Short guide to studying in Germany

Jan 31, 2017

Looking for a place to study? If so, a German university could be a great choice. Whether you are looking for part-time, full-time or by distance learning studies, Germany offers great academic training and an international atmosphere that will make your student days unforgettable. A few conditions such as receiving a school or university diploma recognition, or having enough money to live and study in Germany must be regarded. These and further necessary conditions will be presented in the following.

Getting your school and university diplomas recognized

University of Kassel Enlarge image (© picture alliance/dpa) If you are interested in studying in Germany, you need certain prior qualifications to be accepted at a university, similar to how it works here in South Africa. Not all qualifications prior received are sufficient to be able to study in Germany, which is why your diploma(s) must be verified to see whether it is comparable to a German Diploma giving access to higher education. If you aim to pursue a Master’s Degree in Germany, you must get your undergraduate degree recognized beforehand at the International Office at the university of your choice. Certain studies also offer part-time and distance learning programmes. By doing this, you can gain professional experience in Germany while acquiring theoretical training.

Visit the German Academic Exchange Service’s (DAAD) website to check admission requirements, to find addresses of the German International Offices in your region and to find out more about studying part time

You do not have a recognized school-leaving diploma? A preparatory course is the solution

Even if the diploma from your home country is not equivalent to a German diploma giving access to higher education, you still have the chance to study by taking a preparatory course at a ‘Studienkolleg’ before your actual studies.

Read more about Preparatory Courses in Germany

Attend your first language courses

Deutschkurs für ausländische Studenten, Uni Bonn Enlarge image (© picture alliance / JOKER) In case you want to study a course in German you will have to prove that you have proficient language skills. The most current certificates of proficiency include the DSH and TestDaf certificate for German as a foreign language. Supposing that your courses are taught in English, you do not need a certificate of proficiency. Nevertheless, it is beneficial to have basic knowledge of the German language to be able to communicate and be understood and therewith make your social life easier and possibly even raise your career prospects.

You can take a German exam while still in your home country at one of the 1,598 Goethe Institutes worldwide.

Find the closest Goethe Institute to your area

Enough money to live and study

Before you start your studies overseas it is of great importance to plan your study finances. This includes your semester and tuition fees as well as living costs. Public universities in Germany are free and only a semester/registration fee of between 100 and 300 Euro must be paid. Often this also includes a semester ticket for local public transport.

Students chatting in their apartment in Cologne Enlarge image Students chatting in their apartment in Cologne (© picture alliance / dpa) For international courses other rules apply, which is why you must ask exactly whether you have to pay fees and, if so, how much. Concerning living costs, German students spend an average of around 800 Euro per month, of which nearly 300 Euro go towards paying rent and around 165 Euro on food.

Inquire about scholarships

Would you like to fund your studies by means of a scholarship­? In Germany, numerous institutions provide financial aid on a monthly basis to students who meet specific conditions, such as good marks or social commitment. Be aware of the fact that scholarships are rarely granted from the first semester but rather from later semesters and to PhD students.

Apply for a place on a course

There are two ways to apply for a place on a course of study: at numerous universities, you apply through a special body called Uni-Assist e.V. View the Uni-Assist website to find out if your university is listed, if not you must send an application directly to the university.  

Access the Uni-Assist website

Different conditions and application deadlines apply for certain courses, but generally if you want to start your course in the German winter semester, you normally have to apply by July 15 at the latest. To start a course in the summer semester, you usually have to submit your application by January 15 of each year.

Once you have fulfilled all these conditions and maybe even found your study course and scholarship there are further important steps that should be thought of when studying in Germany, such as making preparations for the move or preparing your arrival in Germany.

Find out more on further steps to studying in Germany

We have compiled more information on the higher education system in Germany and scholarship opportunities on our website

© German Embassy Pretoria

Short guide to studying in Germany

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