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Germany Education System - Understand How it Works​

Germany is widely recognized for its quality education. Let us find out why.

Germany is a higher education paradise. Unlike in any other country, in Germany, you will find many worldwide ranked universities, countless courses to choose among, globally valued degrees that promise high employability to you, and affordable living costs.

Moreover, Germany has a long and rich history, a vibrant and dynamic lifestyle mixing the modern and the classics, the urban and the rural.

Not surprisingly, Germany is ranked among the world’s top destinations for international students. According to the latest official statistics, over 357,000 international students seek a university degree in Germany, whereas the number is steadily increasing.


According to ARWU – the Academic Ranking of World Universities, 6 out of the top 100 universities and 18 out of the top 200 universities in the world are German. The Basic Law “Grundgesetz” regulates the German Education system and its functions. To say about the German Education System, its higher education institutions are internationally accredited. Germany holds the privilege of having some very famous old universities of the time and some of the most modern and most innovative universities of this century.

The Germany Education system is divided into five different levels. Here we give you a close examination of the five levels of the Germany Education system as follows:

  • Early Childhood Education
  • Primary Education
  • Secondary Education
  • Tertiary Education
  • Continuing Education

Qualifications framework

The German Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning (known by its German abbreviation of DQR) provides for the first time a framework that encompasses all qualifications within the German educational system across every field of education.


The low fees certainly help to make studying in Germany an attractive option for prospective students, and the country has consistently been ranked as one of the most popular destinations for international students in the world.

While many students can study in Germany for free, living expenses are unavoidable. The cost of living in Germany is more expensive in some areas than others – Munich, for example, is considered the most expensive German city to live in. Germany’s average monthly living costs for a student are around €850 (~US$962).

Rent will be your most considerable monthly expense, though this is cheaper if you live in a shared flat (average rent of €280/~US$340 per month) or a student hall of residence (€234/~US$290 per month). Based on data from DAAD, other average monthly costs are as follows:

  • €168 (~US$205) for food
  • €42 (~US$52) for clothes
  • €94 (~US$115) for transport
  • €31 (~US$38) for telephone, internet, and TV license
  • €20 (~US$25) for work/study materials
  • €61 (~US$75) for leisure activities

To find living expenses for specific cities in Germany (and compare them to the average costs in your home city), Numbeo is a useful tool. You will not need a visa to study in Germany if you are an EU national or citizen of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland. Otherwise, expect to pay €75 (~US$85) for your student visa, but there are also fee reductions or waivers for Schengen visas. You will need to show proof you have, or have access to, around € 10,236 (~US$11,582) per year to fulfill the visa requirements.


Here is a list of prominent scholarships in Germany for international students:
DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) or the German Academic Exchange Service is a joint organization of Germany’s higher education institutions responsible for promoting international academic relations. They focus on exchanging students, academics, and researchers, offering scholarships and funding to international students, graduate students, and scientists in Germany. The DAAD scholarships are awarded to students who want to get a qualification in a full-time study course. The applicants should have completed their bachelor’s degree, not more than in the last six years, and they should have at least two years of proven work experience. The stipend amount of the DAAD scholarship is 850€ monthly for postgraduate students and 1,200€ monthly for doctoral students.

The Heinrich Böll Foundation awards approximately 1,200 scholarships a year to ambitious undergraduates, graduates, and doctoral students of all subjects and nationalities. These students should be pursuing their degree at a state or state-recognized university in Germany. Scholarship receipts are expected to have outstanding academic records and be politically and socially engaged while showing an interest in values like ecology, sustainability, democracy, human rights, self-determination, and justice.

Non-EU students in their master’s studies will receive 850€ per month, in addition to individual allowances (tuition fees might be possible). EU students of the same level of study will receive 649€ plus 300€ book money per month. It is awarded for the regular period of study with the possibility of extension by one semester.

On the other hand, Ph.D. students coming from countries outside of the EU will receive 1,200€ per month, in addition to a 100€ mobility allowance per month and other individual allowances (excluding tuition fees). Ph.D. students from the EU will receive 1,350€ per month, plus a 100€ research costs allowance (excluding tuition fees). The scholarship is awarded for two years with the possibility of extension twice by half a year.

The Deutschlandstipendium offers financial support to ambitious and academically outstanding students from all corners of the world. It supports students at all participating universities in Germany without considering their nationality, personal or parent income. The scholarship is made possible through a public-private collaboration where businesses, foundations, or individuals sponsor students with a sum of 150€ per month while the Federal Government adds another 150€ to that amount. This scholarship is awarded by the universities, meaning applicants are required to meet individual institutions’ requirements.

The scholarship is awarded for two semesters, but it may also be valid for the time that covers the study’s standard period. After two semesters, the university reviews the student who still meets the scholarship criteria for private funding. Mentoring programs, networking events, as well as internships, will also be available through this scholarship.

Students with above-average academic achievements with a keen interest in politics are eligible to apply for the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Scholarship. This scholarship program aims to promote international students and doctoral candidates who have completed their home country’s undergraduate studies. This scholarship is available for students wanting to complete a postgraduate, doctorate, or research program. Priority will be given to students of Ph.D. candidates from developing countries or countries going through a political transformation.

Master and postgraduate students will receive an amount of 850€ monthly for two years. Doctoral candidates and those who come to Germany for research purposes will receive a monthly amount of 1,100€ for three years. Tuition fees can be reimbursed up to 500€ per semester (only courses related to the study/doctoral project). Through these scholarships, intercultural dialogues and international networks get promoted to develop the relations between the home countries and the Federal Republic of Germany.

Erasmus is also a wise choice for international students to participate in a full-time study program in Germany. As an EU-wide grant funded by the European Union member states, Erasmus offers financial assistance for one-year exchange periods for international students at universities in Germany. To get the scholarship to Germany, you should be enrolled at a higher education institution. Both your home university and the German university must have signed the Erasmus Charter for Higher Education.

Most of the EU’s major universities participate in the Erasmus scheme, with German universities participating in numerous study programs funded by Erasmus Mundus and Erasmus+ scholarships. The grants will cover the enrollment, travel, as well as necessary living costs.

Another option is the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung scholarship, which seeks to promote social democracy through academic, financial assistance. The scholarship is available for foreign applicants studying or doing their doctorate in Germany at a state or state-recognized university of applied sciences. These students are expected to have above-average academic achievements. This is a good option for those in the fields of social sciences, politics, or humanities.

To be eligible for this scholarship, you must demonstrate exceptional German language skills. The places are limited since only 40 people per year from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe will be taking this funding program. Scholarship holders in undergraduate courses will receive a monthly amount of 830€. Those in master’s degree programs will receive 850€ per month as well as health insurance costs.


The German education system is different from the ones in other countries. The overwhelming majority of German students attend public schools. The whole German education system, including the universities, is available to bona fide expatriates’ children. The catch, of course, is that the classes are conducted in German, which is usually all right for school beginners but becomes more and more of a problem as the children get older. But there are also many private schools. Although education is a function of the federal states, and there are differences from state to state, some generalizations are possible.


There are several varieties of university-level schools. The classical universities, in the tradition of Alexander von Humboldt, provide a broad general education and students usually attend them for up to six years. However, in recent years there have been changes to the curriculum allowing a university student (in a normal or technical university) to usually acquire a bachelor’s degree in either 6 or 7 semesters. A Master’s Degree will normally require an additional 3 or 4 semesters.

The amount of time to acquire a degree depends on the university and not the state. Curricula may vary slightly from school to school. The Technical Universities (Technische Hochschulen) are more aimed at training students for specific careers. There are also Hochschulen for art and music. Many private schools offer various degree programs in a variety of subjects. Many of these schools provide instruction in English.

Bachelor or undergraduate degrees

Germany is called the land of ideas; accepted worldwide for its academic excellence, the country has seen a steady rise in the International Student Community. Indian students have added considerably to that pool, especially students for technical education. As per the Shiksha Study Abroad database, Germany ranks top as a favored destination for undergraduate courses in engineering.


German under-graduate degree courses are popularly divided under the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) and Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng.). These courses, depending on the subject and nature of the course, are of 3 to 4 years duration. There are specialized universities called the Technical Universities (abbr. TU) offering research-based courses. These are usually universities for higher education and offer doctoral programs. For bachelor programs, there are Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen, abbr. FH) which are practice-based universities as well as Universities for Arts and Languages. These universities combined offer courses in engineering, business administration, social sciences, and design. Yet another class of universities in Germany offer courses in subjects like medicine, veterinary sciences, dentistry, and pharmacy.

Postgraduate Study

There are great opportunities for anyone wishing to pursue postgraduate studies in Germany ‘the land of ideas. To international students, it offers the chance to contribute to the country’s historic academic records. The benefits of the most generous tuition fees make it ideal, as they are lower than in a lot of countries worldwide. Germany’s higher education system is split between:
  • public universities, which are administered by the state, and
  • private universities, which are set up by independent companies, organizations, or charities.
Private universities usually charge more than public universities. Although, if the subject you are going for is not to be found in public universities, then private universities are beneficial for such courses.


The Academic Term in Germany is divided into two semesters – the winter & the summer semester. The Winter Semester starts from October and ends in March. The Summer Semester begins from April and ends by September. Admissions to these semesters usually begin six months in advance.

The application process for the Winter Semester usually starts by early May and close by July of that year. In other words, if you are planning to start your bachelors from Germany in October 2019, the application deadline for that session would be July 2019. The notice of admission is sent by August or early September.

For the Summer Semester, the application process starts from Early December with the last date for applications usually being January 15 of the year. Explaining it further, to begin your study in Germany from April 2019, January 15, 2019, would be the deadline for your application. The result for the Summer Term would be shared by February/ March accordingly.

Learning English

If you’re attending a degree program in Germany, you will sometimes need to prove that your language skills are good enough to participate in the classes and understand the lectures; some schools will require German, while others will require strong English skills. These courses will also prepare you for any of the English-language tests that universities require. English-language tests: Universities in Germany will want to see proof that you have good English-language skills so that you can easily succeed in their courses. Almost all German universities accept these official English exams:
  • PTE Academic
  • C1 Advanced

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