Study in Germany: The lowdown

Samuel Clennett
23.12.19
6 minute read

There are many great options for studying in Australia, but the thought of studying abroad is always tempting too. It can be a fantastic way to broaden your horizons and immerse yourself in a different culture – all while learning the skills you need to equip you for professional life.

Studying in Germany is a particularly enticing option: in fact, in 2017 it came top of a survey of the most attractive European countries for international students¹. With a high quality of education, a wonderful country to explore, and – maybe most tempting of all – no tuition fees, it’s easy to see the appeal.

It always gets pretty expensive to live abroad, though – even if you’re not paying tuition fees. That’s why this article also includes some tips on how to manage your money internationally with TransferWise – stay tuned for more.

Studying in Germany

What’s so great about studying in Germany – other than the cost? For starters, German universities are of a consistently high standard and are well respected internationally. They also offer a wide range of courses, so you might well be able to find something perfectly suited to your interests.

Germany is perhaps especially renowned for its scientific prowess, and its universities of applied sciences. That’s likely where you’d go to study medicine in Germany, or subjects like technology – things with clear professional application. But the country is also a great place to study artistic subjects, or indeed sciences of a less “applied” nature.

And, of course, Germany itself is an enticing prospect. Wonderful cities like Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich have loads to offer and lively international scenes. There are some great smaller cities too, like beautiful Dresden or Bonn. There are loads of great cities, so don’t limit yourself too soon when you’re choosing.

What are the downsides? If you’re considering a major city, the cost of living is a negative – Munich being the worst offender. However, factor that against all that you’re saving in tuition fees, and it suddenly doesn’t seem so bad.

There’s also the language factor, of course. Germany offers quite a few courses in English at graduate level, but at undergraduate you might struggle to find one. Even if you do, it’s recommendable to brush up on your German, which will hugely improve your quality of life. People do tend to speak decent English there, but normally they’ll be speaking German, so it’s good if you can too.

Getting accepted to study in Germany

Just because it’s free, doesn’t mean anyone can do it. You will need to get accepted to an institution there. That means that you’ll need to have finished school and have the documents to prove it. You’ll also need to have achieved a certain level in your studies, which you can check via DAAD, the German Academic Exchange Service².

Study visa

You’ll need a student visa too, otherwise known as a study permit – although if you’re an Australian citizen you should be able to apply for this after you enter Germany³. Here’s an overview of how to get a German student visa.

As well as permission to study, you require a residence permit if you plan to stay in Germany for more than 90 days – which presumably you do. There’s generally a relatively small cost to get one of these which varies according to which state you’re in⁴. The application process will likely involve proving you have enough money, as explained below.

Cost of studying in Germany

It’s often said that studying in Germany is free – that’s almost correct, but not quite. What’s true is that public universities in Germany don’t charge tuition fees, even to foreign students – although there’s one exception, which is the state of Baden-Württemberg, whose cities include Stuttgart, Freiburg and Ulm. There, you’ll face a modest (by international standards) fee of €1,500 per semester. Doctoral students there don’t have to pay⁵.

Wherever you study, there is a small fee to pay each semester, called a “semester contribution”. This is so you can benefit from all the student services provided to you, which in Germany often even includes a public transport ticket. It varies between institutions, but is usually fairly low.

Germans love precision, and they’ve calculated that international students in Germany need an average of precisely €725 per month to cover expenses for stuff like rent, food, books, and so on⁵. Do bear in mind that some places to live are more expensive than others, though. Cities in the former East – Dresden or Leipzig, say – often have lower costs of living, while Munich and Hamburg are particularly expensive.

One additional expense it’s important not to forget is health insurance. You’re legally required to have valid health insurance if you live in Germany, so do get this sorted before you go, and plan it into your budget.

Here’s an overview of the likely costs of studying in Germany.

CostAmount per monthNotes
Tuition feesNoneOnly free at public universities that are not in Baden-Württemberg
Semester contributionLikely €100-350Accounts for student services
Living cost€725That’s the official estimate – but factor in where you’ll be living

Proving your financial resources

One important part of your visa application process is proving you have enough money for your studies. Even though you’re probably not going to be paying tuition fees, it’s still crucial that you have enough money to support yourself.

You’ll need to prove that you have €10,236 that you can spend while you’re there, just to ensure you don’t run out of money during your studies⁶.

Universities in Germany

Here are just a few of the most popular German universities for international students.

  • Technical University, Munich (TUM)
  • Ludwig Maximillian University, Munich
  • Humboldt University, Berlin
  • Freie University, Berlin
  • Technical University, Berlin
  • Aachen University
  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
  • University of Heidelberg

If you need an undergraduate degree in English, there are fewer options, but Top Universities has researched a few⁷:

  • University of Freiburg
  • Georg-August-Universität Gögttingen
  • University of Leipzig
  • Berlin International University of Applied Sciences
  • Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences

A simple way to manage your money: TransferWise

There may be no tuition fees to pay in most cases, but there are still plenty of costs. And unless you happen to have a well-furnished German bank account at your disposal for some reason, it’s likely you’ll need to send some money internationally. An Australian bank account won’t be much use to you while you’re living in Germany.

TransferWise can help you in several ways. Most simply, it can send your money overseas without the same high costs you’d probably have to pay your bank: it sends all money abroad at the real mid-market rate and only charges a simple and transparent fee.

But you can also get a borderless account from TransferWise, which can be a particularly handy way to manage your money while moving abroad. Even before you get a German bank account, a borderless account allows you to hold your money in multiple international currencies, and even gives you virtual bank details in Australian dollars and euros – as well as NZ and US dollars and pounds.

That means you can both pay and get paid like a local in Germany as well as in Australia, and any money you move between currencies is always moved at the mid-market rate. A perfect solution for a time when you might have many costs to pay but potentially no Germany bank account to use.

There are no monthly fees for a borderless account, and Australian users even get a debit Mastercard, making international spending even easier still.

Studying abroad is such an exciting idea – good luck exploring your options in Germany. Hopefully you’ll find the perfect course for you, and have a wonderful time in the heart of Europe.

Sources:

  1. EU International Student Rankings
  2. Admission Requirements
  3. Student Visa
  4. Student Visa For Germany
  5. Cost of Living
  6. Proof of Finacial Resouces
  7. Top Universities

All sources correct as of 16 December 2019


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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