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Germany is one of the most popular university destination countries in Europe. The country’s unbeatable combination of world-class universities and a tuition-free public university system make it the first choice for many international students. As a result, Germany surpassed its goal of hosting 350,000 international students by 2020 three years earlier than expected.
The QS Best Student Cities Rankings provides evidence of the country’s growing popularity among international students. In recent years, Munich and Berlin have ranked among the top five best cities worldwide for studying abroad.
German higher education institutions are divided between universities, applied science universities, and colleges of art music or film, resulting in an impressive choice of programmes. Out of over 1600 international Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes listed by DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst / German Academic Exchange Service) for the academic year 2021-22, over 1300 are taught in English only.
The Central Office for Foreign Education (Die Zentralstelle für ausländisches Bildungswesen / ZAB) of the Standing Conference of German Ministers of Educations and Cultural Affairs (KMK) provides the official framework for the recognition of foreign qualifications for higher education admissions. ZAB’s database, anabin, specifies the Central Office’s recommendations on the foreign qualifications required for entrance to higher education.
Within the recommendations of the Central Office, German universities set supplementary requirements on specific subject choices, subject combinations, and language proficiency.
Students need to check entry requirements with individual universities before they apply. This is particularly important for universities in Germany as the new entry requirements for 2024 onwards may be applied from 2022.
Uni-assist e.V. is a central service point for international student applications to German universities. It enables students to apply to approximately 170 out of the 220 German universities which offer international programmes. Applicants may enquire about specific admission criteria either directly with the university or through uni-assist.
The Central Office for Foreign Education’s current recommendations, issued in 2017, were updated in September 2021. New entry requirements are due to come into effect from summer semester 2024, however universities can apply them from summer semester 2022 (applications deadline around 15 January) if this is more favourable for admission purposes.
In the new set of requirements, Computer Science / IT, formerly only recognised for mathematical and technical programmes can now also be taken when applying for degree programmes in the fields of social / economic studies, natural sciences, or medicine.
*A Level subjects are independent of each other if they are not in the same field, with the exception of languages. For example, Economics and Business are not independent subjects because the content overlaps.
In both sets of requirements, AS & A Levels in English General Paper, Thinking Skills or Global Perspectives & Research are not accepted as a standalone qualifications. However, they may be valued by the university alongside the required number and combination of A Levels.
This factsheet (PDF, 120KB) details the subject-specific requirements by field of study, as provided by the Central Office for Foreign Education. The anabin database of the Central Office provides full details (German).
As stated above, applicants should check the suitability of their chosen A Level subjects directly with universities, as it is the university who decides which subjects are acceptable for admission to a specific course.
The requirements (both current and new) outlined above regarding the number of AS & A Levels and the choice of subjects also apply for Cambridge Pre-U and the Cambridge AICE Diploma. For Cambridge Pre-U, grade M3 in a Principal Subject is considered equivalent to A Level grade C.
Students applying with the Cambridge AICE Diploma need to meet their chosen university's general entry requirements. When submitting evidence of achievement, students must take care to submit their Cambridge International AS & A Level certificates and not just their Cambridge AICE Diploma certificate on its own. Cambridge International AS & A Level certificates are essential as they report the subjects taken and the grades achieved in that particular exam series.