Public universities in Germany are owned and funded by the federal states, whereas private universities are independently owned and funded by private individuals or organizations. There are currently more than 400 higher education institutions in Germany, with around two thirds being public and one third being private.
Features of public universities in Germany
Public universities in Germany offer a range of benefits, especially also for international students, making it an attractive destination for education. They have a reputation for offering high-quality education, established exchange programs with universities abroad, a network with the regional economy and often many programs taught in English.
Diversity and research excellence
Due to their open admissions policies, public universities tend to have more students and a more diverse student body. However, there are also differences between the universities. For example, at IGC – as part of Hochschule Bremen, a public University of Applied Sciences – there are small student groups of about 25 students from all over the world. In addition, public universities often offer research opportunities such as access to state-of-the-art research facilities, laboratories, and libraries.
No or low tuition fees
Public universities in Germany do not charge tuition for first-degree programs in order to make them accessible to students from all backgrounds. Tuition fees may be charged for a second degree, but there are differences from state to state. For part-time students or for international students who study for a Master's or MBA in Germany, tuition fees are usually charged at public universities, but they are low compared to many other countries, making higher education more affordable for foreign students. Please keep in mind: All universities in Germany charge a semester fee which covers administrative expenses, student services, and sometimes, public transportation.
International student support
Public universities in Germany have dedicated international offices that offer support to foreign students, including visa application assistance, language courses, and advice on accommodation and other practical matters (check out our International Student Assistance and the HSB International Office).
Features of private universities in Germany
Private universities in Germany have very different orientations and specializations. They often offer very specialized programs that are not available at public universities.
Small class sizes and interdisciplinary learning
Private universities in Germany typically have smaller class sizes than public universities, which allows for more personalized instruction and mentorship opportunities for students. Many private universities also emphasize interdisciplinary learning, giving students the chance to explore different fields of study and gain valuable skills outside of their major area of focus. Additionally, private universities often have strong networks with industry partners that can help students find internships or job opportunities after graduation.
Diversity and programs taught in English
Student groups are often not as diverse as at public universities, and the range of English-taught courses available specifically for international students is in most cases not comparable to that at public universities. However, there are differences between the private universities, and there are also institutions that specialize in English-taught programs.
Higher tuition fees
When it comes to tuition fees, private universities tend to be significantly more expensive than public universities. Payment must be made for each program of study, including the first degree. Tuition fees range from 4,000 Euros to 20,000 Euros per semester depending on the program chosen.
Since the Bologna higher education reform, all degree programs, whether offered at private or state universities in Germany, undergo the same accreditation process. This not only ensures quality, but also standardization.
Consider all of these factors carefully
Overall, there are significant differences between public and private universities in Germany when it comes to cost, size of student body, diversity of student population, courses offered, research opportunities available and more. Please note that there are exceptions to these general differences and that individual universities may vary in their characteristics and approach. When deciding which type of university is right for you, it is important to weigh all these factors carefully before making your final decision. We wish you much success!