend if you live in or near Berlin. The universities listed below provide students with the Berlin semester ticket, meaning that students can use public transportation within Berlin as well as to and from the universities included in their semester contribution. This means that you can live in Berlin and just have a short commute (approx. 30 - 60 minutes depending on the university and train connection) to campus.
University of Potsdam
The state of Brandenburg’s largest university is just outside of Berlin and is home to one of the most beautiful and picturesque university campuses. Potsdam University campus at Neues Palais is renowned not only for its beautiful campus but also for its study programs, particularly in the humanities department. Potsdam University has a full range of study programs with the exception of engineering and medicine.
Since its founding 25 years ago, the University of Potsdam has excelled in research and teaching and is well positioned both on a national and international scale. Achieving this under consistently difficult economic conditions speaks for the quality and motivation of professors, research, and administrative staff. Students have easy access with the transport ticket and can travel to and from Berlin in as little as 20 minutes depending on their connection.
European Viadrina University Frankfurt (Oder)
Viadrina European University is located in the East of Germany at the Polish border, approximately 100 km from Berlin. They offer several different degree programs from undergraduate degrees to masters and Ph.D. programs as well. The degree programs are divided into three different subject themes: Faculty of Law; Faculty of Social and Cultural Sciences; Faculty of Business Administration and Economics.
Viadrina is one of Germany’s smallest universities but very international as more than 20% of its students come from Poland. Many students who attend Viadrina live in Berlin or partake in internships in Berlin as they can easily travel to and from Berlin with their semester transport ticket, explained above. They offer over twenty master’s programs including some in English or a combination of English and German or Polish and German.
Universities of Applied Science in Berlin
As explained in the introduction of this article, the German higher education system has different classifications for institutions that offer Ph.D. programs in comparison with others. Universities or schools of applied science and colleges of art and music fall under a different category since they do not offer Ph.D. programs. However, this doesn’t mean that the quality of education at such institutions is lesser than a German recognized university.
As illustrated in this article, these institutions are even internationally top-ranked and hold prestigious programs in their fields. For this reason, we have dedicated an entire article just to universities of applied science so that you can find the right one for you. Click here for more on universities of applied science in Berlin!