Last update: September 2017
Germany is not particularly expensive compared to other European countries. But if you want to successfully study abroad, you will have to correctly estimate the costs and ensure that you can cover them. This page will tell you what training and living costs to expect:
Financial security and tuition fees
Proof of financial resources
Before you come to Germany (often when you apply for your visa) you will be required to present proof of financial resources. This document serves as a guarantee that you can afford the cost of studying in Germany; you will be expected to demonstrate funds of approximately 8,800 EUR for one year (from January 2020, this amount will be raised to 10,000 EUR). You can provide this proof for example in the form of an income statement for your parents, a security deposit in a blocked account, a banker's guarantee or a recognised scholarship. Contact the German embassy or consulate in your home country for information about the conditions.
Many international students use a blocked account to fund their studies in Germany. The money you transfer to a blocked account cannot be accessed until you enter the country. It is important to request the necessary documents early on. The completed forms, together with a copy of your passport, must be certified by a German diplomatic mission in your home country before submitting them to the bank of your choice. Banks charge a fee of between 50 and 150 EUR to set up a blocked account. Once you have arrived in Germany, you will be issued with an EC card which you can then use to access the money.
The majority of higher education institutions in Germany are financed by the state. There are generally no fees for Bachelor's courses or most Master's courses at state higher education institutions. Tuition fees may have to be paid for certain continuing education Master's programmes, but they are not particularly high compared to other countries. Private higher education institutions may demand more substantial fees for their degree programmes.
The Federal State of Baden-Württemberg has however decided to charge non-EU citizens tuition fees of EUR 1,500 per semester for (Bachelor's, Master's, Diplom and state examination) degree programmes from the 2017/18 winter semester onwards. These fees will not apply to doctoral students. Students who have already begun a degree programme in Baden-Württemberg but will not have graduated by the 2017/18 WS will not be subject to the aforementioned fees.
In Germany, all students at all higher education institutions must pay a semester contribution. This payment has nothing to do with tuition fees; rather, it covers your contributions to student services and the student government (AStA). At many higher education institutions it also includes a semester ticket that allows you to use public transport in the region. The semester contribution varies between higher education institutions and comes to between 100 and 350 EUR. It has to be paid when you enrol and before the start of every new semester. Whether you incur further costs relating to your studies, for example for materials such as specialist books and copies, depends on your subject.
Breakdown of a semester contribution
Example: University of Cologne, 2015/16 winter semester
Semester ticket: EUR 168.20
Student welfare contribution for student services: EUR 68.00
Student government (AStA): EUR 8.77
Student sports: EUR 1.75
Faculties/departmental student organisations: EUR 2.10
Total: EUR 248.82
The expenses that arise in the course of leading a normal life, i.e. for accommodation, food, clothing and recreational activities, are called living costs. They are about average in Germany compared to other European countries, that is to say they are significantly lower than in countries like Denmark, Luxembourg or Switzerland, but rather high compared to countries like Poland, the Czech Republic or Italy.
On average, a German student has expenses of EUR 794 per month. That includes rent, travel expenses, expenditures for food, clothing, learning materials, health insurance, telephone, Internet, radio and TV licence fees, and recreational activities. (Added to this is the semester contribution, which varies between higher education institutions.) International students usually have less money at their disposal than their German fellow students: on average, they can spend EUR 725 per month. If you have affordable accommodation and are careful with your money you will manage easily with this sum.
TIP: There are a number of discounts for students. If you can show valid student ID, you will often pay less for tickets to the theatre, museums, opera houses, cinemas and other cultural institutions. If you are more the sporty type, you should take a look at the sports programmes at your higher education institution: with a few exceptions, they are free for students.
Average expenses of a German student (2016)
Rent (including utility costs): EUR 323
Food: EUR 168
Clothing: EUR 42
Transportation costs (car/public transport): EUR 94
Health insurance, doctor's fees, medications: EUR 80
Telephone/Internet/radio and TV licence, postage: EUR 31
Working materials (books etc.): EUR 20
Recreation, culture and sports: EUR 61
Total: EUR 819
Average everyday prices
1 loaf of bread (approx. 500g): EUR 2
1 kilogramme of potatoes: EUR 0.75
500 grams of spaghetti: EUR 0.50
1 litre of milk: EUR 0.70
1 bottle of mineral water (0.75 litres): EUR 0.50
1 cup of coffee (in a café): EUR 2.50
1 glass of beer (in a pub): EUR 2.40
1 pizza (in a restaurant): EUR 7
1 lunch (in the cafeteria): EUR 3
1 T-shirt: EUR 7 to EUR 50
1 pair of trousers: EUR 30 to EUR 100
1 cinema ticket (with student discount): EUR 8
1 theatre ticket (with student discount): EUR 15
1 museum ticket (with student discount): EUR 6
Once you are aware of the cost of studying in Germany, you can start thinking about how to fund your degree. International students do not have unlimited permission to work in Germany. A side job can increase your budget, but it's very hard to fund your entire living costs this way. It is therefore a good idea to apply for a scholarship. Many institutions, for example the DAAD, party-related foundations, and business-affiliated organisations offer support for international students. Everything you need to know about financial support for your studies can be found here.