1. Higher education in Germany

1.1 German higher education system

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’.

1.2 Entry requirements for German universities

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.
  • 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.
  • A' levels that are not in academic subjects, such as sport, drama, design and technology will not be recognised.
  • You cannot gain access to a German university with vocational qualifications such as BTECs unless you have completed at least one year at a university in the UK or elsewhere outside Germany.

Subject specific requirements

  • For social sciences, law, economics etc, one A level must be in a related subject. Maths A level is a 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 must be a language in order to meet the general requirements.


  • Two AS levels can replace one A level.
  • Vocational Certificates of Education will not be taken into consideration although there is some evidence that universities might be more flexible in future.
  • 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. Your choice of 6th subject can have an impact on where you can study.

The guidelines above are adapted and translated from the Anabin website. From time to time these can change slightly so if you speak German you might want to refer to them directly.

Some Universities/Fachhochschulen offer one-year preparatory courses, in case you cannot meet the requirements.These are known as "Studienkolleg".

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 a 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.

1.3 Application process for 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: generally 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).

Some German universities use a centralised admissions system, Uni-Assist, for the processing of international applications. You can find a list of which universities use Uni-Assist here. If you need to use Uni-Assist here is a summary of the application process.

2. 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.

3. Student life in Germany

3.1 How do I get a visa to study in Germany?

No visa is required for EU citizens.

3.2 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)

4. 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.