A Tale of Two Systems: Private vs. Public Education in Germany


Study Location? Germany, CHECK! Study program? Business, CHECK! Private or Public?…… Whether you should study at a private or public university is a surprising conundrum people might come across when applying for universities. Both options will offer an excellent opportunity for further education. The obvious difference between the two is one is publicly funded by the government, and the other is privately funded, often by a foundation, institution (think churches or companies) or investors. But what’s important for you to know? Let's chat…

Money, Money, Money, Is It Funny?

Let's talk about the expensive elephant in the room. One of the biggest deciding factors for many future students is the cost of their education. A key difference between a private and a public university is that private tuition is usually self-funded and public tuition is publicly funded.

This means a student studying publicly might spend 100€ – 350€ on administrative fees, whereas their friends getting a private education across the road could be spending between 20,000€ – 40,000€ per year.  

Why would students want to pay for tuition then? There are many reasons university students fork out the extra cash.

Spending Money to Make More Money

Did you know the saying, ‘you have to spend money to make money’ originated in 200–100 BC? There is a reason that phrase is still relevant over 2000 years later and available for writers like me to use in our blog posts. Spending money for a private education at university could result in you having more money in the end.

Let me break this down:

On average, it takes students 1-2 semesters longer to graduate with a bachelor's degree at a public university. Some students delay their exams because they don’t feel they are prepared. Private universities have adequate resources to support students individually, therefore increasing the chance of students finishing their studies quicker. 

Graduating one semester earlier generates an average of 22,000€ in additional income. Students who finish earlier can work full-time and earn an income. 

Extra Services

Most universities offer extra services and support for their students, whether you choose to student publicly or privately. It may be that private universities include more bang for your buck by going that extra mile with their services. Private universities often offer a wider variety of services and resources. Typical offerings at universities are:

  • Psychological assistance
  • International office support
  • An admission team to help you with questions you have, your eligibility and your application
  • Student services
  • Alumni support
  • Housing support
  • Career services

There will likely be someone at private universities guiding you through deadlines, showing you how navigate student life and helping you integrate into the university culture and environment. Studying publicly may just mean you need a little more self-discipline. That is a great skill to have!

Small Class Sizes

Private universities typically have smaller class sizes. For reference, some public universities in Germany could have 300 students in one lecture, whereas the average class size in private universities is between 20 – 30 students.

Smaller class sizes have some great benefits, like being able to get one-on-one support from professors and the ability to create a community on campus. Smaller universities offer ‘small country town’ vibes in the middle of the city. It will give you the opportunity to know all your peers. At a bigger university, you can fly under the radar. You could get a bad haircut or miss a few days of uni and it may go unnoticed. At many private universities, you won't get away with that bad haircut or skipping!

If attending big universities, like the early 2,000 romantic comedies set in US colleges, then studying at a public university might seem more appealing to you. It could also be the case that your local public university is more well-known in the local community than the smaller private universities. That is also something to consider.

Network and Reputation

Private and public universities can have an excellent network and reputation. Well-funded public universities can have strong faculty with groundbreaking research being incorporated into the curriculum, as well as the newest technologies. This strongly depends on the individual university.

Private universities are often more niche and funded by companies that offer a great network. This means closer ties to your chosen industry. 

So, should I study at a public or private university in Germany?

At the end of the day, you probably won't make a bad decision. Both private and public universities have something great to offer that will support your future. If you are given an apple and an orange, both are fruit, they will taste nice and be good for you. It's now all down to personal preference


Now that we've covered the basics of private education, let's talk about financing your degree. 

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