What is important to know about scholarships in Germany
There are three types of scholarships in Germany: from universities, from the government (Germany or the EU), and from all kinds of foundations and organizations.
The average size of scholarships in Germany is 815-1,165 USD/month. This amount roughly covers living expenses.
Scholarships are intended mainly for graduate and PhD students. Additionally, there may be restrictions by citizenship.
Requirements vary by program. Grades, German language skills, and extracurricular activities are almost always important.
The national scholarship — Deutschlandstipendium — can be received by everyone through competition, including foreigners and undergraduates. However, not all universities participate in this program.
Student loans or study loans, such as the BaFöG program, are only available to international students who have lived in Germany for at least 5 years.
DAAD is an organization that offers many scholarship programs in Germany. The most famous one allows you to get full coverage of all expenses for studying in a Master's program at a German university.
Study in Germany for free
Germany is one of the few countries that offer free tuition at public universities. This applies to both undergraduate and graduate students. An exemption is the federated state of Baden-Württemberg — there the academic year costs about 3,494 USD. In other regions, students pay only semester administrative fees. They range between 233-815 USD, depending on the university. The money goes to a student card, which gives benefits: free travel on public transport and city bikes, discounts in museums, swimming pools, cinemas, brand stores. In general, a month of living costs about 990 USD.
Mobile services and Internet
In the majority of universities in Germany, students are provided with travel discounts up to 90-100%.
Free tuition is available at the undergraduate and graduate levels at public universities in Germany. Among Master's degree programs, however, there are also fee-paying ones. Usually, these are MBAs (they cost up to 58,234 USD), but there are other specialties, too. Private higher education institutions offer tuition only on a paid basis, on average 6,988-13,976 USD/year.
Free education in English in Germany
In public universities in Germany, there are programs taught in English, but there are not many of them. As a rule, these are programs in International Economics, Foreign Philology, International Relations, less often — Engineering and Natural Sciences. For example:
In English-language undergraduate programs, as a rule, there is a large competition among applicants. Most of the specialties are taught in German.
However, for high school graduates from countries where secondary education lasts 11 or 12 years (and they are the global majority), just a school certificate will not be enough. To enroll, you need to complete one or two study years at a university in your home country and get a written confirmation. Another option is to spend one year at a studienkolleg in Germany.
To cover tuition fees and living expenses, international students can win a scholarship or a grant.
There are three main groups of scholarships in Germany:
University. German universities can reward students for good performance and achievements in various fields. Information about this should be checked on the websites of universities. These scholarships are usually small and not available at all universities. Moreover, foreigners are often not entitled to them. An exception is the national scholarship program “Deutschlandstipendium.”
Governmental — from the government of Germany or the EU. Usually, these are large grant programs like DAAD or Erasmus. They are popular among foreigners, so there is very high competition.
Private. Foundations providing scholarships can be scientific, party-, or church-related. They have special requirements for candidates, and this confuses foreigners. In reality, foundations are often just looking for socially active youth.
Additionally, there are many more private scholarships from companies or organizations. Different opportunities are available to students depending on where they study.
DAAD(Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) — German Academic Exchange Service — offers about two hundred scholarships for foreign students. For undergraduates, these are mostly short-term internships. Larger programs are designed for graduate students — Master’s and PhD. In total, DAAD provides about 150 thousand scholarships per year. They usually cover most of the accommodation, meals, and personal expenses. Deadlines for filing documents vary depending on the program.
DAAD Master Studies for All Academic Disciplines
The most popular DAAD scholarship — Masterstudium für alle wissenschaftlichen Fächer — is available for Master students in all fields of study, except for creative specialties and Architecture. There are separate scholarships for them.
There are two options for participation:
A full-fledged Master's program in Germany. The scholarship is awarded for a period of 10 to 24 months, depending on the program. In the mid-point of two-year programs, you will need to prove your academic performance. You can participate in the competition even if you are already studying in Germany in your first year of a Master's degree program and have just learned about such an opportunity.
Exchange studies at a German university. The scholarship is paid throughout the first or second year. It cannot be extended further.
In both cases, the payments are the same — 1,003 USD/month. Approximately that much is usually spent on living in Germany. Additionally, the scholarship covers:
Reimbursement of the fees for the TestDaf or DSH testif the student passed the exam after receiving the scholarship confirmation letter
DAAD can be obtained to study at a private university, but you will have to pay for the tuition yourself. In special cases, DAAD helps with rent or pays extra money to support other family members in Germany. Any work during your studies must be discussed with a DAAD coordinator.
Basic requirements for candidates:
Graduate from a university no earlier than 6 years before applying;
Get admitted to one of the German universities. Universities and DAAD make decisions independently. Therefore, in order to receive a scholarship, you need to enroll in at least one of the three programs that you choose when applying;
Have good/excellent academic performance;
Submit an appropriate language certificate with the results not lower than those indicated in the requirements of the selected universities.
Those who have lived in Germany for more than 15 months cannot participate in the program. DAAD scholarships cannot overlap with each other and with other programs.
After this particular DAAD program, there is no requirement to return home for a couple of years, as is often the case in large programs, such as Fulbright. But don’t write in the motivation letter that you want to stay in Germany. This can lead to visa problems.
For the application you need to prepare a lot of documents:
Diploma and an invitation from the university. You can upload them later — after you graduate from your university and enroll in a German one.
Language certificate. Must be less than two years old. If for some reason, such as the pandemic, you did not manage to pass the exam on time, you can submit an application to the portal without a certificate. But you will have to send it later.
Special form. Here you write where you want to apply. You can choose a maximum of three programs at the same or different universities.
Translations. All documents must be translated into English or German. You can do it yourself, without certification.
Certain programs require an international exam certificate — GRE or GMAT. It is important to check what exams at what level are required by your chosen institutions.
Additionally, you can attach recommendations from employers or proof of professional experience, victories in subject competitions, social activities, volunteering, participation in projects. The more achievements, the higher the chances of getting a scholarship.
A recommendation from the teacher, signed by hand;
Application summary. A printed pdf file that can be downloaded from the website after submitting an application.
Stages of the DAAD competition
The competition consists of two stages:
Applying for a scholarship. After collecting the documents, you submit an online application through the DAAD portal. It usually takes 6 weeks in October-November about a year before the start of the school year. The results of the scholarship competition arrive in April. Сurrent dates must be checked on the website.
Submitting documents to German universities. Regardless of the scholarship, you must enroll in one of the programs that you stated in your application during the first stage. In German universities, there are two application deadlines. But the scholarship only starts in October. Therefore, students usually enter the university in the summer, just before the start of their studies.
Important: DAAD may send a Scholarship Award Letter (Stipendienantritt) in advance. But if no university accepts you, it will be withdrawn.
Erasmus+. One or two semesters of exchange studies in a graduate program at a German university. Fellows receive about 932 USD/month. You can only go to those universities that have partnership agreements with your university. Details should be clarified with the international department of your university.
Erasmus Mundus. Full-fledged double degree Master's programs for a period of 1-2 years. Grants for this program are up to 11,647 USD/year. Students take turns studying at two universities, which organize joint study. A complete list of universities is available in the special catalog of the European Commission.
Erasmus scholarships, as a rule, cover all expenses for studying in another country: tuition fees, flights, meals, personal expenses. The deadline for submission of documents is October-February, depending on the program. Applications are to be directed to the universities, which run the corresponding programs. Details are also available on the Erasmus website.
National scholarship of Germany — Deutschlandstipendium
The National Scholarship of Germany (DeutschlandStipendium) is designed for students of German universities with high academic achievements. This is one of the few scholarships in Germany where everyone can participate in the competition, from a Bachelor’s to a PhD student, including foreigners. The amount of the scholarship is 349 USD per month. Half is funded by the federal government and half — by private sponsors.
The universities carry out the selection independently. Often they only publish information in German, so foreign students learn about the possibilities too late. Not all universities participate in this program. A complete list is available on the Deutschlandstipendium website.
The list of sponsors, the number of scholarships, and their requirements vary by institution. For example, at the University of Bremen, about 100 people receive scholarships — the so-called "distinguished students."
First of all, high academic performance is important. And then everything can come in handy: victories in subject competitions, volunteer activities, work experience. Universities even take into account personal and family circumstances — up to the stories of overcoming specific life difficulties. All this must be confirmed by documents. These can be references, diplomas, certificates, recommendations, a resume, an autobiography. They often ask for a separate motivation letter.
All details need to be clarified on the websites of specific universities. Here are some examples:
Deadline varies from institution to institution, often in mid-October. Applications open in the summer, so you can apply as soon as you receive an invitation from a German university. Or on arrival in Germany, at the beginning of the semester.
Typically, the scholarship is awarded for two semesters, starting from winter. It can be renewed annually, but only if you are still eligible.
Sponsors are companies, foundations, organizations, university alumni or simply caring people — often professors of the university. Moreover, they themselves decide who they want to help with finances. For example, only aspiring philologists, or students with some specific experience — professional or volunteer. The universities publish the list of partners on their websites.
Sponsors also invite fellows to networking events, workshops, mentoring programs, and internships.
Foundation scholarships in Germany
Many international students think that scholarships from foundations and organizations abroad are extremely complicated to get, so they are not particularly interested in such an opportunity. But there are at least 13 special funds (Begabtenförderungswerke) in Germany, which in total award more than 33 thousand scholarships.
What you need to know about foundations in Germany:
Unfortunately, many scholarships are only for students from EU countries or permanent residents. Although there are exceptions, for example, the program of the Heinrich Böll Foundation.
For PhD scholarships, country restrictions are less common. Therefore, many more opportunities are open for future scientists.
The amount of the scholarships is 582-1,398 USD. Sometimes payments depend on the financial situation and other life circumstances of the candidates.
Carefully check the requirements on the website of the fund you are interested in. Conditions can vary widely, including language level and age.
Sometimes foundations announce recruitment for specific regions, for example, for Eastern Europe.
Heinrich Böll Foundation
The Heinrich Böll Foundation grants scholarships to citizens of all countries enrolled in Master's and doctoral studies in Germany. Payments are from 932 USD/month. Essentially, this is the Green Party foundation. Therefore, in addition to high academic performance and academic achievements, fellows must show their social activity related to the values of the party. First of all, this includes concern for the environment and the development of civil society. The fund only accepts online applications on the official website. The program has two deadlines: March 1 and September 1.
Bayer Science & Education Foundation scholarships are designed for foreigners who wish to study or conduct research in Germany in one of the following fields:
Life sciences (Otto BayerScholarship);
Medicine (Carl Duisberg Scholarship);
Agricultural Sciences (Jeff Schell Scholarship);
Teaching in the field of biology and chemistry (Kurt Hansen Scholarship).
Students and alumniwho graduated no later than two years earlier with high academic performance can participate in the competition. The most important criterion is an innovative international project. Another necessary prerequisite is a good level of English proficiency.
Letter of invitation from a German university confirming the planned project.
Description of the project for a period of 2-12 months with a budget estimate and schedule (may include study courses, laboratory work, research projects, summer classes, internships, Master's or doctoral program).
Transcript from the last place of study.
Documents confirming achievements to strengthen the application.
Additionally, the foundation has programs for scientists and working professionals.
Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Humboldt Research Fellowship. Young scientists from abroad can apply for it. The scholarship allows conducting long-term research (6-24 months) and covers all associated costs. Monthly payments are 3,110-3,692 USD. Academic publications are required to participate in the competition. Current requirements are listed here.
German Chancellor Fellowship. It is granted to alumni with a Bachelor's degree or higher. The main requirements are to be a citizen of one of the six participating countries (Russia, USA, China, Brazil, South Africa, or India) and to propose a promising research project. The fellows are given a year to implement their project in Germany. They choose the university themselves. The amount of the scholarship is 2,527-3,226 USD/month plus a two-week tour of the country, language courses, and additional financial assistance. Details on the selection are listed here.