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 for you. Hopefully it will help you decide to study in Germany or 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 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.
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.
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 in Malaysia. 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 in Malaysia.
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 in 2021 is at €9.60 per hour.
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 £6.45 if you’re 18 to 20 years old, and £8.20 if you’re between 21 to 24 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.
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 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.