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Germany – A Country in the Middle of Europe

Have you ever thought of spending your university years in a country in the heart of Europe? In that case this is the right place to get preliminary information and assistance in order to plan your studies in Germany.

Germany is a federal parliamentary democracy consisting of 16 Länder (federal states). In Germany there are 82.5 million people in all, occupying a surface area of 357,031 km². That makes Germany fairly densely populated. 66% of all Germans are Christians (Catholics and Protestants), 3% are Muslims and 0.1% Jews.

The natural scenery of Germany shows an exiting diversity: from flatland and two seas – the North Sea and the Baltic – via low mountain ranges down to highland in the south, the Alps. The natural seasons and the diverse natural vegetation and fauna are characterised by a predominantly agreeable and temperate climate. Standard time is Central European Time, which means there is summer time and winter time.

Berlin is the capital of Germany and the seat of the Bundestag (the Federal Parliament) and the Bundesregierung (the Federal Government). With its 3.39 million inhabitants – of whom 13.3% are foreigners – it is a lively city of science and culture. The cultural life of Berlin is attractive, colourful and very varied. A prolific array of choices concerning theatre, music, art and literature leaves nothing to be desired. About 140,000 students are enrolled in the 18 universities and colleges of higher education.

Germany has numerous tourist attractions and regions on offer that will never allow your stay here to become boring. There are no limitations to the individual exploration of the various regions. Depending on one's preference it is possible to get to know Germany by bicycle, by train, by boat or by car. An extensive infrastructure makes all this possible. Should you wish to minimise your expenses whilst travelling, there are 554 German youth hostels at your disposal, which would also be a good opportunity to get into contact with other young people in informal surroundings, gathering intercultural experiences.

The German University System

The German university scene is very diverse. As science and research are deeply embedded in German society, one can look back on a university tradition that grew over the centuries.

The German university system comprises universities, colleges, polytechnics and art colleges. At this point in time there are about 349 universities, polytechnics and colleges in Germany, with an enrolment of approximately two million students. A wide spectrum of major subjects and courses allows anyone interested to realise their plans and to find a place at a German university, college or polytechnic. The academic year is divided into a summer and a winter semester. Usually there are no lecture courses in March and September, but at some departments or faculties examinations will take place during those two months.

In Germany, education is a matter for the individual Länder (states), which means that in essence each state can come to independent decisions concerning universities, colleges and polytechnics. This situation explains the ongoing debate in Germany concerning the introduction of student tuition fees. At the moment there are as yet no general student tuition fees for a first enrolment at German universities and colleges of higher education. Several states though plan to introduce student tuition fees, starting from 2006. This fee will amount to approximately 500 EUR per semester. In Northrhine-Westfalia and Lower Saxony, for instance, a fee has already been decided upon, whereas in Saxony (Freistaat Sachsen) a first university enrolment is still free of charge.

Dear student, it is obvious now that one should be informed in detail about this issue from the outset. We have prepared a survey for you in order to provide a preliminary overview on the situation in Germany concerning tuition fees.

General Conditions For Studying in Germany

A university study in Germany has to be financed mainly by the students themselves. In Germany that requires on average approximately 640 EUR a month. For the new states in the east of Germany that monthly sum is significantly below the federal average. Many students have small sideline jobs in order to finance their studies. Naturally there are also financial aid systems such as the Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz (BAföG), i.e., a federal interest-free loan, or grants or stipends for which students can apply. International students only have access to financial aid through grants or stipends provided by the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD), i.e., the German Academic Exchange Service, or by the respective universities. Please apply approximately six months in advance.

A fixed expenditure that has to be taken into account is the semester fee, due once per semester. This semester fee is the prerequisite for matriculation at a German university. The amount of that semester fee varies from university to university; for instance, students at the Polytechnic of Karlsruhe pay 51 EUR and students at the University of Göttingen 90 EUR. In addition, the semester fee often includes a semester ticket valid for the public transport system of the university town in question. The semester fee helps to support the service on offer from the Office of Residential Life (Studentenwerk) and the student counsel bodies. The Office of Residential Life in Dresden uses that additional money for the catering services in the university cafeterias as well as for cultural and social purposes. Further relevant information concerning the financing and living costs of a university study of international students in Germany can be obtained at the respective Office of Residential Life (Studentenwerk).

Apart from choosing a university and major subject, it is also important to know who will help you to find accommodation, affordable meals or give advice in case of personal problems. In these cases the Office of Residential Life will not leave you in the lurch, for their service is comprehensive as far as extracurricular issues are concerned. Their primary tasks are to ensure accommodation and catering for the students, to guarantee the financial aid, as well as to provide student counselling services, and last but not least to promote cultural activities. On a federal level, the parent organisation of all the 61 Studentenwerke, the Deutsche Studentenwerk e.V., looks after the interests of the local Offices of Residential Life. On a local university level the Office of Residential Life takes care of the international students.

Saxony – Renowned for its Traditional and Innovative Science

Choosing to study in Saxony is a good choice in many respects. Saxony borders on Poland, the Czech Republic and the German federal states of Bayern (Bavaria), Thüringen (Thuringia), Sachsen-Anhalt and Brandenburg. In an area of 18,414.82 km² Saxony has approximately 4.3 million inhabitants.

Culture, science and economic activity were, and still are, hallmarks of this region. Saxony has a unique cultural landscape that charmingly reflects the interplay of tradition and innovation. During the past few centuries Saxony developed into one of the most densely populated cultural regions of Germany. At the same time science and research grew firm roots in Saxony.

Apart from universities, polytechnics, colleges of higher education and a technical academy, Saxony possesses quite a few independent research institutions and facilities. To name just a few of the most illustrious institutes: the Gottfried-Wilhelm-Leibnitz-Institute, the Fraunhofer-Institute and the Max-Planck-Institute. Saxony is one of the most productive and sophisticated science and technology agglomerations in Germany. Focal points in research are micro-electronics and nanotechnology, mechanical engineering, the science of materials, biotechnology, neuroscience, medical technology and environmental research. Expressions such as ”Silicon Saxony“ and ”Bio Saxony“ have grown to be hallmarks of the region.

In the past few years, major companies such as the car manufacturers BMW, VW and Porsche, the microprocessor manufacturer AMD and the chip producer Infineon have established themselves successfully in Saxony. These firms offer good perspectives for students, during and after their studies. Due to the cooperation between industry and universities in Saxony, the number of innovations in the individual branches of industry is on the rise. As a consequence, the leading position as a technology stronghold is substantially influenced by the productive and sophisticated Saxonian university and research scene and their qualified workforce. In that respect, the transfer of technology between university and industry is a major location advantage of Saxony.

Saxony is a federal state where life is worth living, with an exceptionally exciting cultural life. The natural scenery of Saxony consists of flatland, hilly countryside and low mountain ranges. The Erzgebirge, Swiss Saxony and the Vogtland are worthwhile visiting all the year round. Apart from hiking and biking on an extended network of roads, there are unique opportunities for rock-climbing in one of the most beautiful national parks of Germany, the national park Swiss Saxony. There is also a splendid array of castles and palaces, perfectly in harmony with the geographical setting. The modern history of Saxony was a time of upheaval. The Free State of Saxony was founded in 1918 as a consequence of the dissolution of the Kingdom of Saxony. It existed until 1945, when Saxony became part of the Soviet Occupation Zone. During the period of the German Democratic Republic, the old territorial boundaries of Saxony were changed; there was a new subdivision in municipalities and districts. After the dissolution of the German Democratic Republic, the Free State of Saxony re-emerged as one of the federal state of Germany in 1990.

German is the official language, but as in every German region dialects abound. In Saxony one can hear diverse variants of the Saxonian dialect. In the region called Lausitz (Lusatia), around 60,000 Sorbs speak the Sorb language, belonging to the West-Slavic language group.

In Saxony all major religious denominations are represented, with the Lutheran-Protestant Church having a much larger congregation than the Roman Catholic Church; furthermore there are Free Churches as well as Jewish and Muslim congregations.

Coming to Saxony – be it as tourist, student or scientist – is worthwhile in any case. At this point in time approximately 100,000 students study in Saxony, and with good reason. The universities, colleges and polytechnics of Saxony are located in Dresden, Leipzig, Chemnitz, Zwickau, Freiberg, Mittweida, Zittau and Görlitz. A rich tradition blends organically with new trends. Generations of scientists, technicians, engineers, scientists in the fields of the humanities and social sciences, medical professionals and artists have established the worldwide renown of the Saxonian universities, colleges and polytechnics. Saxony creates and develops the prerequisites and conditions for the high quality of its university education. This high standard is ensured by maintaining a manifold variety of major subjects and courses, modern areas of research, practice-oriented training, short duration of study, and a good all-round situation of supervision, especially in the physics and engineering departments.

The Office of Residential Life at Dresden, responsible for seven universities, colleges and polytechnics in Dresden and two in Zittau/Görlitz offers a comprehensive service in non academic fields. Likewise, the other three Saxonian Studentenwerke (Leipzig, Chemnitz/Zwickau and Freiberg/Mittweida) offer the same service in their region, thus encouraging many prospective students to study in Saxony.