The German Study Abroad Market

In this market report on Germany we will cover socio-economic, educational and mobility trends. Germany is Europe’s strongest economy. Although it’s figures are impressive, Germany has an invisible enemy though; an ageing population. According to the Federal Statistical Office has forecasted that the population will decline to a total of 67.6 to 78.6 million people by 2060. This would seriously disrupt Germany’s economic foundations. It should come as no surprise that Germany has made internationalization one of its most important strategic objectives; attracting young and talented students who stay in Germany and make a contribution to the economy and society at large.

Germany is not only a major recipient of international students, it is also one of Europe’s top sending countries. Currently, 123,512 German students are studying for a degree program abroad. Most of these students choose to stay close to home: Austria, the Netherlands, the U.K., and Switzerland are the top destinations for German students.

The German government there has an ambitious education agenda. The coming decade it will be focusing on research, innovation, sustainable growth and viable jobs. Approximately 70 billion euros will be allocated. Internationalization will be Germany‘s focal points the coming years. These are the main areas it will focusing on (source: German Ministry of Education):

  • Strengthening global cooperation
  • Germany’s innovation on the world stage
  • Developing international aspects of vocational training and qualifications
  • Working with emerging and developing countries to shape the global knowledge society
  • Overcoming global challenges together
  • The global knowledge society
    (Source: Federal German Ministry of Education)

All this and more in the Market Report on Germany.

Quick facts

  • Population: 83,2 million (2020)

  • Education: 9 years compulsory

  • Academic year: October – September

Secondary education

  • Starting age: 10

  • Duration: 9 years

  • Enrollment numbers: 7 million (2019)
    Enrollment rate: 102%

Higher education

  • Duration: 3 – 4 years (bachelor) – 1- 2 years (Master) – 2 – 4 years (PhD)

  • Enrollment numbers: 3 million (2019)

  • Tertiary enrollment rate: 70%

  • Universities / Institutions: 380 – (300 public, 80 private)

German Education System

The education system in Germany varies from state to state, although the basic K-12 system is fairly uniform. Education is the responsibility of each of the 16 German states (Bundesländer), but there is a national conference of state education ministers (Kultusministerkonferenz, KMK) that serves to coordinate educational practices at the national level. However, there is still some variation in the school systems across Germany.

Secondary education

Secondary education, for children aged 10 to 19, is divided into 2 cycles:

  • Sekundarstufe/Sekundarbereich I (for pupils aged 10-16) and
  • Sekundarstufe/Sekundarbereich II (for pupils aged 16-19

Admission to Higher Education

The Zeugnis der Allgemeinen Hochschulreife grants admission to all forms of higher education. The Lisbon Convention applies.

Higher Education system

Traditionally, university attendance in Germany has been tuition free. That is such an embedded German tradition, that when seven states (between 2004 and 2007) introduced very modest tuition fees (Studiengebühren) of 500 euros, or about $560 per semester, there were mass protests. By 2013 only Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) still had university tuition fees. Then Bavaria dropped them, and Lower Saxony, the last holdout, cancelled its tuition fees in 2015.

Nowadays, studying in Germany is still mostly tuition free. Public universities do not charge tuition fees for Bachelor’s and Master’s programs except if you plan to pursue a Master’s degree that focuses on a different subject than the one you studied as a Bachelor’s student. The German free tuition system is available for all foreign students, regardless of their country of origin.

Bachelor Most bachelor’s programs take 4 years to complete. Some programs take 5 years to complete (architecture, art, graphic art, and pharmacy). Medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine programs take 6 years of study.

Master’s degree programs usually take 2 years. A bachelor’s degree with a Grade Point Average (GPA) of at least 3 is required for admission to the master.

A master’s degree with a Grade Point Average (GPA) of at least 3.5 is required for admission to the PhD phase. The doctoral degree (PhD) requires 2 to 4 years of study.


Visual depicting the German Educational System

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Latest German Higher Education study abroad stats

At this point a total number of 123,512 German students are studying abroad (source: UNESCO). The outbound mobility rate of German students is 4,8%. These are the most popular study abroad countries:

German students studying abroad
UNESCO study abroad data

IB schools in Germany

Best performing German Universities

Looking to partner with Universities from Germany? These are the best performing universities.

LMU Munich

THE Rank: 32

Technical University of Munich

THE Rank: 43

Heidelberg University

THE Rank: 44

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