About the Higher Education System in Germany

If you want to study in Germany you can either chose between ‘Universities’ or ‘Fachhochschulen’ (often called Universities of Applied Sciences in English). The qualifications offered at both types of institution are regarded as being equal in value but they tend to offer very different styles of education. ‘Fachhochschulen’ in Germany are more practically orientated than universities. Normally the ‘Fachhochschulen’ route takes four years to complete because students have to undertake internships as an integral part of their degree. Technical or artistic subjects are more likely to be taught at ‘Fachhochschulen’ than at universities.

‘Fachhochschulen’ are more likely to offer teaching in smaller groups whereas universities tend to follow the traditional lecture and tutorial approach to learning. Professors at Fachhochschulen have to have a minimum of 5 years working experience to be able to demonstrate knowledge of real case studies. For some vocational courses it is necessary to have relevant work experience before you can apply to study there although this is not often a restriction on English-taught courses.

As in the UK, most universities offer a more theory-based approach to learning without internship possibilities. However this also depends on each university. There are public and private examples of both universities and ‘Fachhochschulen’.

Entry requirements for German universities

Entry requirements depend on the University/Fachhochschule. However you must have finished your A levels in order to be considered. What grades and subjects you need also differs. Yet you should consider that if you want to apply for courses like physics and engineering, you will need specific, relevant A levels.

While A levels must be recognised by EU law as sufficient for entry to a German higher education institution, they are not comparable with the German Abitur. The Abitur is a much broader qualification closer to the International Baccalaureate in the subject range that it covers. For this reason, German universities insist on seeing a grade for maths and/or a natural science at either A or AS level. Without this, many German universities will regard a British student's education to be incomplete and you will have to take an additional maths exam if you wish to study in Germany. This can apply even where the subject you wish to study has nothing to do with maths. For some courses, particularly in English literature, even where the full degree is taught entirely in English there may still be a requirement to demonstrate knowledge of the German language.

Other Level 3 qualifications such as BTECs are often not accepted for entry to German universities.

Some Universities/Fachhochschulen offer one year preparatory courses, in case you cannot meet the requirements. Moreover if you decide to study a course that is only offered in German, you have to undertake a language proficiency test, which is normally offered by the chosen institution.

Private universities in Germany are usually a little more flexible with regard to recognition of British qualifications. However, they will usually still insist that relevant subjects have been taken. Specialist education institutions such as art schools often have their own entrance procedures that mean the rigid A' level requirements might be waived.

A number of German universities now offer programmes that start in English but then transition into German. This model allows English speaking students to gain admission to their institutions without speaking German at the time of application. However, we would recommend that you only apply to these programmes if you already have basic German skills because becoming fluent in language, starting from scratch, in just one year is certainly not easy. 

For many subjects there is open entry to University or Fachhochschule meaning that a student only needs to have relevant qualifications to be awarded a place. However, for more popular subjects there are restrictions on entry known as ‘Numerus Clausus’. This restriction means that, with some exceptions, universities are free to choose the students they wish to accept based on a variety of criteria which may include predicted grades. Usually there will be an entrance exam that applicants are expected to take in addition to their A levels. Weaker applicants from the UK might struggle to be offered a place on any course that is subject to ‘Numerus Clausus’ as this is one of the main reasons German students study abroad.

There have been some minor changes to German entry requiremenst recently and the information presented below is valid for September 2018 entry until further notice. Entry requirements to German universities can be summarised as follows:

1. General Requirements

  • you must have studied three or four different subjects to A level. If you have only studied three A levels you must also present your grade in one AS level. Qualifications in the same subject (including maths and further maths) will only count as one subject. There is no clear guidance on whether General Studies is considered as one of your A levels.
  • The four subjects that you offer at A and AS level must include a language and maths or a natural science. The language does not need to be German but it can be (unless you are a German native speaker in which case it will not be accepted). Please bear in mind that almost every Bachelor degree in Germany is offered in the German language.
  • You cannot gain access to a German university with vocational qualifications such as BTECs.

2. Subject Specific Requirements

  • For social sciences, law, economics etc, one A level must be in related subject. Maths A level is the minimum required for economics and social sciences.
  • For science, engineering and maths, Maths A level is essential. Also, you will require at least one A level in the sciences (chemistry, physics, biology, computer science)
  • For medicine, you need three of the following four subjects at A' level: Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Physics. Your fourth subject can be anything else.

3. Other Factors

  • Two AS levels can replace one A level.
  • Vocational Certificates of Education will not be taken into consideration
  • You can commence your studies before you receive your A level certificates as long as you have your "Statement of Results" or "Candidate Statement of Provisional Results". Original certificates must be available before the start of the second semester.
  • Cambridge Pre-U qualifications are accepted as alternatives to A levels with Principle Subjects compared directly to A levels and Short Courses to AS levels.
  • The International Baccalaureate is usually accepted without difficulty unless you have taken Maths Studies. HL Maths is seen as broadly equivalent to A level, SL to AS level.

Applying to German Universities

If you want to register for a programme at a German University/Fachhochschule, you have to organise this individually for each institution of your choice. This can be done online via the university’s website. You can either start in summer or winter. Please see below the time period, in which you can apply. Please ensure to check, when the application deadline is for your university of choice as this also fluctuates by Bundesland (federal region) and University/Fachhochschule.

For Fachhochschulen

  • Summer Semester: generally March to August (courses begin: 15 March) 
  • Winter Semester: generally September to February (courses begin: 15 September)

For Universities

  • Summer Semester: generally April to September (courses begin: 15 April)
  • Winter Semester: enerally October to March (courses begin: 15 October)

There are some changes to the application process to courses subject to Numerus Clausus and courses in medicine, veterinary medicine etc. For details on how to apply to these courses please see the Hochschulstart website (only in German at the moment).

How much does it cost to study in Germany?

Tuition fees are currently zero in Germany for all students and will remain that way for EU nationals for the foreseeable future; you only have to pay a small contribution of up to €150 per semester depending on the University/Fachhochschule. If you decide to go to a Private University prices vary between €10.000 - €20.000. Private Fachhochschulen are less expensive, however still charge between €3.000 - €10.000.

How do I get a visa to study in Germany?

No visa is required for EU citizens.

Can I work there as a student?

If you are an EU citizen, you can work without a visa in Germany and can earn as much money as you want. The only thing you have to take care of is to register with your local ‘Einwohnermeldeamt’ (inhabitant registration office)

Which are the best universities in Germany?

  1. Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich
  2. Heidelberg University
  3. Technical University Munich
  4. Humboldt University Berlin
  5. Free University Berlin




Universities in Germany

About A Star Future

A Star Future provides information and guidance to British students looking to pursue their undergraduate studies abroad.

Through our presentations in schools and our websites we aim to ensure that British-educated students are well informed about their choices.


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