Have you ever considered studying in Germany? Or are just curious to know how the German university system works? If so, you’re at exactly the right place! Here’s everything you need to know about studying in Germany:


For almost all German universities, you need to have a general higher education entrance qualification, like the German ‘Abitur’, to be eligible to attend university.

Further admission requirements depend on the subject or the university you apply for. Some programs are restricted nationwide (e.g. medicine, dentistry, pharmacy), others locally (only at specific universities). If a subject is restricted, either nationally or locally, it means that applicants have to have a specified grade in their Abitur to be admitted (the average grade is determined by a procedure called NC, an abbreviation for the Latin “numerus clausus” = “limited number”).

In other subjects, such as languages, music, or art, you often have to pass an entrance test to be admitted. These tests are used to show that you’re qualified enough to study a specific subject. For example, you need to demonstrate that your English skills are good enough to study English.

There are also some subject for which admission is completely free, which means you only need to have Abitur to be allowed to enroll. These are usually subjects such as maths or physics, in which the failure or drop-out rate is comparably high (so there are enough available university places).

Semester Dates

(Photo by Basian Wiedenhaupt / Pixabay)

At German universities, the academic year is divided into two semesters—a winter and a summer semester. The first runs from October to March and the latter from April to September (6 months each). Within each semester, you normally have around 12-15 weeks of lectures (“Vorlesungszeit”), while the rest is semester break (“Vorlesungsfreiezeit”). Exams are usually written in the last two weeks of the lecture period. During the break, most students usually write term papers, serve internships, or work.

The standard period of study for a bachelor’s degree is 6 semesters (3 years), for a master’s 4 semesters (2 years).


Because public universities in Germany are funded by the federal states, there aren’t any tuition fees. Students only have to pay a small amount of money meant for administrative costs, student union and public transport. The amount varies from university to university, but it’s usually in the range of 200-400 € per semester.

Because public transport is included in the costs, German students can travel in and around the city they’re studying in with their semester ticket.


(Photo by Rudy and Peter Skitterians / Pixabay

Students of low-income families are granted BAföG* loans. Because half of these loans are state grants, students only have to repay one half. Repayment is in installments and begins five years after the end of the maximum funding period.

Many German students also work in part-time jobs during their studies, especially as waiters, shop assistants, or private tutors to fund their studies.

(*Bundesausbildungsrderungsgesetz” or Federal Education and Training Assistance Act)


Student residences are popular, but the number of rooms is fairly limited and the waiting list long. Therefore, most students move into flatshares as this is the cheapest alternative to student residences. There is also a great number of students who stay at their parent’s house because rents, especially in the big German cities, are comparably high.


At most German universities, students have to organize their own studies. This means that they have to be familiar with their course’s exam regulations (“Prüfungsordnung”), find and enroll for the right courses, and register for exams and term papers each semester. This gives them the freedom to pick the classes they are particularly interested in or the ones that best fit their schedule. They’re also allowed to step back from exams or courses and take them another semester.

Types of courses

(Photo by Wokandapix / Pixabay)

In most German universities, there are three dominant types of courses: lectures, seminars and tutorials.

Lectures (“Vorlesungen”) are taught by professors in big halls. The lecturer usually holds a presentation while students simply listen and take notes. Attendance isn’t compulsory, but highly recommended as there is always an exam the end of the lecture period.

Seminars (“Seminare”) are taught in smaller groups of around 30-50. They’re usually more participatory than lectures, with students taking part in discussion or holding presentations. Attendance is mandatory, meaning that students won’t pass the course if they’ve got too many absences.

Tutorials (“Tutorien”) are usually taught by advanced students in small groups of around 20-30. In them, students usually discuss the themes from lectures in more detail and prepare for their exams. Attendance isn’t always mandatory, but again highly recommended.

There are certainly more points to talk about, but I think for now these are the most important ones! If you’ve got any questions, leave them down below!

I’m curious to know: In what country are you studying/did you study? What is different? Let me know in the comments section below!


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