Studying and researching in Germany

Studying and researching in Germany

1. What qualifications are available at German universities?
2. How expensive is it to study in Germany?
3. How expensive is it to live in Germany?
4. Are grants or other financial assistance available?
5. Will my school-leaving qualification be recognised?
6. What can I do if my school-leaving qualification is not adequate?
7. How much German do I have to know?
8. Are there language courses for students and scientists?
9. How good is the medical care?
10. How safe is Germany?

1. What qualifications are available at German universities?

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In recent years the courses offered at German universities have undergone a reform (the so-called Bologna process), and the traditional ‘Diplom’ and ‘Magister’ courses have by and large been superseded by international Bachelor and Master’s degrees.

You can now earn the following qualifications:

  • Bachelor: The first-level degree qualification, recognised internationally in the employment market. These courses convey the basic principles of the given subject in six to eight semesters.
  • Master: This course, lasting a further two to four semesters, consolidates the knowledge acquired during the Bachelor degree course.
  • Staatsexamen (State Examination): The ‘Staatsexamen’ is a state, rather than an academic qualification. In other words, the exam regulations are laid down not by the university, but by the Federal states. Each of Germany’s 16 Federal states has its own laws and rules. The examinations also take place under state supervision. Before deciding to study for a ‘Staatsexamen’ – especially in medicine, pharmacy, law or teaching – you should, in all cases, check whether the qualification is recognised in your home country.
  • Promotion (Doctoral studies): Dependent on the subject of your research, it can take between two and five years to study for a doctorate, during which time you will be required to prepare a dissertation. In addition to working on your dissertation, which you are largely free to choose for yourself, you may also be integrated into a doctoral program (“structured doctoral studies”). Once you have successfully completed your studies, the university will award you a doctorate.

You will find more information at:

http://www.hochschulkompass.de

http://www.daad.de/research-explorer

http://www.dfg.de/gk

http://www.studying-in-germany.org/phd-in-germany/

To learn more about structured doctoral studies at an International Max Planck Research School, follow this link.

2. How expensive is it to study in Germany?

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Most universities in Germany are state-financed; a small number are maintained by the Protestant and Catholic Churches. In addition, there are around 80 private universities.

The costs you will incur will vary, dependent on the university. Whereas private universities often charge high tuition fees, at state universities the fees are generally moderate. In fact, not all Federal states charge tuition fees – occasionally, fees only apply if you study for a particularly extensive period or embark on a second degree. Otherwise the fees amount to a maximum of 500 euros per semester.

In addition to these costs, the universities levy a contribution per semester to finance their refectories, dormitories and sports clubs, or an additional administration fee. Contributions per semester are around 100 euros, while administration fees range between 50 and 75 euros per semester, dependent on the university.

You will also incur living costs for food, accommodation, clothing, etc., and there will be health insurance premiums to pay.

3. How expensive is it to live in Germany?

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Accommodation is likely to account for the largest portion of your monthly cost-of-living expenses. Rents vary widely from one region to another. City rents are generally higher, though Berlin currently remains an exception. In Munich you must expect to pay an average price of at least ten euros per square metre, with similar costs applying in Frankfurt and Hamburg. In addition there will be ancillary costs to pay which amount to around 25 percent of the rent (see: What must I be aware of if I want to rent an apartment?”). On the other hand, in the eastern Federal states and in some rural areas you may be more fortunate – the cost of accommodation is only half as much.

Your remaining living costs will be comparable with other countries, with food perhaps even cheaper. You may however find that the cost of public transport seems high. Going out can also be relatively expensive; here too, the price range is again dependent on the region in which you are living.

For cultural activities, such as the theatre or cinema, it is always worth asking whether concessions are available, such as student discounts, family tickets or special days on which entry costs are reduced. Quite a few museums offer free entry on Sundays and many cinemas offer concessionary tickets on certain days.

You will find more information on the following website:

4. Are grants or other financial assistance available?

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There are numerous organisations to which international students can apply for grants, such as the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (the German Academic Exchange Service - DAAD), foundations affiliated to the political parties, religious institutions or business organisations. Support is generally not available for freshmen, nor will the majority of organisations finance an entire course of study from the first semester through to the last.

To search for grants on the Internet, visit the DAAD grants database and the online portal Kisswin.de. In addition to general information on career paths, a jobs exchange and online forums, you will find lots of useful tips on the types of support available and potential sponsors.

5. Will my school-leaving qualification be recognised?

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In order to be allowed to study in Germany, you need a ‘Hochschulzugangsberechtigung’ (university entrance entitlement): this simply means a school-leaving qualification that entitles you to study at university. In Germany, this is the ‘Allgemeine Hochschulreife’ (Abitur) or ‘Fachhochschulreife’. So how do you find out if your qualification is also recognised? On the Anabin website (only in German) you can select both your homeland and the qualification you have obtained. When you have entered this information, you will receive a detailed explanation of whether or not your qualification is adequate for direct university entrance.

6. What can I do if my school-leaving qualification is not adequate?

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If your qualification is not adequate, you will need to take a special examination in Germany, the ‘Feststellungsprüfung’ (assessment test). Study colleges offer special courses to prepare you for this examination. These courses usually last for two semesters. They generally entail 32 hours of lessons per week and are available free of charge at almost all universities.

For more information visit: http://www.studienkollegs.de

7. How much German do I have to know?

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Most courses at German universities are conducted in German. Therefore, in order to be admitted to the course, you will often have to prove your knowledge of German. The two exams in common use are the:

  • ’Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang ausländischer Studienbewerber’ (German Language University Entrance Examination for Foreign Applicants - DSH). This examination can only be taken at German universities. For dates, please refer to the International Office at your university.
  • ‘TestDaF’ (Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache – Test for German as a Foreign Language). This enables you to obtain the necessary proofs before leaving home. The test can be taken in over 80 countries of the world. For information on locations, dates, costs, applications and much more, visit http://www.testdaf.de (only in German)

Students who enrol in an international course or special postgraduate courses are generally not required to prove a knowledge of German, but must be able to demonstrate good English: This also applies to, among others, the International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS). Here the teaching is in English and the scientists use English as their language of communication. Nevertheless, the ability to make yourself understood in the language of your host country is often one of the vital skills needed to get along outside of the university.

8. Are there language courses for students and scientists?

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To improve your knowledge of German, you can take a language course. There a large range of courses available. Please enquire locally whether limited financial subsidies are available from your university or research organisation. This is usually dependent on the nature of your contract with the university (or with a Max Planck institute, for example).

9. How good is the medical care?

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Medical care in Germany is very good. In most university towns there are hospitals, numerous (specialist) doctors and pharmacies. If you need one, you will find lists of local doctors in the telephone book (http://dasoertliche.de), in the ‘Gelbe Seiten’ (Yellow Pages) or on the Internet. Doctors and pharmacists also have an emergency service, so you can always obtain medical assistance even outside of normal hours.

10. How safe is Germany?

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By international standards, Germany is a safe country. The level of crime is not above the average. Even in big cities such as Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich you can move around freely without any special safety precautions - by day as well as by night.

However, you can ask your fellow students or work colleagues if there are any districts that it would initially be better to avoid. In German cities, too, there are social problem areas which are less safe.

In an emergency you can call the police free of charge from any telephone - just dial 110. In addition, almost every country in the world is represented with an embassy or consulate in Germany. At the universities you can contact the ‘Akademisches Auslandsamt’ (International Office) at any time.

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