Germany is popular with international students because it offers tuition-free education at public universities. But you can also choose to study at a private university instead. Learn more about the differences, advantages and disadvantages:
In Germany, public universities are owned and operated by the state, while private universities are commonly owned by a company or investors. That leads to one key difference: tuition fees. While public universities are usually free of charge, private universities charge tuition fees for their programmes. (There are very few exceptions to this rule where public universities can ask for tuition fees.)
There are also other common distinctions: Private universities or colleges are usually smaller in size; not as widely known and reputed as some of the big highly-ranked research universities; but with notably better services and facilities for students.
Germany is very strict when it comes to the quality of higher education. When an institution can call itself “university” (Universität) or “university of applied sciences” (Fachhochschule/Hochschule), or awards Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees, it’s safe to assume they have been accredited by the regional government, with high standards for their education. If they are not accredited themselves, they usually partner with other universities who effectively award the degrees.
You normally find information on their website about which federal state government is responsible - or, if they partner with other institutions to award the degrees, which ones those are and how they are recognised. In the latter case, if those universities are also located in the EU or UK then it’s safe to assume that the quality of education is high.
Unlike their public counterparts, private universities in Germany charge tuition fees from students. Typically, you should expect to pay between €10,000 and €15,000 per year for a Bachelor’s programme and between €10,000 and €20,000 per year for a Master’s. In some cases, there might be small differences between the amounts paid by students from the EU/EEA and students from outside the EU/EEA.
|University||Tuition fees for Bachelors per year||Tuition fees for Masters per year|
|Constructor University (Bremen)||ca. €20,000||ca. €20,000|
|EU Business School||ca. €13,500||ca. €15,000|
|Hertie School||-||ca. €18,300|
|IGC International Graduate Center Bremen||-||€10,600 per year on average, ranging from €8,500 to €11,500|
|IU University of Applied Sciences||ca. €5,000||From €7,000 to €12,000 depending on the study mode|
|Lancaster University Leipzig||ca. €16,500||ca. €22,500|
|Macromedia University of Applied Sciences||ca. €11,000||From €11,000 to €13,000 depending on the campus|
|SRH Universities (Berlin, Heidelberg)||ca. €8,000||From €8,000 to €13,000 depending on the campus|
Those fees may seem high - but considering the increased earnings potential for the rest of your career, a German university degree is worth it even from a fee-charging private institution.
Many schools also support you in finding financing options. Scholarships might be available, and there are other routes like bank loans or deferred tuition fees (through an organisation like Chancen eG).
And don’t forget: It’s relatively easy to earn money as a student. Germany has a minimum wage (“Mindestlohn”) of €12 per hour (2023) and in many corporate working student jobs you earn more.
Should you study at a private university in Germany? There are both upsides and downsides to doing so, and it really depends on your individual situation. Here is an overview of the most important factors:
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Whether a German private university or public university is better for you ultimately depends on your requirements and personal circumstances.
If you want a tuition-free degree at high quality, possibly from a world-leading university, and don’t mind the fact that the service level is worse and classes larger, a public university is the better option.
If you can afford the (still reasonable) tuition fees and want a more personal experience with better service, better facilities, and smaller classes, and don’t mind that the “brand” of your university is not that well-known, a private university is the better choice for you.
There is no definite top 10 list for the best private universities in Germany. That’s because most privates are small (and thus relatively unknown) and don’t conduct research, which means they fall through the cracks of the large university rankings.
But rankings aren’t everything, and there are also other factors worth considering. Below are some of the best private universities in Germany:
Constructor University (Bremen): Formerly known as Jacobs University Bremen and rebranded in 2022, Constructor University is one of the few privates in Germany that make it into global rankings: Times Higher Education (THE) lists it among the top 600 universities worldwide in 2023. They focus on STEM subjects and offer mostly Bachelors and a few Masters.
Lancaster University Leipzig: A foreign campus of Lancaster University (England), students can get a British degree while studying in Germany. The Leipzig campus offers a handful of programmes mostly in Business and Computing. Lancaster University itself is usually ranked among the top 150 universities worldwide by Times Higher Education and QS. Interestingly, studying in Leipzig is substantially cheaper than it would be to pursue the same degrees at the home campus.
EU Business School: This is a popular business school in Munich that also allows spending semesters at their campuses in Geneva and Barcelona. Degrees are awarded through accredited partner institutions in Ireland, Spain, and the UK.
SRH Universities: The group of SRH universities is one of the largest private education providers in Germany and well-reputed among employers. They offer a variety of programmes in English at the Bachelor’s and Master’s level in Business, Computer Science, Engineering, Arts and more. Campuses include, among others, Berlin, Dresden, and Heidelberg.
IU University of Applied Sciences: IU is Germany’s largest university by total enrolment with around 100,000 students, thanks to its offering of remote and hybrid study options as well as various campus locations all over the country.
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