General tuition fee in Germany

What made up Germany’s free-tuition system today?

By the early 1970s, Germany started to require a small contribution from students (around 120 to 150 D-Mark), which was known as “listeners´ money” (Hörergeld).

In 2005, the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) passed a new rule allowing German states to decide tuition fees. However, the tuition fees must be affordable so that students can either finance themselves or take out a loan to pay for it. Afterward, in 2006, first seven states in Germany, including Hamburg, Hesse, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, and Saarland, officially announced their tuition fee schemes.

In 2014, as a result of political devolution from the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) government to the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany), a referendum occurred to abolish the tuition fee rule. And the school has been officially “free” again.

From 2017, tuition fees come back again in some states or universities only; however, it is still too low compared with other countries. You can still properly study in many public universities and colleges there without tuition fees, at least for the first degree.

Arguments for and against tuition fees


For years, the matter of “tuition fee” has been put forward in many discussions. Protestors and supporters of tuition both have their own reasons to keep their ideas.

The reasons for tuition supporters:

  • According to people who assert the necessity of tuition in the study, tuition fee promotes the self-consciousness and effort of students to finish their study early. Hence, this makes student studies harder and smarter. The higher the tuition, the fewer students attend degree universities. They might choose a vocational school instead.
  • Tuition fee also contributes to the school’s budget for employing good professors or investing in infrastructures and facility, which later enhances the teaching quality and student’s life and study.

Controversy from tuition protestors:

  • Tuition fees might create a financial burden on youngsters and deprive chances of the education of low-income students.
  • Students couldn’t shorten their study time because they might be overwhelmed by part-time jobs to afford to school instead of spending time to study.

Special kinds of tuition fee or fee equivalent to tuition

Is it free to study in Germany nowadays?

Only the general tuition fee is waived! Other forms of fees are still applied for your study although it might not cost very much. It could come as a long-term study fee for your 2nd or senior study or as an administrative cost contribution, etc. Besides, a student might be charged a small amount at the entrance application. In Baden-Wuerttemberg, non-EU students will be charged for tuition fees while EU students will not.

Such kinds of the fee by state are summarized in the following tables:

States applying tuition fees in Germany-as of October 2018States applying tuition fees in Germany-as of October 2018

What kind of other fees else which might occur?

Besides general tuition (which is free for 1st-degree study), a student must consider the following additional fees or contributions:

  • Semester contribution: for administration – around €100-€300/semester
  • Fees for further education (master) courses of study (there are unfortunately often also in otherwise completely free of charge countries)
  • Fees/charges for extra offers from school, which are not a compulsory part of the study program, such as German courses for international students who want to take part in German-language study programs, but who cannot yet speak German, etc.
  • Fees for students who come as “guest”

Extra tuition for some special cases:

  • Study contribution at some state universities
  • Non-EU students’ tuition: Only apply for overseas learners from outside the EU/EEA. The exception is granted for BildungsinländerInnen (non-mobile foreign students) who have obtained the Abitur degree in Germany. Such students would not be charged non-EU tuition fee.
  • Study accounts: Effective fee, only paid by students if they study more than 16 university semesters
  • Courses for senior citizens: fees for senior studies for all people from 55 years old in Saarland or 60 years old in Rhineland-Palatinate and Thuringia.
  • Long-term study fees: for extra study from 10th to 13th semester at university
  • Second degree fee: comes within long-term study fees or study account, because these regulations include the semesters of the first degree.

Tuition fees for long-term students or second degree

Unlike the general tuition fees, which were intended for a first degree in Germany and have been abolished, there are, however, other contributions in some federal states, which, for example, have to be paid for a second study or a generous exceeding of the standard study duration.

Which federal states charge tuition fees for further education?Which federal states charge tuition fees for further education?

Other states, including Bavaria, Brandenburg, Hamburg, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saarland, Schleswig-Holstein, and Berlin, doesn’t apply general tuition fee for all levels of students.

Student loan and deducted tuition fee

For students, who couldn’t self-fund or be financially supported by families for study, can apply a student loan for tuition fee (if any) through Federal Training Assistance Act (BaföG/ Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz) or using assets as collaterals.

Of course, not every student can receive BaföG. You can consider its conditions here.