German universities are free!

Yes, you read right. Undergraduate courses at public universities in Germany are tuition-free for local and international students.

Photo: Elliot Communications

It is important to understand what ‘free’ means with regards to tertiary education in Germany. Tuition fees were abolished in 2014 for public universities but students must pay administrative fees and have enough money for their living expenses. Administrative fees vary but are usually between 150 and 250 Euros per semester, which is very affordable considering the standard of education offered. German universities consistently rank amongst the best globally and are known for their excellent facilities, teaching staff, research capabilities and student employability. 


German Educare was founded by a group of Malaysians who studied in Germany and realised what a great alternative it was to the usual tertiary education destinations. Deciding what to study and where to go is a daunting process wherever you choose to go, and slightly more so if you decide to go somewhere out of the ordinary. This is where sound advice based on personal experience is needed to navigate the system. 

We asked Jonathan Lau, one of the founders of German Educare, about studying in Germany from language attainment to popular courses. 

What are the most popular courses for foreign students in Germany?
Engineering is hands-down the most popular course among international students in Germany with four out of 10 studying this course. This is no surprise as German engineering is well-known globally. Economics, social sciences, humanities, natural sciences and mathematics are also popular subjects.

How fluent in the language should a Malaysian student be to study there? 
For courses taught in German, which is the case for many of the bachelor’s degree courses, students are expected to be fluent in the language. Malaysian students will need to invest one year to learn the language up to the required level. There is an increasing number of courses being offered in English, but the majority of these are for postgraduate courses. 

How much does it cost to study in Germany? 
Here's where Germany stands out. International students can study tuition-free in Germany! In fact, since students only need to cover their cost of living, it is comparable to studying at a branch campus of an international university in Malaysia. If they set aside RM50k yearly for living expenses, they can enjoy a good student lifestyle – experience a new culture, meeting people from all over the world, the four seasons and best of all, have the opportunity to explore Europe. 

What is student life like in Germany – social life, travelling, how international is the student population?
I can go on and on as the German culture cannot be more different compared to Malaysian. I do want to give a few tips for students who are interested in studying in Germany though. Germans are direct people, and you are expected to speak up and get to the point. From my experience, they do not open easily to new friends as they prefer to maintain a small circle of friends. That does not make them racist. You will find that they are friendly and warm, and you just need to reach out to them first - and there is nothing like Malaysian food to break the ice.

Once you are in Germany, do look out for student deals when planning for trips around Europe. Although the Euro is a strong currency, you can save a lot of money with your student card. At the same time, do travel as much as possible, as you will not have the luxury of time when you start working. You can work part-time to fund your travels.

Generally, 10 to 20% of each university's student population is international. This is especially true in bigger cities like Munich and Berlin. But even so, you can find students from up to 100 different countries in small campuses. While German universities are not yet top choices among Malaysian students, Germany is one of the top study destinations worldwide, and there are students from every continent studying in Germany.


What are the best courses to pursue?
STEM subjects are highly rated in Germany and there are so many famous German companies from automotive (Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen) and industrial manufacturing (Siemens, Bosch) to pharmaceuticals (Bayer) and chemicals (BASF). STEM graduates have ample opportunities to work in Germany upon graduation, and this is a good start for their career. To improve their chances of employment, it is worth putting in the effort to be fluent in German. 

What are the advantages of a German qualification?
The obvious advantage of studying in Germany is that it is more affordable and students just need to set aside money for their living expenses. In my opinion, the real advantage is that you will be part of a larger and more international community of graduates. German universities work closely with businesses, which means projects are cutting-edge and relevant to the industry. One example is the company StreetScooter, which started as a project at the RWTH Aachen University, one of Germany's top universities. StreetScooter produces affordable electric vans and the company was acquired by Deutsche Post just 4 years after its inception.

How would you convince potential students/parents that Germany is the best option for tertiary education?
Our two challenges are to convince them that this is not too-good-to-be-true. We are so used to spending a lot of money on education, and when we hear it is tuition-free, we doubt its quality. Fortunately, we at German Educare are German graduates as well and can attest to our experience and education.

The second challenge is to convince students to learn German. It can be overwhelming to master a language in such a short period of time, but like all skills worth pursuing, students just need to set their mind to it and take the first step. Our team of experienced teachers will help them along the way. As a Malaysian company with teams in both Malaysia and Germany, we are able to provide the best assistance to help students transition to studying, living and working in Germany; and parents can have peace of mind knowing our team is there for their children.

Top universities for foreign students
Many international students aim to study in the Technical University of Munich, Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg, Humboldt University of Berlin, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and RWTH Aachen University. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, which is why we aim to provide students with personalised consultations and help in selecting the right university for their academic needs. 

Tags: News & Features, Feature, Tertiary, University, STEM
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