With world-class universities, free or low-fee tuition programmes, and industry-relevant courses in all subject areas, Germany has a long-standing reputation for academic excellence, drawing students and researchers from across the world.
The European nation currently hosts over 350,000 international students across its higher education institutions (HEIs) and the number is steadily rising every year, according to a report by German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). It’s the combination of high-quality degrees and research potential, cultural diversity and post-study work opportunities that attracts an ever-increasing number of international learners seeking a globally relevant education.
While countries in South Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe have traditionally been the main sources for foreign students in Germany, numbers from the Middle East, including the UAE, are growing fast.
“The very low or non-existent tuition fees at German universities, the promising job market both in Germany and in the students’ home countries, and the stable political situation in Germany make the nation a very attractive destination for students from the UAE as well as other Gulf countries,” says Gabriele Becker, Director of German cultural association, Goethe-Institut Abu Dhabi.
Value of German degrees
Germany boasts an impressive roster of higher education institutions that consistently achieves high scores in the areas of research and employability in global university rankings, offering students an extensive range of future-ready academic programmes.
“The German education system intends to supply a well-rounded education for all, so even in smaller universities, students can pursue high quality degrees. While some universities specialise in certain fields and are renowned for it, there are no ‘elite’ universities as in the Anglo-Saxon higher education system. Degrees from German universities are internationally acclaimed, especially its technical and the medical majors,” explains Becker.
Prowess in engineering education
The demand for German engineering degrees has traditionally been strong, both domestically and internationally. Home to prestigious institutes like The Technical University of Munich (TUM), RWTH Aachen University, and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, engineering degrees from German HEIs are well respected all over the world, opening up opportunities for lucrative careers. Universities offer a range of specialisations, including in emerging disciplines, and they are actively engaged in research and innovation, offering students opportunities to work on cutting-edge projects.
Furthermore, internationalisation is now widely considered a key trend in the higher education sector and many universities have started offering programmes in English, making them accessible to international learners.
“Germany is the land of engineers; that’s why its engineering programmes are popular worldwide. But, we also have international students opting for business or even medicine in Germany,” says Annette Friedl, Managing Owner, ISL Germany, a language centre that helps international students pursue courses in Germany.
“We always have around 100 students from the UAE who come to Germany for higher studies and we help them in the whole process, from visa to university admission and German language training,” she adds.
Europe’s leading research university Ludwig-Maximilians Munich (LMU) has noted strong interests for its degrees among international learners, including students from the UAE.
“It is LMU’s strong reputation and performance in rankings, founded on its academic excellence, that encourage students to explore study opportunities with us. Furthermore, Munich is renowned worldwide as a safe city with a high quality of living, while the absence of tuition fees in many universities encourage students to pursue education in this German city,” says Dr Andrea Stiebritz, Head of Division III – Students at LMU.
Some of the popular programmes for international students at LMU include medicine, business studies, and computer science. “English-language master’s and doctoral programmes are also very popular, particularly courses in biology, physics, biochemistry, data science, and English studies,” says Dr Stiebritz.
“Our students do not pay tuition fees, but a nominal administrative sum to the Students Union for Munich and Upper Bavaria. This fee is Euro 85 per semester.”
German language skills
While English-taught programmes are now available in several private universities, acquiring German proficiency can significantly enrich a student’s overall experience, help them integrate into the local community more easily and open up opportunities for internships or a permanent job in the future after the completion of the degree programme.
“Most public universities offer courses in German, but more and more English programmes are now being offered as well. For a German bachelor programme, students require minimum C1 language proficiency. In general, the better your German, the easier your life will be in Germany. You will, of course, be able to get by with English in many cases,” says Becker from the Goethe-Institut.
Based on the programme, a student has to submit proofs of their German language proficiency to secure student visas, says Vandana Mahajan, Founder, Futures Abroad, a student admission firm that counselled 158 students in the UAE for undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in Germany last year.
“If the medium of instruction of a programme is English, you will get a letter from the university confirming that you do not need to showcase German skills to pursue the course and you can submit your visa application without a proof of language skills. However, if you have applied for a German degree programme, you must submit a certificate of German language proficiency for visa application,” says Mahajan.
Education beyond borders
As part of their internationalisation efforts, several German institutions are also exploring opportunities beyond their shores, either opening campuses abroad or offering courses in partnership with local universities. This is a strategic move that allows them to extend their global reach and strengthen their presence in key economies around the world.
For example, Technical University of Munich (TUM) has a campus in Singapore, RWTH Aachen University runs programmes at German University of Technology (GUtech) in Oman, while HAW Hamburg and the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology (USST) jointly founded the prestigious Shanghai-Hamburg College.
Sensing demand for German degrees in the GCC, The University of Europe for Applied Sciences (UE), a top-ranked private university in Germany, has launched a campus at One Central in Dubai.
“The decision to open a campus in Dubai was driven by several factors. Dubai is a global hub for education and business, making it an attractive location for international universities,” says Boris Remes, Senior Operations Manager.
“German education has gained popularity in the UAE due to its strong reputation for academic excellence and practical relevance. UE’s presence in Dubai can help meet an increasing demand for German education in the UAE,” he says.
To cater to a diverse student body in Dubai, UE offers programmes that are taught in English. “Our programmes combine tech, business, and design, a thrilling combination that will be key for future developments, all of which will enable students to be successful in Dubai’s job market,” says Remes.
UE Dubai also offers some unique opportunities to its students, such as eligibility for a 6-month Job Seeker Visa in Germany as well as the possibility of a campus transfer to Germany, enabling students to experience global exposure, cross-cultural learning, and networking opportunities. “This international mobility enhances the overall educational experience and opens doors to a broader range of career prospects,” says Remes. ■