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 three hundred 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 43 out of the top 700 universities worldwide are in Germany.

Top Universities in Germany for 2016/2017 by QS World Rankings

  1. Technische Universität München (TUM, world rank: 60, unchanged from the previous year) founded in 1868 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. 17 in physics & astronomy and no. 19 in natural sciences worldwide. TUM has over 39,000 students (some 8,600 of them are foreigners) and six corporate research centres. The university owns 35 patents and 165 inventions. Thirteen 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: 68 versus 75 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. 13 in physics & astronomy and no. 33 in natural sciences worldwide. It is the second largest university in Germany with over 50,000 students (7,400 are foreigners) and it gave the world 34 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: 72 versus 66 last year) founded in 1386 is the oldest German University. It is famous for its strong research and international focus. It is ranked no. 23 in archaeology and no. 54 in life sciences & medicine worldwide. Heidelberg University has more than 30,000 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, 20% of the students are foreigners.
  4. Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT, world rank: 98 versus 93 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. 23 in physics & astronomy and no. 34 in natural science worldwide. KIT has nearly 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: 121 versus 126 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 and no. 27 in arts & humanities worldwide. HU Berlin has more than 34,000 students (5,700 come from abroad) and 29 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: 123 versus 119 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. 11 in archaeology and no. 37 in arts & humanities worldwide. FU has 29,000 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: 146 versus 145 in 2015/16) founded in 1870 is the largest technical university in Germany. It is ranked no. 20 in mechanical engineering and no. 46 in natural science worldwide. There are over 42,000 students (ca 7,000 of them are foreigners) 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. Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg (world rank: 163 down from 133 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. 100 in life sciences & medicine worldwide. 24,000 students are enrolled at its 11 faculties while 3,900 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.
  9. Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin, world rank: 164, an improvement from 178 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. 45 in mathematics and no. 47 in engineering & technology worldwide. TU Berlin has 34,000 students, while nearly 20% of them are foreign nationals. Ten of its former graduates have won the Nobel Prize.
  10. Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen (world rank: 167 versus 173 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. 16 in archaeology and no. 94 in arts & humanities worldwide. 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.
  11. Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (GAU, world rank: 177 versus 168 in the previous year) was founded by the King George II of Great Britain in 1734. The university is ranked no. 36 in development studies and no. 128 in natural sciences worldwide. GAU has nearly 28,000 students (3,300 are from abroad) in 13 faculties. 45 former students later became Nobel Prize laureates. The university maintains one of the largest libraries for study and research in Europe.
  12. Technische Universität Dresden (TU Dresden, world rank: 210 versus 227 a year ago) founded in 1828 is with 37,000 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 and no. 139 in natural science worldwide.
  13. Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn (Uni Bonn, world rank: 231 down from 210 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 and no. 153 in natural sciences worldwide. Uni Bonn has 32.500 students (4.000 of those are international students) and is associated with seven former Nobel Prize winners.
  14. Universität Hamburg (UHH, world rank: 232 versus 219 last year) founded in 1919 is with 42,000 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. 45 in physics & astronomy and no. 110 in natural science worldwide. Five of its former students are Nobel Prize laureates.
  15. Technische Universität Darmstadt (TU Darmstadt, world rank: 247 versus 246 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 25,000 students enrolled in about 100 courses of studies. It is ranked no. 51-100 in material sciences and no. 109 in engineering & technology worldwide. Two former graduates are Nobel Prize laureates.
  16. Universität Stuttgart (Uni Stuttgart, world rank: 263 versus 251 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. 42 in mechanical engineering and no. 107 in engineering & technology worldwide. Uni Stuttgart has nearly 25,000 students enrolled at 10 faculties with 4,900 of them being foreign nationals.
  17. Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt Am Main (Goethe University, world rank: 264 versus 243 in the previous year) founded in 1914 is one of the largest universities in Germany. More than 44,000 students (6,600 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. 28 in philosophy and no. 114 in life sciences & medicine worldwide. 18 Nobel Prize laureates have been associated with this university.
  18. Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU, world rank: 272, an improvement from 292 last year) founded in 1742 is with 39,000 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. 51-100 in material sciences and no. 149 in natural science worldwide. The university is affiliated with three Nobel Prize laureates.
  19. Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster (WWU, world rank: 294 versus 256 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 43,000 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. 141 in natural science and no. 101-150 in law & legal studies worldwide. WWU is affiliated with two former Nobel Prize winners.
  20. Universität Köln (world rank: 347 versus 331 last year) founded in 1388 is one of the oldest and largest German universities offering degrees in a broad range of subjects. It is ranked no. 45 in archaeology and no. 168 in arts & humanities worldwide. More than 48,000 students (6,300 foreign) are enrolled at its six faculties. Three of its former alumni have won the Nobel Prize.
  21. Universität Ulm (world rank: 347 versus 338 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 about 9,200 students.
  22. Universität Konstanz (world rank: 352 versus 319 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. Nearly 12,000 students including 1,400 foreign students from 100 countries are enrolled in more than 100 study programmes.
  23. Universität Jena (world rank: 363 versus 381 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 19,000 students in ten schools. Six of the former alumni have won the Nobel Prize.
  24. Leibniz Universität Hannover (world rank: 400 versus 366 a year ago) is a science and technology 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.
  25. Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz (Uni Mainz, world rank: 401-410 versus 375 last year) founded in 1477 is with 36,500 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. Universität Mannheim (UMA, world rank: 411-420 versus 394 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. 50 in economics & econometrics and no. 75 in social sciences. There are over 12,000 students at UMA.
  27. Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (world rank: 421-430 versus 401-410 in the previous year) founded in 1402 is a research 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 as no. 101-150 in the world. University of Würzburg is affiliated with 14 Nobel Prize laureates in the fields of physics, chemistry and medicine.
  28. Christian-Albrechts-Universität Zu Kiel (CAU, world rank: 421-430 versus 401-410 last year) founded in 1665 has more than 24,000 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. Universität Bremen (world rank: 441-450 versus 351 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 51-100 in the world.
  30. Ruhr-Universität Bochum (world rank: 451-460 versus 421-430 in the previous year) founded in 1962 is with 43,000 students (5,700 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.
  31. Technische Universität Braunschweig (world rank: 471-480 versus 501-550 last year) founded in 1745 is the oldest technical university and also one of the highest-ranked technical universities in Germany. TU Braunschweig has 19,000 students (2,300 of them are foreigners) enrolled in six departments. The highest ranked field is mechanical engineering.
  32. Universität Leipzig (world rank: 501-550 versus 384 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 28,000 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.
  33. Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg (MLU, world rank: 501-550, unchanged from the previous year) was founded in 1817 through merger of two older universities and it carries the name of the famous German protestant reformer. There are around 20,000 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.
  34. University of Bayreuth (world rank: 501-550 versus 451-460 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 12,000 students (1,000 of them are foreign).
  35. 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 18,000 students, 2,900 come from abroad.
  36. Universität Regensburg (world rank: 501-550 versus 461-470 last year) was founded in 1962 and currently has 22,000 students (1.400 are foreign) enrolled at nine faculties. Uni Regensburg is highly regarded for its courses in chemistry and natural science. The most prominent academic associated with the university is the previous pope Benedict XVI.
  37. Philipps-Universität Marburg (world rank: 551-600 versus 491-500 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 25,000 students while 2,700 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.
  38. Technische Universität Dortmund (world rank: 551-600 versus 491-500 in the previous year) founded in 1968 is highly regarded in the areas of chemical engineering, electrical engineering and physics. The university has about 33,000 students enrolled at 16 faculties while 9% of them come from foreign countries.
  39. Universität Bielefeld (world rank: 601-650 versus 501-550 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.
  40. Universität Duisburg-Essen (world rank: 601-650 versus 551-600 in the previous year 2015/16) founded in 1654 is with ca 40,000 students (including 7,100 foreigners) one of the ten largest universities in Germany. The highest ranked disciplines include mathematics and life sciences & medicine.
  41. Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf (HHU, world rank: 601-650 versus 551-600 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. 3,400 of its 26,500 students come from abroad. Pharmacy & pharmacology, and medicine are the highest ranked study disciplines of HHU.
  42. Justus-Liebig-University Giessen (world rank: 651-700 vs 601-650 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 28,000 students (2.300 international) enrolled at 11 faculties while English language and linguistics are its best rated study courses.
  43. Universität Rostock (world rank: 651-700 vs 551-600 a year ago) founded in 1419 is the third oldest university in Germany. Uni Rostock has over 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 for physics and two for medicine. Physics & astronomy is currently the most prestigious study course at the University of Rostock.

QS University World Rankings for 2016/17 are based on a review of the world’s top 916 universities as compared to reviewing 891 universities in 2015/16. A higher number of reviewed universities in the academic year 2016/17 compared with the previous year explains a slight drop in the overall rankings of German universities. All of the top 43 German universities included in this review are public universities. Visit topuniversities.com for rankings by study subject and for methodology or further details.