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Germany is, after the UK, the second most popular destination for international university students wishing to study in Europe. There are nearly three million young people enrolled at German universities and colleges in undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. Approximately 460 thousand of them come from abroad, that is, a ca. 16% share. 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 49 out of the world’s top 1,500 universities for AY 2023-2024 are based in Germany.
Top Universities in Germany for AY 2023-2024 by QS World Rankings
- Technische Universität München (TUM, world rank: 37, an improvement over the 49th place in 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. Chemistry, physics and engineering & technology are the university’s highest ranked disciplines. TUM has eleven faculties offering 182 study courses, over 52,000 students (some 44% of them are foreigners) and six corporate research centres. The university owns 35 patents and 165 inventions. Sixteen 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.
- Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU, world rank: 54 versus 59 a year ago) founded in 1472 is generally recognized as one of the leading academic and research institutions in Europe. The university achieves the highest rankings in the fields of philosophy, physics & astronomy and pharmacology. It is the second largest university in Germany with about 52,000 students (17% are foreigners) who study at 18 faculties and it gave the world 43 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.
- Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg (world rank: 87, down from the position no. 65 last year) founded in 1386 is the oldest German University. It is famous for its strong research and international focus. Life sciences & medicine, natural sciences and archeology are the university’s best rated disciplines. Heidelberg University has around 30,000 students, 5,000 researchers and scientists and is associated with 33 former Nobel Prize winners. There are twelve faculties, 160 academic disciplines to choose from and 17 research centres. A high percentage of degrees are offered in English and, therefore, ca. 20% of the students are foreigners.
- Freie Universität Berlin (FU, world rank: 98 versus 118 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. The highest ranked disciplines include political sciences, followed by history, linguistics and communication sciences. FU has more than 38,500 students (ca 21% foreigners) and five of its current staff members are Nobel Prize laureates. The university maintains one of the greatest botanical gardens in Germany.
- Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen (RWTH, world rank: 106, a major upgrade versus 147 last year) founded in 1870 is the second largest technical university in Germany. The university achieves the highest rankings in the fields of mechanical engineering and engineering & technology. There are over 47,000 students (nearly 18% of them are foreigners) enrolled in 150 study programmes at nine faculties. RWTH also provides over 900 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. Moreover, five Nobel Prize winners are associated with this university.
- Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT, world rank: 119, up from the place 141 a year ago) was founded in 2009 by merging two older institutions, namely the University of Karlsruhe and the Karlsruhe Research Centre. KIT has eleven faculties that offer 43 study courses. The institute is strongly focused on engineering and natural sciences and is very supportive of young entrepreneurs interested in starting their own business. As a result, engineering & technology and natural sciences are the highest rated disciplines at this university. KIT has more than 22,000 students (ca 18% are international students), over 6,000 researchers, six Nobel Prize laureates are affiliated with KIT, it holds 133 inventions and receives more than two million Euros annually from license fees.
- Humboldt Universität zu Berlin (HU Berlin, world rank: 120 versus 131 in the previous year) founded in 1810 was built on the educational concept of the liberal Prussian educational reformer Wilhelm von Humboldt. It is one of Europe’s most prestigious universities in the field of arts and humanities. Thus, arts & humanities and philosophy & history belong to the highest ranked disciplines at this university. HU Berlin has 35,000 students (15% come from abroad) and 40 of its former graduates are Nobel Prize laureates while altogether 57 Nobel Prize laureates are or were associated with this university. The HU Berlin is made up of nine faculties and two independent institutes. The university operates six scientific institutions and maintains one of the largest libraries in Germany with 6.5 million volumes.
- Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin, world rank: 154, up four spots from the rank 158 last year) founded in 1879 is best known for its excellent engineering programmes as well as for mathematics, statistics and operations research. Therefore, unsurprisingly, engineering & technology and mathematics are the highest rated disciplines. TU Berlin comprises seven faculties offering over 100 study courses. It has ca 32,000 students, while as many as 29% of them are foreign nationals. Ten of its former graduates have won the Nobel Prize.
- Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg (UFR, world rank: 192, down three places from 189 a year ago) founded in 1457 has a long tradition of teaching natural and social sciences and humanities but today it is also highly ranked in life sciences & medicine. More than 24,000 students are enrolled at its 11 faculties while 18% of them come from abroad. 23 Nobel Prize winners have studied or worked at this university. Uni Freiburg is thought to operate the best career centre in Germany.
- Universität Hamburg (UHH, world rank: 205, up from 228 last year) founded in 1919 is with nearly 43,000 students (ca 14% are foreign nationals) the largest university in northern Germany. Eight faculties offer around 170 study programmes. UHH is best known for its programmes in arts and humanities but also offers courses in engineering, mathematics, economics and law. The highest ranked disciplines at UHH are physics & astronomy and natural sciences. Six of its former students are Nobel Prize laureates.
- Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen (world rank: 213 versus 169 last year) founded in 1477 is one of Germany’s most prestigious universities in the area of natural sciences, medicine and humanities. The highest ranked disciplines are theology and philosophy of religion. This institution is linked to 11 Nobel Prize laureates. There are more than 28.000 students (about 14% are foreign) enrolled at seven faculties and ca 60 study programmes. The university operates 17 hospitals and maintains 45 departmental libraries with more than 6.3 million books.
- Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU, world rank: 229, a major improvement over the no. 340 a year ago) founded in 1742 is with ca. 39,700 students (16% are foreigners) in four faculties 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 total, it offers 260 degree programmes. The university is affiliated with six Nobel Prize laureates.
- Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (GAU, world rank: 232 versus 215 in the previous year) was founded by the King George II of Great Britain in 1734. The university’s highest ranking fields are development studies and natural sciences. GAU has around 28,500 students (15% are from abroad) in thirteen faculties. Forty-five former students later became Nobel Prize laureates. The university maintains one of the largest libraries for study and research in Europe.
- Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn (Uni Bonn, world rank: 239, down from 201 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. At the moment, mathematics, physics & astronomy and economics are its highest ranked disciplines. Uni Bonn has over 33.000 students (17% of those are international students) and eleven Nobel Prize winners are alumni of Uni Bonn.
- Technische Universität Darmstadt (TU Darmstadt, world rank: 246, up from 275 a year ago) founded in 1877 is a technology focused university that has a high proportion of foreign students (19%, while in electrical engineering it is 75%) and is especially popular among students from Eastern Europe. Altogether, there are more than 24,000 students enrolled in about 100 courses of studies. Computer science is the highest rated discipline followed by engineering & technology. Four former graduates are Nobel Prize laureates.
- Technische Universität Dresden (TU Dresden or TUD, world rank: 246, down from the no. 200 last year) founded in 1828 is with around 31,000 students (approximately 18% are foreigners) and 17 faculties (offering 124 study courses) one of the ten largest universities in Germany. TU Dresden has the best reputation in the fields of photo optics, electrical engineering & engine construction and computer science.
- Universität zu Köln (world rank: 268, a major upgrade versus 335 a year ago) established in 1388 is one of the oldest and largest German universities offering degrees in a broad range of subjects. The highest rankings are achieved in the fields of archeology (internationally) and in business administration, economics and law (domestically). Over 44,500 students (14% are foreign) are enrolled at its six faculties in about 100 study programmes. Five of its former alumni or professors have won the Nobel Prize.
- Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main (Goethe University, world rank: 302, up twenty-six spots from 328 in the previous year) founded in 1914 is one of the largest universities in Germany. Approximately 43,000 students (ca 16% are foreign nationals) are enrolled at its 16 faculties. The Goethe University is renowned for its past achievements in medicine and natural sciences. Today’s main focus is on history, law and economics whereas, paradoxically, alongside philosophy and archeology, biology and life sciences & medicine are the highest rated study disciplines. Eighteen Nobel Prize laureates have been associated with this university.
- Universität Stuttgart (Uni Stuttgart, world rank: 312 versus 355 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. Hence, it achieves the best rankings in the fields of mechanical and aeronautical engineering and in engineering & technology. Uni Stuttgart has ca 22,000 students enrolled at 10 faculties whereas 21% of them are foreign nationals. Five Nobel Prize laureates (four in physics and one in chemistry) are associated with Uni Stuttgart.
- Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB, world rank: 375, up from 416 in the previous year) founded in 1962 is with nearly 42,000 students (16% of foreigners) enrolled at 21 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.
- Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster (WWU, world rank: 384 remains unchanged from last year) founded in 1780 is one of Germany’s leading research universities, offering a wide range of study courses (ca 280 courses) at 15 departments (faculties). Having over 44,000 students (around 8% 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. WWU is affiliated with three former Nobel Prize winners.
- Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen (JLU, world rank: 396, a major upgrade vs no. 490 in the previous 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. JLU has over 26,000 students (13% international) enrolled at 11 faculties while English language and linguistics are its best rated study courses. There are five Nobel Prize laureates among the university’s former professors.
- Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (world rank: 440, down from 410 last year) founded in 1402 is a research-focused university with more than 27,000 students (9% are international) in ten faculties with study programmes ranging from theology and law to biology, physics and economics, numbering altogether 255 degree programmes. 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.
- Universität Mannheim (UMA, world rank: 454, up from the position 541-550 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 psychology. There are nearly 11,000 students (14% are foreign) at five faculties that make up the UMA.
- Universität Potsdam (world rank 460 versus 601-650 last year) 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 22,000 students (foreigners make up 14%). The faculty of philosophy and the faculty of mathematics & science are the most popular among its students. Strong emphasis is placed on teacher training. Computer science is the university’s highest rated study programme. The Potsdam University offers more than 100 degree courses, many of them taught in English and French.
- Universität Jena (world rank: 461, down from the position 352 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, incl. 14% of international students. Six of the former alumni have won the Nobel Prize.
- Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz (Uni Mainz, world rank: 464 versus 420 last year) founded in 1477 is with more than 31,000 students (14% come from abroad) among the top ten largest universities in Germany. Uni Mainz is highly regarded for its achievements in natural sciences. Physics, chemistry and pharmacy & pharmacology are currently the highest ranked study programmes.
- Universität Konstanz (world rank: 478, an upgrade from 541-550 last year) founded in 1966 is comprised of the faculty of humanities, the faculty of sciences and the faculty of law, economics & politics. Its best ranking study programmes are politics and arts & humanities. Over 10,000 students, including a 14% share of foreign students from 100 countries, are enrolled in more than 100 study programmes.
- Universität Leipzig (world rank: 479, down from the place 420 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 and professors are/were 19 Nobel Prize winners as well as the former prime minister of Germany Angela Merkel. More than 30,000 students (11% of them are foreigners) 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.
- Leibniz Universität Hannover (world rank: 481, an upgrade over 601-650 in the previous year) is a science and technology-focused university founded in 1831. There are 28,000 students (14% 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.
- Universität Bayreuth (world rank: 509 vs 511-520 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 seven faculties and has around 12,500 students (nearly 14% of them are foreign).
- Universität Bremen (world rank: 514, an improvement over 601-650 in the previous year) founded in 1971 has 19,000 students from more than 120 countries studying a variety of subjects, ranging from engineering, physics and mathematics to microbiology and political sciences. The share of international students is 18%. The highest rated discipline is earth & marine sciences.
- Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (CAU, world rank: 530 versus 521-530 last year) founded in 1665 has more than 27,000 students (8% international) enrolled at eight faculties and offers 190 study courses. The university’s highest ranked discipline is archaeology. CAU is associated with twelve Nobel Prize laureates in the fields of biology, medicine, chemistry, physics and literature.
- Universität Ulm (world rank: 542, a downgrade from 375 a year ago) founded in 1967 is organized into four faculties, focusing on four major fields, namely the medical science, engineering & computer science, natural sciences and mathematics & economics, altogether offering around 60 degree programmes. Medicine and life sciences are the university’s highest ranking disciplines. The Ulm University has over 10,000 students, ca. 13% of them are foreigners.
- Universität des Saarlandes Saarbrücken (world rank: 600, down from 441 in 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 six faculties in German and in French. Computer science, romance studies and life sciences are among the highest rated courses. Out of its nearly 17,000 students, 18% come from abroad.
- Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg (MLU, world rank: 611-620 vs 477 last 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 21,000 students in nine faculties, including 9% of foreign students. The main study areas include theology, law, economics, medicine, philosophy and natural sciences. MLU is in Germany particularly well known for its agriculture and forestry courses. Four Nobel Prize laureates have been associated with this institution.
- Universität Hohenheim (world rank 651-660, an upgrade from the position 801-1000 a year ago) located in Stuttgart was established in 1818 after a massive famine as an agricultural and natural sciences university. In line with its original mission, the highest ranked study field today is agricultural bioeconomy. Nearly 9,000 students are currently enrolled at the Hohenheim University while foreigners make up 14% of this number.
- Universität Regensburg (world rank: 741-750 versus 581-590 in the previous year) was established in 1962 and currently has 20,000 students (8% of them are foreign nationals) enrolled at twelve 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.
- Technische Universität Braunschweig (world rank: 751-760, down from the position 601-650 last year) founded in 1745 is the oldest technical university and also one of the highest-ranked technical universities in Germany. TU Braunschweig has almost 17,000 students (15% of them are foreigners) enrolled at six faculties. The highest ranked field is mechanical engineering.
- Philipps-Universität Marburg (world rank: 761-770 vs 751-800 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 ca. 23,000 students while 14% 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. Eleven of its alumni or professors won Nobel Prize.
- Universität Rostock (world rank: 761-770, down from 601-650 last year) founded in 1419 is the third oldest university in Germany. Uni Rostock has nearly 13,000 students (11% of them are international) in ten 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.
- Universität Duisburg-Essen (world rank: 771-780, up from 801-1000 in the previous year) founded in 1654 is with ca 41,000 students (including a 15% share of foreigners) and eleven faculties which offer 261 study courses one of the ten largest universities in Germany. The highest ranked disciplines include mathematics and life sciences & medicine.
- Heinrich Heine Universität Düsseldorf (HHU, world rank: 801-850 vs 751-800 a year ago) founded in 1965 is comprised of the faculty of medicine, the faculty of arts & humanities, the faculty of mathematics & natural sciences, the faculty of economics and the faculty of law. Ca 11% of its 36,000 students come from abroad. Pharmacy & pharmacology and medicine are the highest ranked study disciplines of HHU.
- Technische Universität Dortmund (world rank: 851-900 vs 801-1000 in the previous year) founded in 1968 is highly regarded in the areas of chemical engineering, electrical engineering and physics. The university has more than 32,000 students enrolled at 17 faculties while 13% of them come from foreign countries.
- Universität Bielefeld (world rank: 951-1000 vs 1001-1200 last year) founded in 1969 is a modern university with focus on interdisciplinary research. The university is comprised of 14 faculties offering 90 degree courses. While it is probably best known for its highly ranked faculty of sociology, it also scores well in mathematics. There are over 24,000 students and 7% of them are foreigners.
- Universität Siegen (world rank: 1001-1200, unchanged from the previous year) was established in 1972 as a successor to Universität-Gesamthochschule Siegen to become a research-focused public university. Currently there are nearly 15,000 students (while about 12% come from foreign countries) at five faculties, studying in ca 100 degree programmes.
- Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg (TUBAF, world rank: 1401-1500, unrated in the previous year) is a technical university specialized in mining and metallurgy. Established in 1765, it is the oldest existing mining university in the world. Since it is highly specialized, it is relatively small, with only about 3,500 students enrolled in 13 study programmes. Ca. 40% of its students are foreigners. TUBAF ranks no. 12 worldwide in mining.
- Technische Universität Hamburg (TUHH, world rank: 1401-1500, not ranked a year ago) established in 1978 is one of Germany’s youngest technical universities. There are ca 7,700 students at TUHH pursuing about 30 different degree programmes at eight schools of study. International students account for 22% of the total number.
- Rheinland-Pfälzische Technische Universität Kaiserslautern-Landau (RPTU, world rank: 1401-1500, not rated last year) is a result of a merger of the Technical University of Kaiserslautern (founded in 1970) and the University of Koblenz and Landau (founded in 1990) that happened on January 1st, 2023. At the moment about 20,000 students are enrolled at 12 faculties of the RPTU.
In the academic year 2023-2024, 49 of the best German universities made it to the list of top 1,500 universities in the world. QS University World Rankings for 2024 are based on a review of the world’s top 1,500 universities as compared to reviewing 1,422 universities for 2023. A higher number of reviewed universities in the academic year 2023-2024 compared with the previous year explains a slight increase in the number of rated German universities (49 vs 46 a year ago). All of the top 49 German universities included in this review are public universities. Visit topuniversities.com for rankings by study subject and for methodology or further details. Alternatively, if you are interested in how students and professors in Germany view their universities check out also the CHE ranking.
Top German Universities FAQs
What is the no. 1 university in Germany?
Die Technische Universität München (the Technical University of Munich in English) has been the no. 1 ranked university in Germany for many years now. For the academic year 2023-2024, it was ranked no. 37 in the world by QS World University Rankings.
What are the top 5 universities in Germany?
For the academic year 2023-2024, the top 5 German universities according to the QS World University Rankings are the Technical University of Munich (world rank 37), followed by the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (WR 54), the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg (WR 87), the Free University of Berlin (WR 98) and the RWTH Aachen University (WR 106).
What is the no. 1 German university for engineering studies?
The Technical University of Munich is the no. 1 German university for engineering by QS World University Rankings for AY 2023-24. In fact, in the subject ‘engineering & technology’ it ranks no. 28 in the world, the highest rank of all German universities. In ‘electrical & electronic engineering’ it is no. 18 worldwide but, surprisingly, in ‘mechanical engineering’ it is at no. 20, the second best German university after the RWTH Aachen University at no. 19.
What is the highest ranked German university for life sciences?
The Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg, better known as the University of Heidelberg, is the highest ranked German university in ‘medicine and life sciences’ at no. 39 in the world by QS World University Rankings (AY 2023-24).
What is the best German university for natural sciences?
The Technical University of Munich is the best ranked German university for natural sciences at no. 28 in the world by QS World University Rankings (AY 2023-24). It is no. 15 in ‘physics & astronomy’ and no. 22 in ‘chemistry’ worldwide, the highest positions of all German universities. However, in ‘mathematics’ it is at no. 43, the second best after the Rhenish Friedrich Wilhelm University of Bonn at no. 39.
What are German universities best known for?
German universities are best known for combining academic studies with scientific research and thus producing first class scientists who guarantee them a steady income stream from patents and innovations. Moreover, the so-called technical universities are well known for their practical focus as they are closely linked to the German industry.
Which study programme at German universities is best?
German universities are internationally best known for their engineering study programmes. German engineering degrees are highly respected and recognized across the whole world.
Which degrees from German universities are the most valuable in Germany?
The university degrees that guarantee you the best chances in the German labour market include diplomas in medicine & life sciences (e.g., biotechnology and, particularly, nursing), law, various fields of mechanical and electrical engineering & technology (e.g., nanotechnology), IT & computer science and mathematics.
Do the top public universities in Germany charge tuition fees to foreigners?
Most of them don’t, but some do. The public universities in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg charge tuition fees of ca 1,500 euros per semester to non-EU students. The highest ranked among them include the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg (world rank 87 for AY 2023-24), the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (WR 119), the University of Freiburg (WR 192), the Eberhard Karl University of Tübingen (WR 213), the University of Stuttgart (WR 312), the University of Mannheim (WR 454), the University of Konstanz (WR 478), the University of Ulm (WR 542) and the University of Hohenheim (WR 651-660).
Which German university has most international students?
The Technical University of Munich, which also happens to be the highest ranked university in Germany, has most international students among all German universities. In the academic year 2023-2024, approximately 44% of its 52 thousand students, that is, nearly 23 thousand students are foreigners.