The Best German Universities for International Students

Germany is, after the UK, the second most popular destination for international students wishing to study in Europe. There are nearly 2.8 million young people enrolled at German universities and colleges in undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. More than 340 thousand of them come from abroad. Students in Germany can choose from more than 300 public and 100 private universities and colleges and more than fifteen thousand study courses. Low tuition fees, plenty of scholarships available to international students and good employment prospects in and outside of Europe for those who graduated from the top German universities make Germany a favourite choice among international students (see the guide: Study at a German University). Yet, good German universities are not hard to find as 44 out of the world’s top 700 universities are based in Germany.

Top Universities in Germany for 2017/2018 by QS World Rankings

  1. Technische Universität München (TUM, world rank: 64, down four places from the previous year) has been known for many years as the top German university by most standards. Founded in 1868, TUM is renowned for its world-class research and creative teaching and for strong support it provides to young scientists and researchers. But do not be misled by its name, this university offers not only courses in engineering but also in medicine, natural & life sciences, and economy. It is ranked no. 18 in natural sciences, no. 19 in physics & astronomy, no. 24 in engineering & technology and no. 25 in chemistry worldwide. TUM has over 40,000 students (some 9,600 of them are foreigners) and six corporate research centres. The university owns 35 patents and 165 inventions. Seventeen former graduates are Nobel Prize laureates. Because of its many achievements in the fields of science and engineering, TUM is a joint research partner of Germany’s top engineering giants including Siemens, BMW and Audi.
  2. Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU, world rank: 66 versus 68 a year ago) founded in 1472 is generally recognized as one of the leading academic and research institutions in Europe. The university is ranked no. 12 in philosophy, no. 16 in physics & astronomy, no. 31 in pharmacy & pharmacology, no. 32 in natural sciences, no. 36 in biological sciences, no. 40 in law, no. 44 in life sciences & medicine and no. 56 in arts & humanities worldwide. It is the second largest university in Germany with over 51,000 students (7,800 are foreigners) and it gave the world 42 Nobel Prize winners. LMU has 130 libraries with 6.5 million library volumes. Half a million patients a year are treated in the LMU’s own medical centre.
  3. Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg (world rank: 68 versus 72 last year) founded in 1386 is the oldest German University. It is famous for its strong research and international focus. It is ranked no. 32 in archaeology, no. 35 in physics & astronomy and in philosophy, no. 39 in law, no. 41 in life sciences & medicine and in biological sciences, no. 48 in natural sciences and no. 71 in arts & humanities worldwide. Heidelberg University has nearly 31,000 students, 5,000 researchers and scientists and is associated with 56 former Nobel Prize winners. There are 180 international programmes and 17 research centres. A high percentage of degrees are offered in English and, therefore, over 20% of the students are foreigners.
  4. Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT, world rank: 107, down from the place 98 a year ago) was founded in 2009 by merging two older institutions, namely the University of Karlsruhe and the Karlsruhe Research Centre. The institute is strongly focused on engineering and natural sciences and is very supportive of young entrepreneurs interested in starting their own business. It is ranked no. 29 in natural sciences, no. 31 in physics & astronomy, no. 38 in engineering & technology and no. 49 in materials science worldwide. KIT has more than 25,000 students (4,300 are international students), over 6,000 researchers, it holds 133 inventions and receives more than two million Euros annually from license fees.
  5. Humboldt Universität zu Berlin (HU Berlin, world rank: 120 versus 121 in the previous year) founded in 1811 was built on the educational concept of the liberal Prussian educational reformer Wilhelm von Humboldt. It is one of the Europe’s most prestigious universities in the field of arts and humanities and is ranked no. 14 in philosophy, no. 28 in sociology, no. 29 in geography, no. 33 in linguistics, no. 35 in arts & humanities and no. 70 in social sciences worldwide. HU Berlin has 33,000 students (5,700 come from abroad) and 40 of its former graduates are Nobel Prize laureates. The university operates six scientific institutions and maintains one of the largest libraries in Germany with 6.5 million volumes.
  6. Freie Universität Berlin (FU, world rank: 125 versus 123 a year ago) was founded in 1948 by scholars and students as an Oxford-model campus and was supported through donations from the US during the cold war. FU is famous for its research in the field of humanities and social sciences but also in the area of natural and life sciences. It is ranked no. 10 in archaeology, no. 25 in sociology, no. 35 in pharmacy & pharmacology, no. 37 in arts & humanities and no. 44 in philosophy worldwide. FU has 31,500 students (ca 5,000 foreigners) and five of its current staff members are Nobel Prize laureates. The university maintains one of the greatest botanical gardens in Germany.
  7. Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen (RWTH, world rank: 141 versus 146 in 2016/17) founded in 1870 is the largest technical university in Germany. It is ranked no. 24 in mechanical engineering, no. 26 in natural sciences, no. 33 in engineering & technology as well as in materials science, no. 36 in physics & astronomy and no. 40 in chemistry worldwide. There are over 44,000 students (more than 7,000 of them are foreigners) enrolled in 144 study programmes. RWTH also provides 927 research training programmes. Through its graduates, the university maintains close links with German industrial corporations as one in five board members in major German industrial firms graduated from RWTH.
  8. Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin, world rank: 144, up 20 places from the rank 164 last year) founded in 1879 is best known for its excellent engineering programmes as well as for mathematics, statistics and operations research. It is ranked no. 35 in engineering & technology, no. 50 in mathematics, no. 75 in natural sciences and no. 51-100 in physics & astronomy worldwide. TU Berlin has over 34,000 students, while nearly 20% of them are foreign nationals. Ten of its former graduates have won the Nobel Prize.
  9. Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen (world rank: 164 versus 167 last year) founded in 1477 is one of Germany’s most prestigious universities in the area of natural sciences, medicine and humanities. It is ranked no. 18 in archaeology and no. 93 in arts & humanities worldwide and is linked to 11 Nobel Prize laureates. There are more than 28.000 students (3.400 are foreign) enrolled at 14 faculties. The university operates 17 hospitals and maintains 45 departmental libraries with more than 6.3 million books.
  10. Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg (world rank: 171, down eight places from 163 a year ago) founded in 1457 has a long tradition of teaching natural and social sciences and humanities. It is ranked no. 51-100 in archaeology and no. 102 in life sciences & medicine worldwide. More than 25,000 students are enrolled at its 11 faculties while 4,000 of them come from abroad. 19 former Nobel Prize winners have studied at this university. Uni Freiburg is thought to operate the best career centre in Germany.
  11. Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (GAU, world rank: 181 versus 177 in the previous year) was founded by the King George II of Great Britain in 1734. The university is ranked no. 51-100 in development studies and no. 94 in natural sciences worldwide. GAU has over 31,000 students (3,600 are from abroad) in 13 faculties. Forty-five former students later became Nobel Prize laureates. The university maintains one of the largest libraries for study and research in Europe.
  12. Universität Hamburg (UHH, world rank: 223, up from 232 last year) founded in 1919 is with nearly 43,000 students (over 5.000 foreign nationals) the largest university in northern Germany. UHH is best known for its programmes in arts and humanities but also offers courses in engineering, mathematics, economics and law. It is ranked no. 51-100 in physics & astronomy and no. 105 in natural sciences worldwide. Six of its former students are Nobel Prize laureates.
  13. Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn (Uni Bonn, world rank: 239 down from 231 in the previous year) founded in 1818 offers more than 90 study programmes from a wide spectrum of fields, ranging from mathematics to oriental studies. It is ranked no. 41 in mathematics, no. 51-100 in physics & astronomy as well as in development studies and no. 111 in natural sciences worldwide. Uni Bonn has over 35.000 students (4.400 of those are international students) and is associated with seven former Nobel Prize winners.
  14. Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt Am Main (Goethe University, world rank: 254, up ten spots from 264 in the previous year) founded in 1914 is one of the largest universities in Germany. More than 48,000 students (ca 7,000 are foreign) are enrolled at its 16 faculties. Goethe University is renowned for its past achievements in medicine and natural sciences. Today’s main focus is on history, law and economics. It is ranked no. 27 in philosophy, no. 38 in archaeology and no. 113 in life sciences & medicine worldwide. Eighteen Nobel Prize laureates have been associated with this university.
  15. Universität Stuttgart (Uni Stuttgart, world rank: 259 versus 263 last year) founded in 1829 has a strong focus on technology and engineering. The university is renowned for programmes in automotive & aerospace engineering and automated industrial manufacturing. It is ranked no. 51-100 in mechanical engineering and no. 79 in engineering & technology worldwide. Uni Stuttgart has over 27,000 students enrolled at 10 faculties with 5,300 of them being foreign nationals.
  16. Technische Universität Darmstadt (TU Darmstadt, world rank: 272, down from 247 a year ago) founded in 1877 is a technology focused university that has a high proportion of foreign students (18%) and is especially popular among students from Eastern Europe. Altogether, there are 26,000 students (over 4.700 international students) enrolled in about 100 courses of studies. It is ranked no. 88 in engineering & technology and no. 101-150 in material sciences worldwide. Two former graduates are Nobel Prize laureates.
  17. Technische Universität Dresden (TU Dresden, world rank: 281, down 71 places from 210 a year ago) founded in 1828 is with 35,000 students (4,800 are foreigners) and 14 faculties one of the ten largest universities in Germany. TU Dresden has the best reputation in the fields of photo optics, electrical engineering and engine construction, and computer science. It is ranked no. 51-100 in material sciences, no. 96 in engineering & technology and no. 120 in natural science worldwide.
  18. Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU, world rank: 287, down from 272 last year) founded in 1742 is with nearly 40,000 students (3,600 foreigners) among the ten largest universities in Germany and the second largest university in the state of Bavaria. As a research university, FAU is highly ranked in the fields of technology, engineering and computer science. In particular, it is rated no. 101-150 in material sciences and no. 143 in natural sciences worldwide. The university is affiliated with three Nobel Prize laureates.
  19. Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster (WWU, world rank: 308 versus 294 a year ago) founded in 1780 is one of Germany’s leading research universities, offering a wide range of study courses (over 120 courses). Having almost 44,000 students (more than 3,500 of them from abroad) makes it one of the largest German universities. It is highly ranked in the fields of medicine, chemistry, mathematics and business studies, i.e. being no. 101-150 in law & legal studies and no. 151 in natural science worldwide. WWU is affiliated with two former Nobel Prize winners.
  20. Universität Köln (world rank: 331 versus 347 last year) established in 1388 is one of the oldest and largest German universities offering degrees in a broad range of subjects. It is ranked no. 51-100 in archaeology worldwide. Nearly 49,000 students (6,400 foreign) are enrolled at its six faculties. Three of its former alumni have won the Nobel Prize.
  21. Universität Jena (world rank: 341, an improvement over 363 in the previous year) founded in 1558 is associated with some of the most influential physicists and philosophers of the time. Biological sciences are currently the highest ranked discipline at Uni Jena. There are about 18,000 students in ten schools. Six of the former alumni have won the Nobel Prize.
  22. Universität Ulm (world rank: 357 versus 347 a year ago) founded in 1967 is organized into four faculties, focusing on four major fields, namely the medical science, engineering and computer science, natural sciences, and mathematics and economics. Medicine and life sciences are the university’s highest ranking disciplines. The Ulm University has over 10,000 students.
  23. Universität Konstanz (world rank: 385, down from 352 last year) founded in 1966 is comprised of the faculty of humanities, the faculty of sciences and the faculty of law, economics and politics. Its best ranking study programmes are politics and arts & humanities. Over 11,000 students including 1,400 foreign students from 100 countries are enrolled in more than 100 study programmes.
  24. Universität Mannheim (UMA, world rank: 388, up from the position 411-420 a year ago) founded in 1967 is considered to be the most prestigious business school in Germany. Besides business administration and economics, it is also highly ranked for social and political sciences and business informatics. It is currently rated no. 51-100 in economics & econometrics and no. 65 in social sciences. There are over 12,000 students (1.800 foreign) at UMA.
  25. Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz (Uni Mainz, world rank: 398 versus 401-410 last year) founded in 1477 is with almost 33,000 students among the top ten largest universities in Germany. Uni Mainz is highly regarded for its achievements in natural sciences and economics. Physics and astronomy are currently the highest ranked study programmes.
  26. Leibniz Universität Hannover (world rank: 401-410 versus 400 a year ago) is a science and technology-focused university founded in 1831. There are 26,000 students (2,100 of which are foreigners) enrolled at nine faculties offering 38 fields of study. Material sciences are the university’s highest ranked discipline. Uni Hannover is affiliated with three Nobel Prize laureates in the fields of chemistry and physics.
  27. Ruhr-Universität Bochum (world rank: 401-410, up from 451-460 in the previous year) founded in 1962 is with over 42,000 students (7,200 foreigners) enrolled at 20 faculties one of Germany’s largest universities. This research focused university offers 184 study programmes and is probably best known for its philosophy and natural science courses.
  28. Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (CAU, world rank: 431-440 versus 421-430 last year) founded in 1665 has more than 25,000 students enrolled at eight faculties. The university’s highest ranked discipline is archaeology (51-100 in the world). CAU is associated with eight Nobel Prize laureates in the fields of biology, medicine, chemistry, physics and literature.
  29. Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg (MLU, world rank: 461-470 vs 501-550 a year ago) was founded in 1817 through merger of two older universities and it carries the name of the famous German protestant reformer. There are around 19,000 students in nine faculties, including 1,800 foreign students. The main study areas include theology, law, economics, medicine, philosophy and natural sciences. MLU is in Germany particularly known for its agriculture and forestry courses.
  30. Universität Potsdam (world rank 461-470, ranking N/A last year) is a newcomer to the top German universities as it was not yet rated last year. The Potsdam University is one of the youngest major German universities. It was established in 1991 by merging several smaller educational institutions. It is the largest university in the federal state of Brandenburg with more than 20,000 students. The faculty of philosophy and the faculty of mathematics & science are the most popular among its students. Strong emphasis is placed on teacher training. The Potsdam University offers more than 100 degree courses, many of them taught in English and French.
  31. Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (world rank: 481-490, down from 421-430 in the previous year) founded in 1402 is a research-focused university with nearly 29,000 students in ten faculties with study programmes ranging from theology and law to biology, physics and economics. The highest rated discipline is pharmacy & pharmacology. The University of Würzburg is affiliated with 14 Nobel Prize laureates in the fields of physics, chemistry and medicine.
  32. Universität Bremen (world rank: 481-490 vs 441-450 a year ago) founded in 1971 has 23,500 students from more than 120 countries studying a variety of subjects, ranging from engineering, physics and mathematics to microbiology and political sciences. The highest rated discipline is earth & marine sciences ranked no. 50 in the world.
  33. Technische Universität Braunschweig (world rank: 501-550, down from the position 471-480 last year) founded in 1745 is the oldest technical university and also one of the highest-ranked technical universities in Germany. TU Braunschweig has 20,000 students (2,400 of them are foreigners) enrolled at six faculties. The highest ranked field is mechanical engineering.
  34. Universität des Saarlandes (world rank: 501-550, unchanged from the previous year) was founded in 1948 with support of the French government. This modern university offers many interdisciplinary courses along traditional ones taught at eight faculties in German and in French. Computer science and life sciences are among the highest rated courses. Out of its 17,000 students, 2,800 come from abroad.
  35. Universität Hohenheim (world rank 501-550, unrated last year) appears for the first time among the top German universities because it wasn’t ranked in previous years. The Hohenheim University was established in 1818 after a massive famine as an agricultural and natural sciences university. The highest ranked study field today is bioeconomy. Nearly 10,000 students are currently enrolled at the Hohenheim University.
  36. Universität Leipzig (world rank: 501-550, the same as a year ago) founded in 1409 is the second oldest university in Germany when measured by years of uninterrupted operation (Universität Köln and Universität Würzburg, though older, were closed and reopen). Among its alumni are nine Nobel Prize winners as well as the prime minister of Germany Angela Merkel. More than 29,000 students are enrolled at 14 faculties offering 190 study courses. Uni Leipzig is ranked second in Germany by the number of scientific online publications. Linguistics is the university’s highest ranked discipline.
  37. Universität Regensburg (world rank: 501-550, unchanged over the previous year) was established in 1962 and currently has 21,000 students (1.400 are foreign) enrolled at nine faculties. Uni Regensburg is highly regarded for its courses in chemistry and natural sciences. The most prominent academic associated with the university is the previous pope Benedict XVI.
  38. Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen (world rank: 551-600, up from 651-700 last year) was founded in 1607 and was later named after one of its famous scholars from the 19th century Justus von Liebig, an inventor of modern agricultural fertilizers. Though a public university itself, it operates the only private university hospital in Germany. Uni Giessen has over 28,000 students (2.300 international) enrolled at 11 faculties while English language and linguistics are its best rated study courses.
  39. Philipps-Universität Marburg (world rank: 551-600, the same as a year ago) founded in 1527 by protestants has long been a humanities-focused university (i.e., philosophy, theology) although today it does not have any religious affiliation. The university has more than 26,000 students while 3,200 of them come from abroad. Its highest ranked courses include pharmacy & pharmacology as well as life sciences & medicine. Like many other universities in Germany, Uni Marburg operates its own hospital.
  40. Universität Bayreuth (world rank: 551-600 vs 501-550 last year) founded in 1975 is a modern public university widely known for offering a range of interdisciplinary courses. It is highest ranked for geography courses but its courses in economics and law are also among the best rated in Germany. The university is organized into six faculties and has around 13,000 students (more than a thousand of them are foreign).
  41. Technische Universität Dortmund (world rank: 601-650 versus 551-600 in the previous year) founded in 1968 is highly regarded in the areas of chemical engineering, electrical engineering and physics. The university has about 34,000 students enrolled at 16 faculties while 9% of them come from foreign countries.
  42. Universität Duisburg-Essen (world rank: 601-650, unchanged over the last year) founded in 1654 is with ca 43,000 students (including 7,600 foreigners) one of the ten largest universities in Germany. The highest ranked disciplines include mathematics and life sciences & medicine.
  43. Universität Bielefeld (world rank: 651-700 vs 601-650 last year) founded in 1969 is a modern university with focus on interdisciplinary research. The university is comprised of 13 faculties while it is probably best known for its highly ranked faculty of sociology (no. 51-100 in the world). There are 24,000 students and 1,700 of them are foreigners.
  44. Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf (HHU, world rank: 651-700 versus 601-650 a year ago) founded in 1965 is comprised of the faculty of medicine, the faculty of arts and humanities, the faculty of mathematics and natural sciences, the faculty of economics and the faculty of law. Ca 4,100 of its 32,000 students come from abroad. Pharmacy & pharmacology, and medicine are the highest ranked study disciplines of HHU.
  45. Universität Rostock (world rank: 801-1000, down from 651-700 last year) founded in 1419 is the third oldest university in Germany. Uni Rostock has nearly 14,000 students (1,000 international) in nine faculties and five of its former alumni have won the Nobel Prize, i.e. three of them in physics and two in medicine. Physics & astronomy is currently the most prestigious study course at the University of Rostock.

In the academic year 2017/18, 45 of the best German universities made it to the list of top 1,000 universities in the world. QS University World Rankings for 2017/18 were based on a review of the world’s top 1,103 universities as compared to reviewing 916 universities in 2016/17. A higher number of reviewed universities in the academic year 2017/18 compared with the previous year explains a slight drop in the overall rankings of major German universities. All of the top 45 German universities included in this review are public universities. Visit topuniversities.com for rankings by study subject and for methodology or further details.