Student Numbers in Germany

The number of students in Germany reached a new peak in winter term 2014/2015. Almost 2.7 million students are enrolled at German universities and colleges. This is 3.1 per cent more than in the previous year (Source: Federal Statistical Office). The recent steep rise is primarily attributable to two special effects: the double generations of school-leavers with university entrance level qualifications in Germany and the suspension of compulsory military service.


How is the number of students in Germany set to develop?

In the long term, the number of students will settle back down to old levels, subsequently rising once again from this basis. The Standing Conference of Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs in Germany estimates that the number of people taking up studies will stand at around 500,000 by 2019. As of 2025, it will then level off at 465,000. This is more students than in 2010, when the total was 450,000 – despite the unfavourable underlying demographic trend.

What are the reasons for this increase in student numbers in Germany?

The expected rise in student numbers in Germany is essentially attributable to two factors.

  • The number of people leaving school with the ‘Abitur’ university entrance qualification is increasing. According to the Federal Statistical Office, their number has increased by more than half in the past ten years. On average, around 40 per cent of each year of pupils take the ‘Abitur’ examination. At the same time, the percentage of pupils starting studies after the ‘Abitur’ examination is also on the increase. While ten years ago 37 per cent of each birth cohort aimed to study for a degree, this figure now stands at around 57 per cent (source: Federal Statistical Office).


  • The number of foreign students at German universities and colleges is rising. The number of foreign students has increased by 22.3 per cent in the past ten years up to the winter term 2013/2014, to 301,350 (source: Federal Statistical Office). The German government aims to raise the number of foreign students in Germany to 350,000 by 2020. Germany is increasingly becoming the preferred country in which to study: while back in 2009 only 47 per cent of prospective students cited a German university or college as their first choice, by 2012 this figure stood at 61 per cent (source: social survey by the Deutsches Studentenwerk (student union)).


Why will the number of foreign students in Germany rise?

  • Foreign students benefit from the growing number of courses taught in English. According to a study by the Academic Cooperation Association (ACA) and the Gesellschaft für Empirische Studien (GES), more than 1,000 such courses are already available in Germany.
  • Germany’s universities are climbing up the international league tables. In 2014/2015, 22 German universities were among the top 300 in the world. This is the third-best showing, behind the USA and the UK (source: The World University Ranking).
  • In contrast to many other European countries and the US universities, the state universities in Germany are not subject to tuition fees – and this applies equally to foreign students.