Studying in Germany
UPDATE OCTOBER 2021
In October 2021, the German government updated the rules on the requirements for A Level students wishing to study in Germany, here is the update information.
only 3 A Levels will now be necessary
The minimum pass grade is now C, up from E
An A Level in a Maths or science subject is no longer necessary, courses in the area of humanities, law or art can be accessed with three A Levels in language/humanities/art subjects.
Computer Science and ICT are recognised as science subjects
Many subjects that weren’t recognised can now be selected as a third subject, these include for example Drama, History of Art, Physical Education, Psychology, Religious Studies, Politics. These are on a separate list (List B) and can only be taken in addition to two traditional subjects from List A.
Similarly, a number of vocational subjects are accepted as a third subject (List C) if two traditional subjects are selected from List A. These include for example Business Studies, Design Technology, Electronics, Film Studies, Law, Music Technology, Travel and Tourism. However, this means that students can then only choose university courses in the subject area of this third, vocational subject.
A mainstay of the media coverage about studying in Europe is promoting the idea that students can study in Germany, in English, for nothing (or next to nothing).
However, the reality is a little more complicated.
Firstly, there are relatively few of these cheaper courses at the undergraduate level that are taught solely in English, fewer than 100 at the time of writing, most in universities where the vast majority of courses are taught in English. There are, of course, some excellent private options: the Carl Benz School in Karlsruhe and Jacobs University in Bremen being the stand-out options.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is the fact that to enter German public universities students need to be able to fit into the German equivalent of A Levels, the Abitur. As a result of this, entry to German public universities with A Levels is really hard.
In brief, A Level students applying to Germany will typically have to be taking four A Levels, to include a language and a science or maths (even if the course being applied for doesn’t seem like any of these subjects would be necessary). The German education ministries also don’t recognise lots of A Levels as being academic enough, so it’s entirely possible that even with four A Levels, you might not qualify.
The maths that is taken must be to at least AS if not at A Level, though there is a test students can do instead.
As a result, many German students who are taking A Levels in British schools end up having to do a foundation year first because of this. Unfortunately, many British schools accept German students onto A Level courses without realising the very complicated requirements. It is perhaps partly for this reason that universities like Maastricht and Groningen in the Netherlands are full of German students.
Because of this difficulty, most students who head to Germany may pursue private university options, which include Jacobs University (in Bremen), Bard College (in Berlin), Lancaster University’s Leipzig campus and Globe College (in Munich).
Despite all of this, there are some great options to be found in Germany, but forward planning is needed to make a success of this route.