TL;DR: The main differences between studying in Germany and studying in the UK are the tuition fees and language used, among other factors. Infographic available at the end of the page.
Studying abroad is a dream for many. Imagine experiencing four seasons in a year, holding a cup of hot chocolate while watching snowflakes floating down in winter, riding a bike along a clear stream on the way to campus, or reading a book on a bed of golden-coloured leaves in autumn. For most of us, our ideal picture of university life comes from Hollywood movies or Netflix series.
Among all the countries to further your studies overseas, the UK has always been on the top of the list for most Malaysian students. This could be due to the fact that some of the world’s most famous universities like the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge are in the UK. Many of us also have relatives or friends in the UK, and we hear stories about studying and living there from them.
Non English-speaking countries such as France, Japan and Germany are less popular among Malaysian students. As a result, many people are not aware that Germany is an engineering powerhouse that gives great opportunities for students who wish to pursue engineering or IR 4.0 related courses, let alone the fact that you can study tuition-free in most German public universities!
If you’re weighing the pros and cons and deciding whether to study in Germany vs study in the UK, we’ve compiled a list of the differences between these two study destinations to help you make an informed decision as to study in Germany or the UK. Let’s jump right in.
It sounds too good to be true, but you don’t need to pay tuition fees to study at a public university in Germany. Out of the 16 states in Germany, only the state of Baden-Württemberg charges international students a low tuition fee of €1,500 (RM7,000) per semester. Apart from zero or low tuition fees, you’ll need to make a semester contribution of around €200 to €300 per semester which covers benefits like using the public transportation without paying extra.
In the United Kingdom, however, tuition fees depend very much on the university as well as the course. On average, the tuition fees for undergraduate programs for international students ranges between £10,000 – £20,000 (RM56,000-RM112,000) per year, and a medical program can cost up to £38,000 (RM215,000) or more. The more prestigious the university, the higher the fees. Not to forget that you have to multiply this fee by the number of years the course is conducted, which is generally 3 years for an undergraduate program.
In Germany, the cost of living varies depending on the location you’re living at. On average, the cost of living for students is €861 (RM4,078) per month. In bigger cities like Munich, Stuttgart, and Hamburg, you should expect higher monthly expenses due to higher rent that can cost up to €650 per month, compared to €300-€400 per month in smaller cities.
Health insurance is compulsory in Germany. The insurance costs €110 per month and covers most in- and out-patient care, check ups, basic dental treatment, cost of medication, and more.
More reads: How much is the cost of living in Germany?
Similarly, in the UK, it costs more to live in bigger cities like London. The average monthly cost of living in London is around £1,300 (RM7,300), whereas the cost of living outside of London can go down to £600-£1,000 (RM3,300-RM5,600) per month. In London, an on-campus residence can be around £700, compared to £500 in universities outside of London. Food and groceries, utilities, transportation, internet, and entertainment are among other things to budget for. In short, the average monthly living costs in the UK should be around £810 (RM4,603).
We will now look briefly at the education system in Germany vs UK. German universities have two intakes per year- the winter intake starts in September/October and the summer intake starts in March/April. Both intakes have equal standing, but the winter intake is the primary intake with more courses being offered whereas only limited courses are offered in the summer intake. A typical bachelor’s degree in Germany is 3-3.5 years whereas a master’s degree is 1.5-2 years.
Universities in the UK generally have two intakes per year as well- the fall intake starts in September/October and the winter intake starts in January/February. Few universities also have an April/May intake, but the options are very limited. The September intake is the primary intake, and the January intake is the secondary intake, mainly for students who have missed the September intake. Typically, a bachelor’s degree in the UK takes 3-4 years to complete whereas a master’s degree takes 1-2 years.
German universities are highly reputable, not only for their tuition-free policy, but also for their high quality of education and emphasis on hands-on learning which nurtures job-ready graduates. Among all other universities, the TU9 is an alliance of 9 leading universities of technology in Germany. They are:
TU9 universities are ambassadors of the label German Engineering worldwide. This alliance works on driving groundbreaking innovations, attracting global talents for the engineering industry, pioneering creative research, and fostering strategic alliances with global institutions. TU9 universities attract more than 60,000 international students yearly, creating a pool of intelligent and culturally diversified talents who will shape the future of engineering and science in Germany.
The UK has some of the most renowned universities in the world. According to the QS World Universities Ranking 2022, the top 10 universities in the UK are:
These universities have a very good track record of academic excellence and are recognized globally.
When we think about studying in Germany, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is automotive engineering as brands such as BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche are famous brands among Malaysians. Indeed, Germany is one of the best countries to pursue an engineering degree, including automotive engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, just to name a few. Germany is also the pioneer of Industry 4.0, leading the way for Internet of Things (IoT) and cybersecurity. This makes Germany an attractive study destination for courses such as information technology (IT), computer science, automation, and artificial intelligence. Besides, Germany is also one of the top choices for students who are interested in pursuing management, humanities, social science, and MBA.
The UK, on the other hand, has always been a popular study destination for students from all around the world. Some of the common courses among Malaysian students in the UK include law, medicine, accounting, business studies, engineering, and computer science. As a Commonwealth country, students who have obtained their qualification in law, medicine, and accounting from the UK are recognized by the professional bodies in Malaysia, making it seamless to practice their profession back home.
International students in Germany are allowed to work for a total of 120 full or 240 half days in a year. Generally, students are advised not to work more than 20 hours a week during the term, but are free to work full-time during vacations. Students typically work on-campus as teaching assistants, research assistants, librarians, etc, or work as private tutors like teaching English to Germans. You can also work in retail or as a waiter in a cafe or restaurant. Usually, year 2 students can also opt for a job related to their major to earn relevant working experiences. The minimum wage for part-time jobs has recently been increased to €12.00 per hour starting October 2022.
Likewise, international students in the UK are allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours per week and work full-time during term breaks. Common part-time jobs for students also include hospitality jobs like waiters/waitresses, retail jobs like sales or store assistants, temporary jobs especially during festive seasons, as well as jobs on campus like working in the cafeteria or as a research assistant. The National Minimum Wage is £6.83 per hour if you’re 18 to 20 years old, and £9.18 per hour if you’re 21-22 years old. There may be some restrictions on working part-time as an international student set by your university or the state officials so bear in mind to check before you start working.
Germany is always on the mission to attract and retain international talents, with the most in-demand jobs being healthcare practitioners, engineers, and IT specialists. Upon graduation, you can extend your residence permit for 18 months to look for a job. During this period, you’re allowed to work any job to sustain yourself until you’ve secured a full-time employment. Generally, the job opportunities are plenty for graduates, but you’re advised to start looking around during your final semester. Once you have successfully found a job you like with a minimum one year contract, you can apply for the EU Blue Card which allows you to live and work in Germany, usually up to 4 years or until your contract ends, whichever comes first. You can then extend your EU Blue Card with an extension of your work contract.
Starting from the 1st of July 2021, the new Graduate Route opens up opportunities for UK graduates to stay back and work for two (for bachelor’s and master’s graduates) to three years (for PhD graduates). Students who graduate after the 1st of July 2021 are eligible to apply for the Graduate Route, and the application of visa can only be done from within the UK. However, securing a job can be pretty competitive in the UK, depending on your major. Nevertheless, this is good news for students studying in the UK as the possibility to stay back to look for a job upon graduation in the UK has been very slim since the change in policy back in 2012.
If you wish to permanently reside in Germany, you can apply for the settlement permit after having stayed and worked in Germany under the EU Blue Card for at least 21-33 months depending on your profession, and have met all the other requirements, including being employed, having paid contributions, and having basic German language proficiency.
To obtain a PR status in the UK, you’ll need to work for at least 5 years and show stable income from a full-time job with a good moral conduct. By meeting all requirements, you can apply for the ‘indefinite leave to remain’ ILR Visa which gives you the ‘permanent resident’ status.
Studying abroad is a rewarding and exciting experience. Not only can you obtain an international qualification, but more importantly, it is the exposure and living experience you gain while studying abroad that shape your perspectives. Studying in Germany and in the UK both have their pros and cons, and it is important to choose the right path based on your career goals and budget. Instead of following your friends, follow your dreams and take that leap of faith.