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Germany’s Public vs Private University-All you need to know

by | private vs public

Germany’s Public vs Private University-All you need to know

by | Jul 1, 2024 | private vs public

Public vs Private Universities in Germany: An Overview


Germany boasts over 400 higher education institutions offering more than 20,000 courses. These institutions fall into two main categories: public and private. Public universities are managed by the German government, ensuring standardized quality and affordability. In contrast, private universities are independently operated but still state-recognized.

Deciding between Germany’s numerous universities and courses can be challenging. It’s important to understand the key differences between public and private universities. This knowledge is crucial for making the best choice.

This article will discuss important aspects of German public and private universities. Let’s start by exploring some of the most renowned institutions in each category.

Renowned Public Universities in Germany

1. Hamburg University
2. Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU Munich)
3. Heidelberg University
4. Bremen University
5. University of Cologne
6. Technical University of Munich (TUM)
7. Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
8. Humboldt University of Berlin
9. University of Bonn

Renowned Private Universities in Germany

1. IU International University of Applied Sciences
2. Munich Business School (MBS)
3. CBS International Business School
4. International School of Management (ISM)
5. SRH Berlin University of Applied Sciences
6. Kuehne Logistics University (KLU)
7. Steinbeis University School of Management and Innovation
8. EU Business School Munich
9. GISMA Business School
10. Arden University Berlin
11. European University of Applied Sciences

The distinctions between German public and private universities


Tuition Fees

Public Universities

  • Tuition-Free: Many public universities do not charge tuition fees.
  • Baden-Württemberg Exception: Non-EU international students pay EUR 3,000 annually.
  • Contribution Fee: All public universities require a semester contribution fee ranging from EUR 150 to 400 (EUR 300 to 800 annually).
  • Living Expenses: Students should budget approximately EUR 10,400 annually for living costs in Germany.

Private Universities

  • Tuition Fees: Private universities charge tuition fees.
  • Range of Fees: Typically between EUR 10,000 and 20,000 annually.
  • Affordable Options: Some private universities, like IU International University of Applied Sciences, offer programs at around EUR 4,000 to 5,000 annually.
  • Cost Comparison: Despite higher costs than public universities, studying at private universities in Germany is often cheaper than studying in English-speaking countries


Instructional Medium

  • German as Primary Language: Most German public universities use German as the primary language of instruction.
  • English-taught Programs: Some public universities, like FH Aachen, offer fully and partially English-taught courses. There are about 1800 programs taught in English across Germany.
  • Private Universities: Offer more English-taught programs than public universities.

Individualized Care

  • Total Institutions: Around 400 higher education institutions in Germany.
  • Private Universities: Over 120 private universities.
  • International Students:
    • Private Universities: 23,600 international students (Winter 2019-20).
    • Public Universities: 296,300 international students.
  • Class Sizes: Public universities have higher class sizes, whereas private universities offer more individualized attention and smaller class sizes.

Numerus Clausus

  • Definition: “Numerus Clausus” is a system that limits the number of students admitted to specific programs in public universities.
  • Impact: Limited intake at public universities means admission is not guaranteed.
  • Private Universities: Generally do not follow Numerus Clausus, making admissions easier.

Admission Requirements

  • Public Universities: High competition; students must excel academically and extracurricularly.
  • Private Universities: Looser admission requirements; preparation courses are available to bridge academic gaps and guarantee admission upon completion.

Method of Instruction

  • Types of Institutions:
    • Universities: Focus on research and offer a wide range of courses.
    • Universities of Applied Sciences (U.A.S.): Specialize in technical expertise and practical, professional skills.
    • Colleges of Arts and Music: Specialized in arts and music.
  • Private Universities: Most universities of applied sciences (U.A.S.) in Germany offer diverse teaching methods. They include in-person and virtual lectures, workshops, and seminars. Additionally, they provide case studies, projects, conferences, and field visits.
  • Public Universities: Less specialized in teaching techniques, more research-focused.

Dropout Rates

  • Public Universities: High dropout rates (around 30% for first-year bachelor’s programs).
  • Private Universities: Lower dropout rates (around 8%), due to more personalized support and mentoring programs.

Awards for Scholarships

  • Public Universities: Numerous scholarships available, based on need, merit, nationality, etc., along with affordable tuition and semester fees.
  • Private Universities: Fewer scholarships, but increasing. Merit-based scholarships are more common, supporting top students.


Upcoming Possibilities

  • Public Universities: May lack sufficient support services for career development.
  • Private Universities: Emphasize career assistance with specialized career centers offering services like resume reviews, career counseling, and interview techniques.
  • Industry Connections: Private universities often collaborate with businesses, hold career fairs, and facilitate placements, providing better job opportunities for students.


An Overview

Basis Public Universities Private Universities
Tuition Fees Low to no tuition fees. (approx 200-800 euros per year) Generally high, but varies with each university (approximately 4,000-20,000 euros per year)
Medium of Instruction Mostly German, with a few options of English Several programs are available in the English language
Personal Attention Students may not receive personal attention due to large class sizes Smaller class sizes resulting increased personal attention and support
Numerus Clausus Mostly prevalent Usually does not exist at private universities
Admission criteria Strict and competetive Less competitive than public universities.
Teaching style Traditional and research-intensive Modern and innovative using various tools and methods.
Drop out rates Significantly high at 30% Low at 8%
Scholarships Many scholarship options Scholarships are low compared to public universities
future prospects prospects Limited career support services Elaborate career services, mentorship, and guidance


Pros & Cons of Public Universities


Better Services and Facilities:

    • Private universities typically offer higher quality services and facilities compared to public universities. This includes modern classrooms, state-of-the-art labs, better library resources, and enhanced student support services, providing a superior overall educational environment.

Smaller Class Sizes:

    • Class sizes at private universities are often smaller, allowing for more personalized attention from lecturers. This can lead to a better learning experience as students can interact more closely with professors and receive more individualized support.

More Hands-On Learning:

    • Private universities emphasize practical, project-based learning. Many classes involve collaboration with partner companies, offering students real-world experience and practical skills that are highly valued in professional careers.

Help Obtaining a Job:

    • These institutions often have strong career services and are more actively involved in assisting students with job placements. They frequently have partnerships with industry leaders and offer networking opportunities, internships, and job fairs to help students secure employment after graduation.

Easier Admission Process:

    • Admission to private universities is often less competitive compared to public universities. Due to their business model of charging tuition fees, they are more flexible with admission requirements, including standardized test scores like IELTS or TOEFL, making it easier for students to gain entry.


Expensive Tuition Fees:

    • One of the most significant drawbacks of private universities is the high cost of tuition. This can be a substantial financial burden, especially compared to the often low or non-existent tuition fees at public universities in Germany.

Limited International Notoriety:

    • Many private universities in Germany are not as well-known internationally. They may lack the prestige and recognition that some of the top public universities in Germany enjoy, which can be a disadvantage when seeking opportunities abroad.

Frequently Unsuited for a Career in Academia:

    • Private universities tend to focus on practical and professional education rather than research. This makes them less suitable for students who are interested in pursuing a career in academia or research, where a strong emphasis on theoretical knowledge and research output is important.

Guide to Choosing the right German university

Choosing between public and private institutions in Germany becomes simple once you know their key differences. Asking the right questions can help narrow down your options. Here are the main distinctions to consider.

Budgeting as a student

Creating a budget helps focus your university search in Germany. Public institutions offer many scholarship opportunities, making them ideal for students on a tight budget. On the other hand, if you can afford private universities, they offer more flexibility. Remember, when planning your budget, to consider living expenses too.



Private institutions often use modern, practice-focused teaching methods. Students gain professional skills and prepare for the workforce. Lectures include case studies and projects. Additionally, students can participate in seminars and conferences. If this teaching style interests you, a private university might be the better option. In contrast, public institutions may not offer curricula as practical as those at private universities.

Choosing the right location

As an international student in Germany, the location of your university and housing can greatly impact your experience. Living in a large, bustling city like Munich, Cologne, Berlin, or Hamburg can be exciting. These cities offer numerous events, networking opportunities, and employment prospects. However, the pace can feel hectic for some.

On the other hand, residing in smaller cities like Göttingen or Heidelberg can provide a more peaceful student life. Additionally, studying in less crowded places has its perks. You can receive more attention and educational support from your instructors. Moreover, finding comfortable housing is often easier and quicker than in larger cities.

The most popular  program to get enrolled

“Universities of Applied Sciences” make up most private universities in Germany. These schools offer programs in specialized fields like journalism, social work, economics, and technology. Private universities can provide more options for students seeking specialized degrees. On the other hand, public universities offer a broader range of courses. However, they may not offer as many innovative and varied programs as private ones.

Post-study Assistance

Public universities are affordable for independent students. However, student support at public universities is limited. As an international student, you may need help with health, academic management, or career advice. In such cases, consider attending a private university. Private universities offer more personalized attention and guidance.

Networking  with the already enrolled students

You can find answers to your questions by contacting current or former students at your chosen university. Ask about the quality of the curriculum, campus life, off-campus activities, and anything else you want to know. Have detailed discussions with current college students through LINGO. Our SuperMentor program helps prospective students learn more about the colleges and countries they are interested in.

Additional Advice

Even after asking these questions, it’s normal to have reservations. Don’t hesitate to seek more advice in such cases. At LINGO, we can help you create a shortlist of universities based on your preferences and traits. Our expert counselors can guide living, working, and studying in Germany. Set up a video chat with us, and we’ll answer your questions in under an hour!


1. Are German public universities free to attend?

In Germany, public universities offer almost free education. This implies that the contribution fee for students will remain between 100 and 400 euros per semester. Non-EU students may be required to pay tuition at certain public universities.

2. Does Germany’s private university system offer adequate career support?
In Germany, private universities might offer better career assistance than public ones. The majority of private universities typically offer services like industry connections and career guidance.

3. Are public universities in Germany better than private ones? 

Choosing the right university is an individual decision. It is a myth that private universities are inferior to public ones. The level of education at both types of universities is very high. However, there are notable variations in terms of the cost of tuition, mode of instruction, individualized attention, and career guidance.

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