Studying in Berlin – A Guide for Postgraduate Students
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Studying in Berlin – A Guide for Postgraduate Students

Written by Sarah Hastings-Woodhouse

If you’re deciding where to study in Germany, Berlin is likely to be high on your list of potential locations. With three universities featuring in the global top 100, Germany’s capital offers no shortage of prestigious educational opportunities. A fascinating history, countless cultural attractions and an exciting nightlife only add to its worldwide appeal!

This guide will cover everything you need to know about studying in Berlin as an international student, including universities, accommodation, living costs and more.

Why study your PhD in Berlin?

Here’s just a snapshot of what’s on offer for postgraduate students in Berlin:

  • World-renowned universities: Of the nine universities in Germany that feature in the top 100 worldwide, three are in Berlin.
  • A historic contribution to education: An Enlightenment model of education known as Humboldt’s ideal originated at the University of Berlin in the early 1800s, which still underlies Western teaching and research today, and even gave rise to the modern-day PhD.
  • Cultural attractions: Berlin is home to 170 museums, 150 theatres and three opera houses, not to mention symbolic historical monuments such as the Brandenburg Gate and remnants of the Berlin Wall.
  • Travel opportunities: Berlin’s location in central Europe makes it the perfect starting point for adventures further afield. You can reach other European capitals such as Warsaw and Prague in a matter of hours – perfect for a weekend trip!

Top Universities in Berlin for PhD study

We’ve picked out the best universities in Berlin for PhD students, using the 2023 Times Higher Education World Rankings.

#1 Humboldt University of Berlin

Situated in the heart of the city, the Humboldt University of Berlin is credited as one of the most influential in Europe. It pioneered the Humboldtian model of higher education, which still informs Western teaching and research to this day. It is also the birthplace of the modern-day PhD.

There are currently 28 structured doctoral programmes on offer at the university. Students also have the option of designing their own research project and applying for a traditional PhD.

#2 Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin is one of Europe’s largest university hospitals, and has produced more than half of German Nobel prize winners for Medicine and Physiology. It is also amongst Germany’s most research-intensive medical institutions and home to almost 5,000 researchers working across 1,000 projects and collaborations.

The university offers several structured doctoral programmes focused on a number of fields including Medical Neuroscience, Regenerative Therapies and Integrative Oncology.

#3 Free University of Berlin

The Free University of Berlin is a public research university with an international outlook, welcoming students from over 80 countries and offering a selection of English-taught structured doctoral programmes, as well as the option to apply for a traditional PhD. It is particularly well-renowned for its research in the humanities and social sciences, but also offers cutting-edge science programmes.

#4 Technical University of Berlin

The Technical University of Berlin is one of Germany’s most internationally orientated universities, with almost 30% of its student population hailing from overseas. It is regarded as Germany’s first technical university, and is now amongst its largest, educating over 34,500 students across 40 institutes.

Living costs in Berlin for international students

Berlin may not be amongst the cheapest cities in Germany, but it does offer relatively low living costs when compared to many other European countries. Germany is also a budget-friendly option for international study since you (usually) won’t pay tuition fees.

The German government estimates that international students will need to budget €867 per month – though this is a nationwide average and will vary according to your choice of accommodation and lifestyle. Costs may be considerably higher for students renting private accommodation in Berlin.

We’ve put together some typical costs for international students in Berlin, based on crowdsourced data from Numbeo:

Student Cost of Living in Berlin - 2024
Monthly rent (1 bedroom apartment, city centre) €1,317
Monthly rent (1 bedroom apartment, outside city centre) €920
Restaurant Meal €12
Cinema ticket €13
Monthly travel pass €49
Monthly utilities €359
Based on crowdsourced data published by Numbeo.

You can reduce the cost of rent significantly by opting for student accommodation or a flat share (Wohngemeinschaft).

The price of student accommodation will vary between universities, but you can expect to pay an average of €480 per month in Berlin. It’s worth noting that places in student halls are limited, so it’s a good idea to apply early.

Read more about accommodation options in Germany.

Working during your degree in Berlin

Working part-time can be a great way to bring in extra income during your degree. EU and EEA students can work in Germany without restrictions (although you will need to make the required insurance contributions if you work more than 20 hours per week).

All other international students can work a maximum of 120 full days or 240 half days per year.

There are a variety of casual jobs on offer for students in Berlin. Common off-campus roles include waiting tables, babysitting and courier work. You could also consider private tutoring or writing for your university as an academic assistant.

You can browse current opportunities on student job portal stellenwerk Berlin, or learn more in our guide to working in Germany.

Things to see in Berlin as an international student

You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to attractions and monuments in the cultural hotspot of Berlin.

History enthusiasts will enjoy visiting what remains of the Berlin Wall, a once 28-mile-long barrier between East and West that can still be observed from multiple places in the city. The striking Brandenburg Gate in the central district of Mitte is hard to miss and marks the meeting place of the East and West German leaders in the immediate aftermath of reunification.

To visit the political heart of Germany, you can take a trip to the Reichstag, which houses the German parliament and attracts thousands of guests each year. You can book ahead of time for a 360-degree view of the city from the glass dome at the top of the building.

There are over 170 museums in Berlin, from those commemorating Germany’s tumultuous 20th-century history such as the Allied Museum, DDR Museum and Berlin Wall Memorial to the more light-hearted Currywurst Museum.

Berlin has a worldwide reputation for its nightlife. There are countless clubs for international students to frequent – from former power station turned techno bar Berghain, to the canal-side Club der Visionaere, which you’ll find nestled under a huge weeping willow.

Careers in Berlin

The job market in Berlin has plenty to offer international graduates, with particularly strong links to industries such as IT, communications and public administration. The city is also one of Europe’s hotspots for startups, with many companies founded in Berlin having achieved global success, such as Zalando and Soundcloud.

The German government is keen to attract overseas talent and offers generous post-study work opportunities for international graduates. You’ll be able to apply for an 18-month jobseekers permit after completing your Masters or PhD, and for permanent residence if you manage to find employment during this time.

Find a PhD in Berlin

Keen to make Berlin your new home away from home? Browse PhD projects in Berlin now or visit our study in Germany page for information on universities, funding, applications and more.

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Last Updated: 21 November 2023