Employers all over the world hold German university degrees in high esteem. To make your transition to student life at a university or technical college in the FrankfurtRheinMain (FRM) region as smooth as possible, we have put together some useful tips about the structure of degree courses in Germany and your funding opportunities.
Semesters and exams
German institutions of higher education operate on a two-semester basis. There is a winter semester and a summer semester. Each last for half a year. The winter semester officially starts on 1 October and ends on 31 March. The summer semester runs from 1 April to 30 September.
The semesters are not identical to the lecture periods, however. In the winter semester, lectures take place from mid-October to mid-February; in the summer semester, from mid-April to mid-July.
Examinations are usually held at the start of the semester breaks. They can involve written exams, oral exams or a term paper. Each degree course and module has its own exam structure. Almost all courses require you to complete modules in order to gain credit points (CP), which you need to complete your degree.
Unlike in other countries, students at German universities need to choose their own modules. This principle allows them to attend lectures in topics that are particularly relevant to their interests. Students at German universities are expected to organise their own studies and work independently. There are different kinds of classes:
- lectures are attended by many students. They take notes while the lecturer delivers their presentation. This format is especially common in early semesters.
- Seminars involve fewer students. Unlike lectures, they are interactive. Professors and students discuss a topic on the basis of academic texts.
- Colloquiums are courses for students who wish to write a dissertation. They give the participants a platform to present their research topic and discuss it with their course mates and the professor.
- Many degree courses require students to take internships or practical modules while studying. They are an opportunity to experience a real working environment at an early stage.
To find out more about studying in Germany, please consult our brochure: Destination Germany - A Pocket Guide for International Students.
Most German universities and technical colleges are state-run. They are funded by the government, so students do not pay any tuition fees. Instead, they pay a small fee of EUR 100–400 per semester. The exact sum depends on the university. This fee covers administrative costs, student council contributions and the semester ticket, which gives you free access to regional public transport. All students pay this fee.
International students must prove their financial independence to study in Germany. This means that they need to show liquid funds of EUR 8,000 per year. As proof, universities accept e.g. a guarantor’s letter from a relative, proof of assets or a scholarship.
If you obtain a study or research stipend, you can use it to cover the cost of your studies partially or even fully. This option is primarily available to students in advanced semesters. Certain stipends offer special further education measures in addition to financial support. Your eligibility for certain stipends depends not only on your marks but also on your place of study, social involvement, country of origin, degree course or religion. Have a look at the website of the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) or the German Academic Exchance Service (DAAD) to find a stipend for which you are eligible.
In certain cases, foreign students can apply for governmental funding as per the German Federal Training Assistance Act (BAFöG). Please consult the website of the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) to find out more.
Contact the institutions directly to inquire about stipend programmes.