The Expats Guide to Universities in Berlin

December 20, 2023

Embarking on the adventure of living in Berlin as an expat opens the door to a vibrant array of educational opportunities. If you're a student or want to become one, this guide is your personalised compass to navigate the dynamic landscape of higher education in this incredible city. From the cozy corners of public and private universities to the innovative vibes of vocational bootcamps, Berlin has something special for every academic seeker.

Together, we'll dive into the nitty-gritty details – from unraveling fees and securing financial aid to discovering exciting English-taught programs and mastering the application process. Let's make your academic journey in this historic city uniquely yours!

Choosing Your Academic Path

Berlin's higher education system is distinguished by its variety and quality. You can choose between public universities, private universities, and vocational training bootcamps, each with its unique strengths and offerings, creating a truly charming array of educational options. 

For a brief overview of some notable universities and bootcamps in Berlin, we prepared a list for you:

Public Universities in Berlin

Freie Universität Berlin: Known for humanities and social sciences. Freie Universität Berlin

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin: Famous for arts and humanities. Humboldt-Universität

Technische Universität Berlin: Specialized in engineering and technology. Technische Universität

Berlin University of the Arts: Focuses on art, design, music, and performing arts. Berlin University of the Arts

Private Universities in Berlin

ESMT Berlin: Known for its MBA and bachelor programs, a popular business university in Germany. ESMT Berlin

Berlin School of Business and Innovation (BSBI): Offers a variety of business-related courses. BSBI

BIC Berlin International College: Specializes in preparatory and language programs. BIC

SRH Berlin University of Applied Sciences: Focuses on creative and innovative management programs. SRH Berlin

Medical School Berlin: ​​renowned for its cutting-edge research, rigorous academic programs, and state-of-the-art facilities. MSB Medical School Berlin

Vocational Training Bootcamps

Le Wagon: Offers intensive coding bootcamps. Le Wagon

Ironhack Berlin: Specializes in web development, UX/UI design, and data analytics. Ironhack

SPICED Academy: Focuses on full-stack web development and data science. SPICED Academy

CareerFoundry: Provides online bootcamps in web development, UX design, and more. CareerFoundry

Fees Comparison

Source: Berlin Bard College

Let's dive into the financial side of studying in Germany! Public universities typically don't charge tuition fees but do require a semester contribution of approximately 300€, covering administrative costs and including a public transport ticket. On the other hand, tuition fees for private universities vary from 3,000€ to 20,000€ per year, while bootcamps generally charge between 5,000€ and 15,000€ for a complete course.

There’s also an option for financial assistance called BAföG. This German federal student financial aid program provides eligible students with support to cover living expenses and tuition fees during their studies. The amount of financial support you receive depends on various personal factors, such as whether you're financially dependent on your parents. It's possible to receive up to 781€ per month. However, keep in mind that international students might need to fulfill additional criteria, such as having a permanent residence permit. To apply, you can complete the necessary forms through the BAföG office, and this service is applicable to both public and private university students.

Music Production and Contemporary Art in Private Universities

Berlin is a lively center for music production and contemporary art, where creative energy thrives, and private universities offer specialized courses to nurture your artistic passions. The ideal launchpad for propelling your career and earning your spot as a resident DJ at Berghain awaits! ;)

These institutions in Berlin don't just stick to the norm – they're all about shaking up the learning game. They give you the chance to dive into hands-on experiences and secure some seriously exciting skills relevant to the industry. And hey, these are just the tip of the iceberg! Berlin's got a ton more programs waiting for you, so there's something for every interest and specialization.

Catalyst - Institute for Creative Arts and Technology: Offers a variety of programs in music production and sound engineering. More information is available at Catalyst's official website.

BIMM Institute Berlin: Known for music and performance courses. Visit BIMM's Berlin page for more details.

SAE Institute Berlin: Offers courses in audio production, music business, and more. Find out more at SAE's Berlin page.

Macromedia University of Applied Sciences: Features programs in media and communication, including music production. Learn more at Macromedia's official website.

These institutions in Berlin don't just stick to the norm – they're all about shaking up the learning game. They give you the chance to dive into hands-on experiences and secure some seriously exciting skills relevant to the industry. And hey, these are just the tip of the iceberg! Berlin's got a ton more programs waiting for you, so there's something for every interest and specialization.

German Language Requirements

Language proficiency is a critical factor for individuals contemplating programs taught in German. Both public and private universities typically mandate a specific level of German proficiency, often at the C1/C2 level, for admission to German-taught programs. Certification exams such as TestDAF or DSH are commonly required to demonstrate language competence. In contrast, bootcamps generally offer more flexibility in language requirements, with many programs conducted in English, providing a more accessible option for prospective students.

English-Taught Programs in Berlin

Source: Le Wagon Berlin

For students, note that proficiency in the German language may be a requirement for admission to certain universities in Berlin. However, it's essential to highlight that Berlin's academic scene offers a wealth of English-taught programs in both public and private universities, as well as vocational bootcamps. The following are noteworthy examples, but it's crucial to recognize that numerous additional programs are accessible.

Public Universities

  • Freie Universität Berlin - Master's in Global History: This program offers a comprehensive look into world history. Entry requirements include a Bachelor’s degree in a related field and English language proficiency (e.g., TOEFL, IELTS). More information can be found at Freie Universität's Global History page.
  • Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Master's in English Literatures and Literary Theory: Applicants need a Bachelor's degree in English or a similar subject and proven English proficiency. Details are available on Humboldt's English Literatures and Literary Theory page.

Private Universities

  • ESMT Berlin - Master in Management: Ideal for those with a Bachelor's degree, this program requires a GMAT or GRE score and English proficiency. Explore more at ESMT's Master in Management page.
  • SRH Berlin University of Applied Sciences - M.A. in International Management: This course is for students with a Bachelor’s degree and English proficiency (TOEFL/IELTS). More information can be found on SRH's International Management page.

Vocational Training Bootcamps

  • Le Wagon - Web Development Bootcamp: Aimed at beginners, it requires English proficiency and focuses on full-stack web development. Details are at Le Wagon's Berlin page.
  • CareerFoundry - UX Design Program: Suitable for beginners interested in design, this program is detailed at CareerFoundry's UX Design page.

Academic Calendar

Mastering the academic calendar is essential for strategically organizing your studies in Berlin. Public universities generally follow a uniform academic schedule, but private institutions may diverge. The majority of courses commence in October, marking the beginning of the Winter Semester and concluding in March. Additionally, certain courses provide an alternative intake during the Summer Semester, which spans from April to September.

Applying to Universities in Berlin

The application process can be daunting, but understanding the basics can make it much smoother. 

Navigating this process in Berlin varies depending on the type of institution. Public universities typically utilize the Uni-Assist portal, serving as a centralized system for international student applications. On the other hand, private universities have individualized application procedures, with details typically outlined on their respective websites. Bootcamps, known for their streamlined approach, often facilitate the application process directly through their websites, providing a more straightforward experience for prospective students.

Required Documents:

A standard application usually requires the following documents:

  • A completed application form.
  • A copy of your passport or ID card.
  • Certified copies of your academic transcripts and qualifications.
  • Proof of language proficiency (either German or English, depending on the program).
  • A personal statement or motivation letter.
  • Letters of recommendation (usually two).
  • A CV or resume.
  • For some programs, a portfolio or work samples may be required.

Student Life and Benefits in Berlin

Source: Studentendorf Berlin

Discover an enriching student experience in Berlin, where a myriad of benefits and discounts await you. Dive into the vibrant student life and enjoy exclusive perks:

Student Discounts

Unlock a world of savings with discounts on public transport and cultural events, making your exploration of Berlin more affordable and enjoyable.

Accommodation Options

Immerse yourself in the popular and budget-friendly "WG Culture" – shared apartments that offer a lively communal living experience. Explore other housing alternatives, including university dorms and private rentals, ensuring you find the perfect fit for your lifestyle.

Mensa/Cafeteria Access

Savor budget-friendly meals at university mensas, providing a delicious and affordable dining option that often extends across different institutions.

Library Access

Expand your knowledge with access to extensive library resources within your university and sometimes even across other universities in Berlin, offering a wealth of academic support.

Post-Graduation - Job Seeker Visa

Embark on your career journey with confidence! After graduation, international students can apply for an 18-month job seeker visa, allowing you to stay in Germany and actively pursue employment opportunities. Berlin not only shapes your academic experience but also opens doors to exciting post-graduation possibilities.


Get ready to dive into the academic adventure of a lifetime in Berlin! Picture this – top-notch education, a melting pot of cultures, and a friendly haven for expats. This guide is your passport to navigating the exciting array of opportunities in this dynamic city. Buckle up for a serious dose of fun with your studies, and armed with some savvy planning and insider knowledge of the system, you'll be on track to make the absolute most of your educational journey in Berlin! Let the good times (and learning) roll! 🚀📚

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