University fees for German public universities
In 2013, Lower Saxony was the last German federal state to scrap tuition fees after they were re-introduced in 2006 as part of a short-lived experiment. With the exception of Baden-Württemberg (see below), almost all public universities in Germany are free to attend at bachelor, master’s and doctorate level.
Semester fees (Semesterbeitrag)
Students do have to pay administrative fees (Semesterbeitrag) of around 150 to 250 euros per semester. This money goes towards subsidising student accommodation and canteens. It also entitles you to membership at the students’ union, a travel card for public transportation and access to university sports facilities.
Tuition fees in Baden-Württemberg
As of the winter semester 2017/18, the state of Baden-Württemberg has elected to charge tuition fees of 1.500 euros per semester to international students. This charge does not apply to citizens from the EU or EEA, or international students who hold a German secondary school leaving certificate (Abitur).
As of 2019, state authorities in North-Rhine Westphalia are reportedly considering re-introducing tuition fees for non-EU students - but no decision has yet been made. It remains to be seen if other German states will follow suit.
Do non-EU students have to pay tuition fees?
In short, no. Neither German, EU or non-EU citizens have to pay tuition fees at German universities, with the exception of institutions in Baden-Württemberg and private universities (see below). As a non-EU student, however, you will need a visa or residence permit and proof that you can cover your living expenses for the duration of your stay in Germany.
Private university costs in Germany
The majority of universities in Germany are financed by the state and therefore do not charge tuition fees. Private universities, however, may charge higher fees.
Student financing options
The German federal government provides financial support for individuals wishing to pursue higher education in the form of the Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz (BAföG). The BAföG provides assistance to students under the age of 30 who have been living in Germany for the last five years, including EU citizens and non-EU citizens with valid residence permits.
The assistance is given in the form of a grant and / or an interest-free loan. For more information and details on how to apply, visit the BAföG website (in German) or speak to the international office at your university.
There are other grants and scholarships available for international students, through programmes like Erasmus+ and the DAAD.
Additional costs while studying
Apart from tuition fees and semester fees, there are some other expenses that you need to take into consideration if you are considering studying in Germany, including:
- Fees for visa and residence permit
- Travel costs to come to Germany
- Accommodation (e.g. short stay accommodation, room or apartment rental)
- German health insurance
- Study materials, including a laptop computer, textbooks and other equipment
- German language course
- Daily living costs for things like shopping, public transport and leisure activities
If you are applying for a residence permit, you will be expected to demonstrate sufficient funds to cover these costs. The required amount is usually around 8.700 euros per year.
It is worth remembering that students are often eligible for discounts at shops, restaurants, museums and cinemas. As a student, you may also be exempt from paying fees on your German bank account.