To attract talent from abroad, many German universities have started to offer courses on undergraduate and postgraduate levels in English.

Share story

Tuition to U.S. universities has surged 500 percent since 1985 and continues to rise. German universities offer free education to everyone, including Americans.

The number of U.S. students enrolled in German universities has risen steadily in recent years. An estimated 10,000 U.S. citizens are studying at German colleges, nearly all of them for free, according to NBC News.

German universities in most federal states have traditionally been free for German citizens and many foreigners, including many American, Chinese and British students. One reason German taxpayers foot the bill is to help attract more skilled workers to the country.

In recent years, German companies have been unable to fill thousands of jobs because of a lack of qualified applicants. Although Germany has one of the world’s most generous welfare systems, its resources are increasingly strained as more workers retire. The central European economic powerhouse also has one of the world’s lowest fertility rates, making the problem even worse.

Most Read Stories

Cyber Sale! Save 90% on digital access.

In 2012, Lars Funk, a representative for the Association of German Engineers (VDI), said, “The current labor shortage in Germany could inflict lasting damage.” According to Funk, foreign students could help fill that gap. Since then, the gap has only grown.

To attract talent from abroad, many German universities have started to offer courses on undergraduate and postgraduate levels in English. According to a data analysis by the website studyportals.eu — which collects information on available college courses worldwide — there are at least 900 English-language courses in Germany.

The subjects include social sciences, politics and engineering, a particular strength of the country’s education system. Getting into those courses is easier than one might assume. In some cases, a potential student doesn’t even have to submit a formal application.

There are other countries that offer more such courses, including the Netherlands, and English-speaking Ireland and the United Kingdom. However, Germany is the only country without any tuition fees.

In 2014, Dorothee Stapelfeldt, a senator in the northern city of Hamburg, said that tuition fees “discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up study. It is a core task of politics to ensure that young women and men can study with a high quality standard free of charge in Germany.”

More universities also are offering courses for refugees, although they are not eligible to graduate until their asylum applications have successfully been processed. A goal of these courses is to help refugees acquire German-language skills. The free courses in English offered to other foreigners are supposed to help Germans improve their language skills by communicating with native speakers.

It is an offer that attracts an increasing number of fans: The German Academic Exchange Service has also seen a rising number of applicants from other countries with a history of excellent universities, for instance Britain.

After tuition was increased by the conservative government several years ago, students started looking for cheaper options in Europe.

Robert Chesters told the German newsweekly Der Spiegel that he considered studying abroad in Germany a good alternative. “I just couldn’t have afforded to study in England,” he said.