No tuition fees and many benefits and facilities available to students notwithstanding, the combined costs of living and studying in Germany can be considerable – various scholarships and part-time work during studies are the most common ways of coping for students, and should be duly considered as means of funding.
Table of Contents
- 1 Get a Scholarship to Fund Your Studies
- 2 Who awards Scholarships?
- 3 Working Part-time in Germany
- 4 Other Ways to Fund Your Studies
Get a Scholarship to Fund Your Studies
In English speaking countries such as the United States, Canada, UK, Australia and developed countries of Europe, the tuition fees are high and a burden not only for international students, but for local residents as well. That’s why Germany has become a popular choice for many students wishing to study abroad and get great education, while not burying themselves in debt after graduation. As of October 2014 Germany offers literally free higher education for its residents and international students alike. Regardless how low the tuition fees might have been; now they are gone and more money will be saved by the struggling students. Six of the top 100 Universities in the world are German, where many Nobel laureates have studied.
Following a judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court in 2005 Universities in Germany required students to pay registration and tuition fees, yet this was practiced only in four Federal states out of 16. The tuition per semester used to be €500 in the states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hamburg and Lower Saxony, while in other states for undergraduate studies you only have to pay a symbolic €50 for registration. With the recent changes and the abolishment of tuition fees no wonder Germany attracts a large number of international students wishing to get an education or further their studies in Masters or Doctoral programs, at established and internationally recognized Universities. However tuition is only free for postgraduate students regardless of their origin; postgraduate studies still charge a certain tuition fee depending on the federation.
Although Germany has an outstandingly good and free of charge education system, the cost of living there can be pretty high for international students; and since there is little financial support, it’s advisable to apply for a scholarship before leaving your home country, to help you with different expenses such as accommodation, books, study materials and health insurance among others, that are around €600 – €800 per month. In metropolitan areas like Munich or Berlin, living expenses can get up to €1000 per month.
Postgraduate studies are not free like undergraduate ones, so you have to pay for admission and confirmation fees. Students who stay more than the designated number of terms must pay €500 per semester, thus a scholarship will help you greatly to finance your studies and life in Germany.
Mawista also gives yearly Scholarships. To check available Scholarships to Study in Germany, click here!
Who awards Scholarships?
There are many organizations that help students financially, but the main institution that mediates between international students and financial aid is the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst) or DAAD for short. Since German Universities don’t offer grants for students, you should apply through DAAD, which offers scholarships to international students via partner institutions.
You can expect to get two different types of scholarships: monetary and non-monetary. What this means is that, if you get a full scholarship you will be awarded a fixed amount which will cover you financially for the whole duration of your studies.
If you get a partial scholarship you should look for other means to further fund yourself, such as organizations that sponsor talented students. Especially advanced students and graduates are encouraged to apply.
Non-monetary scholarships are free invites to lectures, workshops, and scientific conferences where the aim is to establish connection between excellent students and Universities. This is a great chance for you to create long-lasting relationships with Institutions beyond the scholarship period.
Don’t give up!
The process of searching and applying for scholarships is painstaking, but you should never give up. If you don’t get a scholarship at the first try re-apply at the next chance you get, because it is well worth it.
To increase you chances of getting a scholarship, please inquire at the International Office or your faculty department of your host University for the best way to find institutions or programs that give scholarships to international students. Grades and knowledge are not the only thing that will aid you in getting a scholarship, but your personality and social commitment are also considered.
As a motivation during your scholarship search keep in mind that Coca-Cola on its first year sold only 9 drinks a day, but they kept going and now sell more than 1 billion drinks worldwide. Good luck!
Useful Resources on finding a scholarship:
The DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) scholarships database:
Information on organisations sponsoring talented students:
Working Part-time in Germany
Although studying is a full-time job in its own right, more often than not, both study-related costs and basic living expenses necessitate that an additional source of income, one supplementing the support a student gets from his/her family, is found.
But studying and working at the same time is a delicate balancing act. When a good balance between the two is maintained, work on the side can instill confidence in the student and help him/her develop better time-management skills. On the other hand, working longer hours or engaging in labor-intensive work alongside studying, can take a toll in the form of decreased success at studies as well as less opportunities for forging relationships and pursuing interests.
Striking the said balance is hard enough as it is; but achieving that while studying in a foreign country makes it even harder.
A fairly recent survey conducted by the Deutsche Studentenwerke indicates that roughly two thirds of all students in Germany work while studying. With Germany being one of the preferred destinations for prospective international students, and already having a large academic community from all over the world attending courses in its universities, German authorities recognize the need on the part of foreign students (which is a lot more pronounced than among their domestic colleagues) to earn some money on the side as a means of subsistence.
But employment prospects foreign students encounter in Germany differ significantly depending on what their country of origin is.
There is a world of difference between employment regulations applying to students coming from EU and EEA countries (who essentially stand on an equal footing with German students and have unrestricted access to the job market), and the rest of foreign students, who face considerable limitations in that respect.
What is the amount of work legally allowed for international students in Germany?
If your country of origin is not one of the EU and EEA member countries (with the exception of Bulgaria and Romania – students from these countries currently face the same limitations applying to other foreign students, until 2014), than you are allowed to work a maximum of 120 full days or 240 half days within a year – this restriction also includes voluntary work placements, even if the placement is unpaid. To work the stated number of days (or half days), a foreign student doesn’t need to obtain a permission from German employment authorities. An additional restriction for students who are citizens of a non-EU member country is: while working the allowed number of days (or half days), the international student cannot be self-employed or work as a freelancer. Learn more about Working as a Freelancer in Germany!
In case a student needs to work more than the allowed 120 days (or 240 half days), a permission from the “Agentur für Arbeit” (Federal Employment Agency: www.arbeitsagentur.de) is required. The granting of this permission depends on the conditions of the job market in the area of studies – in areas with significant unemployment, there is little chance that this permission to work more than 120 days will be granted.
However, an exception is made in cases where the permission to work more than usually allowed is requested by the student in order to work within an academic setting, e.g. as a student assistant. Although in such cases he/she is likely to obtain the permission, the student still has to notify the Department of Aliens about it in a timely fashion.
In cases where a student is attending a language course or “Studienkolleg” – a preparatory learning institution, the regulations are more stringent: work is permitted during lecture-free periods only, with the express permission of the Federal Employment Agency obtained beforehand.
Complying with labor laws regulating employment of international students is essential. Penalties, including expulsion from Germany, can be the consequence of failure to do so.
An Important Caveat
Income earned from working part-time is highly unlikely to cover all the expenses incurred during studies! Moreover, finding suitable part-time work is not easy.
Where can the typical part-time jobs for students be found?
The most usual of places where advertisements for the typical part-time jobs students do (waiting tables, bartending, hosting at trade fairs, selling at retail stores, motorbike delivering, office assistance, babysitting, etc.) get posted are the local ‘yellow pages’ and newspaper adds; online portals where local adds are posted are good places to check, too. An important resource of information about jobs for students in Germany are the “Studentenwerk” services – job agencies that are run by students themselves. All major university centers have their own “Studentenwerk” websites, where job vacancies are listed.
Additionally, students would do well to pay attention to what gets posted on notice-boards at lecture halls, libraries, and sometimes even local supermarkets and grocery stores.
For additional info on part-time work for students visit:
Other Ways to Fund Your Studies
Although DAAD is the main Institution that provides financial aid to international students via scholarships, thankfully there are many other options available to students from abroad who wish to study in Germany, to fund their studies.
The tuition fee for a semester in German Universities is only €500 for postgraduate studies, while for graduate studies none of 16 Federal States require students to pay for their study. Nonetheless, living in Germany can be expensive and that’s why many students require financial aid to ease their cost of living and studying in Germany.
Getting a Loan
Loans from banks: Statistics show that students, once they graduate, are able to get well-paying jobs in Germany or back in their home country, so it’s easy to pay back loans. That’s why you shouldn’t be afraid to get a loan from German banks to fund your studies, because you will be able to pay back the debt and the interest rates are very generous.
State-sponsored loans: Another way to get loans is through government sponsored programs with an emphasis on student’s social income. The law, known as “BafoeG” allows students to borrow up to €650 a month, half of it doesn’t have to be re-payed and the other half is interest free. This is an amazing opportunity for students from developing countries to afford continuing their studies if they get in a financial hardship.
Party-affiliated Institutions: More and more German parties are showing interest in financing students who share their political views through social engagements. Students who apply for financial aid at political parties represented in the German Parliament, need not only have great grades but also through social commitment and work, show the party how they share similar socio-political views.
Corporate-affiliated Institutions: Corporations too are interested in financing exceptional students and the leaders of tomorrow. Your chosen subject of study or social attitude is a determining factor for receiving grants from corporate-affiliated organizations and institution.
Social/Religious Institution: In Germany a lot of social and religious institutions, such as large churches, offer their own scholarships. The main criteria to get a scholarship from them, besides good grades, is also financial hardship. If your monetary situation is particularly hard because of unexpected expenses, than these types of institutions may just be the right place to apply for financial aid.
If you wish to study in Germany as an exchange student, then ERASMUS is for you. Through ERASMUS you are eligible to study in more than 4000 Universities across 33 European countries. These include all the European Union Member States as well as Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Turkey and Switzerland.
Keep in mind that no one is entitled to a scholarship, but with so many institutions, opportunities to help you fund your studies fully or partially are clearly there. Grants are as diverse as the students in Germany, so apply to the ones that are closer to your field of study or the place you want to study.
Download application forms for study and research grants:
The ERASMUS programme: