The German education system is one of the best in the world and for this reason, offers a wide choice of excellent universities. In this article, you will find more information on how some of them perform in national or international comparisons and rankings. A distinction is made between private, public, and business schools.
How relevant are rankings for universities?
National and International Rankings
Rankings are published by organisations, journals, or individual institutions. Each of these ranking bodies has unique parameters to define the ranking of a university or institution. The most common factors of rankings are for example the number of courses, student awards and achievements, faculty performance, research excellence, alumni network, employment opportunities, alumni pay scale, scholarship opportunities, accreditation, or the infrastructure among other factors.
You will be amazed by the number of rankings that exist both at the national and international level. We advise you to refer to no more than two rankings that have considered all your important criteria. For example, if career opportunities are your main focus, then look for a ranking platform that has sufficiently weighted these job opportunities, salary range and career changes, etc. This way you can get a clear picture of the rankings and better evaluate your universities.
Top German universities – International and national ranking
To give you a better overview, the following rankings are divided into public and private universities. You can learn more about the differences between the types of universities in our article about the German university system.
The best public German universities
Germany has many very good universities which can be seen in different rankings or because of their special title. In 2005 the German government has initiated the “Excellence Strategy” to develop university science and research. The chosen universities are funded with millions of euros to invest in cutting-edge technology, laboratories and leading scientists which also led to outstanding international connections. These universities are bearing the title of “University of Excellence”. In the current period (from 2019 to 2026) ten universities and one university consortium (a partnership of 4 Berlin universities) are permitted to bear this title:
- Berlin University Alliance
- Heidelberg University
- Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
- LMU Munich
- RWTH Aachen
- Technical University of Munich
- Technische Universität Dresden
- Universität Hamburg
- University of Bonn
- University of Konstanz
- University of Tübingen
In addition, some other universities also have a fantastic reputation. In the following ranking, the top German public universities are sorted by their international and national ranking. This ranking consists of 8 aforementioned “Universities of Excellence” and 2 other universities. These rankings are based on the Times Higher Education (THE) 2020 ranking, which is a reliable source known for providing unbiased and comprehensive global rankings. You can also view the full rankings of German Universities, please click here.
|International Rank||Germany Rank||University Name||Location|
|41||2||Technical University Munich||Munich|
|75||4||University of Tübingen||Tübingen|
|80||6||University of Freiburg||Freiburg|
|107||8||University of Bonn||Bonn|
|114||9||Free University of Berlin||Berlin|
|118||10||University of Göttingen||Göttingen|
LMU consistently places itself at the top of national as well as international rankings. With prestigious awards and strong student accreditation, LMU is a university that offers world-class education and a great career platform through its teaching quality and strong alumni network. Founded in 1472, the university has hosted 43 Nobel laureates and has the largest number of international students, with around 7,500 from over 125 countries.
If you are looking to sharpen your skills in one of the engineering fields, you should consider Technical University of Munich (TUM). The university counts as one of the best universities and the only technical university located in the Bavarian state and offers a wide variety of interesting research opportunities. Among bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral students alike, the university is celebrated for its entrepreneurial and innovative mindset. The university is also one of the most international universities in Germany as almost one in four students comes from abroad.
The university’s placement in a beautiful student city makes it one of the favourites of international students. The Medical Faculty of Heidelberg University exists since 1388 and is, therefore, the oldest in Germany and one of the internationally renowned biomedical research institutions in Europe. Furthermore, the faculty can present renowned physicians such as Markus Büchler, Vincenz Czerny as their alumni.
This university is also officially known as Eberhard Karls University Tübingen. A dream place for students interested in medicine or high technology. Like many other German universities, the University of Tübingen has a long and rich history. This is reflected in the beautiful, ancient yet modern architecture of the campus. This university also is home to some of the most prestigious Nobel laureates in the fields of medicine, physics and chemistry. It also offers massive support to students who intend to pursue research in their field of interest.
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin was founded in 1809, making it the oldest university in Berlin. Today, Humboldt-Universität with Charité has eleven faculties and about 33,700 students in a total of 258-degree programmes. The university’s research profile is characterised by basic research, research-oriented towards social and ecological issues, and research-oriented towards economic usability. Famous alumni of the Humboldt University were Heinrich Heine, Otto von Bismarck and Karl Marx.
The Albert Ludwig University is a classic comprehensive university that offers the entire spectrum of subjects in the humanities, life sciences and engineering, as well as medicine and law. Located in Baden-Württemberg it is one of the oldest universities in Germany, founded almost 500 years ago. It is internationally regarded as an outstanding research university and ensures that its students can participate in the latest scientific developments. Around 15 per cent of the students currently come from abroad. This internationality is promoted by more than 300 partnerships with universities worldwide.
The Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen offers German- and English-language degree programmes in engineering sciences at both Bachelor’s and Master’s level. The university is one of Europe’s leading science and research institutions and is located in a student city with access to industry and research institutions and a very strong alumni network. In the winter semester 2018/2019, over 10,000 foreign students from more than 120 countries were enrolled at RWTH.
The Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn excels with top-level research, science-led studies, and international flair. With 250 buildings spread across the entire city, the university has played a decisive role in shaping the city Bonn since its foundation 200 years ago. With numerous foreign professors, employees, visiting researchers and almost 5,000 students from over 130 different countries, the university contributes significantly to Bonn’s international flair and makes the federal city one of the most sought-after addresses in Germany for foreign guests.
The Freie Universität is an internationally oriented top university in the southwest of Berlin. People from 130 countries come together here to study, research, teach and work. The Freie Universität is one of the eleven universities in Germany that have been distinguished as excellent. It offers more than 180 degree programmes in a broad range of subjects at twelve departments and four central institutes.
Founded in 1737, Göttingen University is a research-strong university with a focus on research-oriented teaching. The Göttingen Campus offers an attractive environment for research and teaching that attracts outstanding scientists and students from Germany and abroad. With almost 200 degree programmes in 13 faculties, the university offers its 31,500 students a broad spectrum of subjects.
The Berlin University Alliance is a corporation of four universities of Berlin – Humboldt-Universität, Freie Universität, Charité Universitätsmedizin and the Technische Universität. Their goal is to extend Berlin science and research into a world-class area. One if their most important partner is the University of Oxford.
Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin is the joint medical department of Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.
Studying medicine at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, which is the combined medical faculties of Humbold Universität and Freie Universität Berlin, means that a student gets to learn, practice and master medicine in one of the oldest and largest faculties of medicine in Germany. It is said that this is one of the most famous universities for many programmes, but the medical programmes, in particular, are very popular because of the extensive practical experience that students gain through the courses.
The KIT has been founded in 2009 as a cooperation between the Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe and the Universität Karlsruhe. Its goal is to be one of the most innovative universities in Germany. Therefore, it aims to provide good technologies for the future of energy, mobility, and information. With more than 20% (more than 1,000 in numbers) foreign academic workers the KIT emphasizes its international connections to bring the best researchers to Germany.
The Technische Universität Dresden has its roots in 1828 when the predecessor Technische Bildungsanstalt Dresden was founded. The variety of its subjects is unique. You can study subjects in the engineering field, social studies as well as medicine. On top of that, the university partners with universities all over the world (e.g. China, Australia and Canada).
The Universität Hamburg was founded in 1919. Today it is the biggest research institute in Northern Germany. Its strategy for a sustainable future was the most important concept for the application for the “Universities of Excellence”. Therefore, the university is bounded for sustainable science and to research in climate change.
The University of Konstanz is in the beautiful tri-border region of Germany, Switzerland and Austria at Germany’s biggest lake “Bodensee”. As a member of the Young European Research Universities Network Uthe University of Konstanz has a good reputation. Due to the Transatlantic Cooperation Network, which is based in Konstanz, the university also has close cooperation with excellent US universities.
The University of Tübingen belongs to the oldest research institutes in Germany with more than 500 years of experience. Two important clusters in their excellence strategy are based in the health sector – infection research and cancer research. Especially the cancer research aims for innovative and sustainable therapies to gain full control over this disease someday.
The best private German universities
There are currently around 400 higher education institutions in Germany. 240 of these higher education institutions are under public law, and 39 are church-run. 113 higher education institutions are private, of which 20 are private universities, 87 are private universities of applied sciences and three each are private colleges of art and music or universities of their own type. A total of 15 private universities in Germany even offer the possibility of doctoral studies.
Based on the uniRank 2020 university ranking, Germany’s private universities were evaluated according to a unique set of criteria. Only higher education institutions that were founded, licensed or accredited by the relevant German higher education organisation, that offer at least four-year undergraduate (Bachelor’s) or postgraduate (Master’s or Doctorate) programmes and that deliver courses predominantly in a traditional, face-to-face, the non-remote educational format was eligible for the ranking.
|Germany Rank||University Name||Location|
|90||Katholische Universität Eichstätt- Ingolstadt||Eichstatt|
|128||Hertie School of Governance||Berlin|
|120||FOM Hochschule für Oekonomie und Management||Essen|
|142||Technische Hochschule Georg Agricola||Bochum|
|155||HHL Graduate School of Management||Leipzig|
|159||IUBH School of Business and Management||Erfurt|
The Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt is the only Catholic university in the German-speaking region and one of over 200 Catholic universities worldwide. With 4,808 students, including 803 students from universities of applied sciences, it is one of the largest non-state universities in Germany.
As one of the first private universities founded in Germany in the state of NRW, Witten/Herdecke University is very popular with students seeking an education in healthcare and medicine. It is strategically located amidst healthcare companies and offers students a practical training and study programme. This university is also very popular for nursing courses, both for national and international students.
The university maintains locations across Germany that offer various full- and part-time degree programmes (Bachelor’s and Master’s) as well as apprenticeships and further education. It is divided into five subject areas: Business & Media, Health & Social, Chemistry & Biology, Design and Onlineplus.
The University of Applied Sciences Wedel gGmbH is one of the few private but non-profit universities of applied sciences in Germany. It is state-recognised and offers eleven Bachelor’s and six Master’s degree programmes in the fields of computer science, technology and business.
The Hertie School is a state-recognised, private university in Berlin with the right to award doctorates. It was founded in December 2003 by the non-profit Hertie Foundation as a non-profit GmbH. The university aims to be a leading higher education institution for the international, interdisciplinary and intersectoral study of governance and policy with a focus on the transmission of conceptual knowledge, analytical methods and practical skills.
FOM Hochschule is a private, state-recognised university based in Essen, Germany, which primarily offers business, engineering and health science degree programmes for working professionals and trainees. With over 57,000 students, FOM is the largest face-to-face university in Germany, offering various time models to ensure the compatibility of studying and working. There is a choice of over 40 Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes in six university areas.
The Georg Agricola University of Applied Sciences is a state-recognised private university of applied sciences based in Bochum. Commonly referred to as THGA, this is a perfect choice for students who want a practical education, especially if mechanics, process and materials and mining sciences are the area of interest. The university is two centuries old and located in the mining town of Bochum, which is also the reason why students learn through practice.
Management courses are a relevant innovation in the science and engineering dominated German education market. HHL is one of the Business-schools that offers management education in Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes and also provides finance courses for the above-mentioned programmes. The university is also known for quickly incorporating new technologies such as AI and digital management into its study programmes.
IUBH is a private, state-recognised university of applied sciences based in Erfurt and was founded in 1998. In WS 2019/2020, a total of 30,576 students were enrolled at the university, predominantly in distance learning programmes – making it the largest private distance learning university in Germany. IUBH offers study programmes in all subject areas and offers an extensive programme in the field of information sciences.
Top German universities for Business and Economics
In addition to the already mentioned universities, the following are among the top-ranked German universities in business, economics, and law.
We have listed the top Business Schools based on the ranking by FT for the year 2020. You can also view the entire list of business schools in Germany listed by Forbes here.
The following rankings refer exclusively to the MBA programme, which is particularly attractive for many business administration aspirants.
|European Ranking||Global Ranking||Business School|
|19||64||WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management|
|21||71||Mannheim Business School|
|26||–||Frankfurt School of Finance & Mgmt.|
With a focus on leadership, innovation and analytics, the diverse faculty publishes outstanding research in top academic journals. In addition, the international business school offers an interdisciplinary platform for discourse between politics, business and academia.
WHU is among the leaders in many fields, including its MBA, Master in Finance and Master in Management programmes. WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management is an internationally renowned business school located in Vallendar near Koblenz and Düsseldorf in Germany.
As part of the renowned University of Mannheim, MBS offers first-class finance, business and management education for all career levels – both on an individual and organisational level.
Located in the heart of Frankfurt in a brand new campus, the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management offers Bachelor, Master and PhD programmes. The Master’s programmes are among the best in Europe and the world. Classes are very international, and the school also has a reputation for working with industry experts who guide students on various business and management techniques.
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As we mentioned earlier, rankings are just one of many other factors when choosing a university. Nevertheless, they can provide guidance for you if you are seeking a first-class education in Germany. If you would like to learn more about the study landscape in Germany, please browse through our other articles on the subject. We wish you the best of luck in your search for and application to your dream university. As soon as your plans become more concrete, we at Fintiba will be there to help you with opening a blocked account or your health insurance!
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Last update: March 18, 2021