Ultimate Comparison: Public vs. Private Universities in Germany

Germany boasts a large number of accredited universities. To this end, the majority of them are state-funded educational organizations. However, in recent years the number of private universities has increased and so has the number of students attending these universities.

Private and Public universities in Germany share some similarities, but at the same time, there are parts at which the difference between them is significantly huge. Many students like you often fail to recognize these differences which is bad because it has the potential of leading you to a decision you would not take otherwise.

The article below encompasses all differences between German public and private universities it is necessary to be aware of.

Tuition Fees

The cost of attendance is the part where Private and Public universities differentiate the most. By now, you have surely heard that higher education in Germany is offered for free, but that’s only true for the public sector.

Since 2014 the majority of public universities in Germany charge no fees to their international fees. On the other hand, studying in private universities will come at a certain price. Private universities rely on private funding and they will need to collect tuitions in order to fill their budget and maintain their day-to-day operations.

However, this is not something you have to pay much concern. Despite that higher education in private universities has a certain price tag, it is low enough to afford it. Moreover, compared to other popular study destinations in the world, the difference in the cost of attendance is significantly huge. For instance, your annual tuition fees for an MBA course in the UK can be equal to the price you pay for a whole course in a private university in Germany.

Admission Criteria

Whether you go for a public or private university you must always remember that German schools apply high academic standards. But to a large extent, public universities have a higher tendency to face students with higher admission criteria. This is mainly because public universities still remain more popular, despite that the latter has been gaining a reputation in recent years. Moreover, public universities apply “numerous clausus” which means only a proportion of excellent applicants are admitted.

On the other side, private universities rely heavily on fees collected from international students, therefore your application will be considered even if your qualifications don’t meet all their specific entry requirements. For example, if your language skills are below the required minimum, a private university in Germany will admit you, but will ask you to take a preparatory course in the first place. In contrast, this practice is rare among public universities.

Whatsoever this doesn’t mean entering a private university in Germany must be taken for granted. You will still have to show excellent knowledge if you want to enroll a course and you have to work hard to complete your degree.

Application Deadlines

Universities set their application deadlines on their own. Thus, depending on what university you want to enroll there are going to be different deadlines for submitting your application. Some universities can apply fixed application deadlines while others may receive applications at any time of the year. In addition, some may have fixed deadlines but can also consider applications being sent before a certain limit of time.

However, to a certain degree, most public universities use to have application deadlines around the same time. This is mainly due to the fact that most of them run a joint online application platform known as UniAssist and therefore have to comply with the same application deadlines.

There are two application deadlines through UniAssist

  • Mid July for the upcoming Winter Semester
  • Mid January for the upcoming Summer Semester

International study programs

The number of international study programs in private universities in Germany is increasing regularly. But there is a long way to do until private universities in Germany catch up with public universities in this aspect. This is surely quite expected if things like long history, global reputation and strong financial standing are taken into account.

While as per the number of international study programs public universities lead, private universities may offer something state-funded educational providers don’t. In general, private universities aim to take advantage by offering innovative degrees in study fields where competition is soft and supply in the job market is short.

Graduates employability

At the bottom of your decision to study abroad lies the ultimate goal of getting a degree which will help you find a good job and build a successful career. When it comes to employability, the university you choose to study at won’t matter a lot. German universities enjoy a global reputation and their graduates are sought-after in the job market.

Nevertheless, if you want to top the competition then there are some universities which will accelerate your career success.

Different surveys carried out to measure the rate of confidence employers have in university graduates in Germany, have found that they value a little higher candidates from public universities. They assess that these students show a higher level of academic and practical knowledge.

However, in recent years private universities are gaining a stronger reputation among employers and their study programs can offer you a great deal of employability. Moreover, in some particular study areas private schools in Germany rank higher for graduates employability. For instance, GISMA Business School is valued as one of the best business schools in Germany and due to that it has a high rate of graduates’ employability.

In addition to all that, employers these days are looking for graduates who can live up to the duties they’re charged rather than academic qualifications.

Global Ranking and International Popularity

A globally recognized degree is what every abroad student aims for. It is for sure that when you look for a university in Germany you’re willing to know about its position in relevant rankings.

Overall public universities in Germany are ranked higher than private universities. Some of them are consistently among the world’s best universities. A typical example of this are the Technical University of Munich and the Ludwig Maximilians Munchen which are consistently listed alongside the best universities in the world in several relevant rankings.

Similarly, based on international enrollment data, public universities have higher popularity. Currently, Germany is home to over 378,000 international students and largely due to affordable costs most of them attend public universities.

Teacher Student Ratio

Due to a higher number of enrolled students, public universities have larger classes than private universities. A low teacher-student ratio contributes to a better learning environment because students receive more personal training and more customized teaching methodologies. In addition, classes with a limited number of students highly improve group work. Thus, if you’re looking for small classes then private universities might offer what you want.


Low or no-tuition public universities are the main reason Germany is such a popular study destination today. In addition to that, there are many ways you can support yourself financially.

To a certain degree, the number of scholarships offered in public universities is higher than in private universities. Except that the number of scholarships is higher there is a wider range of selection criteria for granting scholarships in public universities. Some scholarships are based upon your academic performance, some are country-specific and to some others you can be eligible in another way. In private universities, on the other hand, it may happen that only top students are awarded scholarships.

To sum this up, chances are higher you’re going to get a scholarship in public universities.

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