Thursday, April 26, 2018

Education Cost in Germany

Before applying to any university for an abroad degree programme, generally one should consider the cost beforehand, at least once before you board that plane to leave everything behind and start a new life. I know few of my friends who got admission offers from ivy schools but could not join because of financial constraints. Before we proceed any further, let me clarify that this post specifically addresses the expenses of pursuing a master programme in a German public university and most specifically of Munich.

The first point of the costing as imaginable would be tuition fees. German public universities do not charge any tuition fee as of October 2017 [1]. However, those who want to study at a private university might have to pay up to 20,000€ per year, and if a student fails any subject, he/she would have to pay approx 2,000€ for reattempt per subject. A student of a public university only needs to pay a marginal semester fee (128€), which also allegedly helps the student with the living costs, e.g; it covers a part of transportation cost within the city (Munich subway is expensive - the minimum roundtrip ticket price is approx 3*2 = 6€; Pro: 5 minutes walk from about anywhere, faster than cars and rarely late), subsidies the meal at university cafes, sports (a very wide range of options are available on an FCFS basis and access to olympics grade state infrastructure - 10€ per semester) and student dorms fees. Again, the semester fee might vary depending on the university. So pretty awesome for 128€, isn't it? Besides if you make it to the merit list, the university awards you with the scholarship or well-paid research assistantship. Apart from these, if you are an average guy like me who knows a little bit of this and that, there are tons of research projects in the university, that could pay you well.

The second big part is living cost. Munich is without any doubt the most expensive city to live in Germany. It is usually around 30-40% costlier than the rest of Germany. Especially rents are so crazy here that even London and Paris look sane - a single room in a shared flat is already 500€ and up. However, for those universities that are located in a small town or university-town, 200-300€ could easily fetch you a single room with attached kitchen and stuff.

Now let's get back to the semester fee (128€) that a student pays at the beginning of every semester. A part of this fee goes to Munich Student Union and in exchange, Munich Student Union avails subsidized student accommodation (believe me, it is a nightmare to find one in Munich and surrounding areas -  took me one year). The rooms are equipped with centralized heating, running hot/cold water and unlimited internet (DW/UP speed: 20/40 Mbps), which is covered by the rent itself. The student union offers the students a total of almost 11,000 rooms and apartments at an average monthly rent of approx 300€. The average waiting time to get an accommodation from the student union varies from 6-12 months, depending on the halls of residence. In most cases, the kitchen and washrooms are shared with other students and everyone has a small single room. Applying early for a place at the residential home raises the chance to get one of the strongly demanded places such as Studentenstadt Freimann. Residential homes cost between 200-400€, a room in an apartment-sharing community costs between 300-500€. A single apartment can cost from 400€ upwards. So once a student secures admission to the university, they must immediately register themselves at Munich Student Union online portal. Additionally also consider applying for private student dorms, such as John-Mott-Haus.

Now, there are other things that are needed, starting with food, clothing, study materials and free-time activities (such as beer - beer is cheaper than bottled water) that form another part in costing. Regarding study materials, you mostly do not need to buy many books or print a lot of lecture materials - almost 99% of lectures are recorded and other resources such as books, IEEE publications, journals, safari are accessible through university e-media library and apps. The money needed for food depends on the individual; however, it is generally advised to shop in discount supermarkets such as Aldi, Edeka or Rewe which offers high-quality groceries at a cheap price. These stores don't spend their money on advertisements and expect customers to pay for that. German people usually don’t care much about things being gluten-free, organic or whatever (few does?), so the grocery prices just don’t heat up out of thin air. However, if you are a brand person then there are stores though that charge above the market, for example, Basic. In total, it is a good way to look at your own lifestyle and calculate with about 200€ more.

The below Fig. 1 (provided by the university office of academic affairs) illustrates the estimated monthly living cost for a student studying in Munich based on the 19th social survey of the Deutsche Studentenwerk [2]. In one of the emails before induction, the university programme advisor had suggested calculating the living expenditures based on the maximum cost (approx 800€ per month according to her).
Fig. 1. An estimated monthly cost of living for a student in a German university [2]
Well enough of estimation, I think it would be more beneficial for a future applicant to know the actual incurred cost for pursuing a master programme in a German public university. First of all, let me clarify few things: first I completed my programme in three years, second my daily lifestyle does not demand a lot of expenditures - I have mostly inexpensive tastes, so take the below Fig. 2 with a pinch of salt, and lastly third these expenditures include few loans that I had given to few friends and also few travelling costs which I didn't categorize while preparing this chart (Lazy I know already) and thus got added to Uncategorized section, so give or take, I think the total expenditures, for me, must have been around 30,000€ for three years.
Fig. 2. Expenses planet chart of total expenditures for three years

Apart from daily living expenses, you should consider including traveling on your list (You get only one life to see everything, remember!), which can be expensive depending on your choices. It is also quite normal if you keep calculating every price to your native country currency in your first few months but please grow out of it for your own sake. Get a part-time job once you are settled (you will be paying around 40-50% income tax - approx 1,000€ per month) and for heaven sake, please don't be cheap when it comes to tipping people who provide you with their generous services. Generally, 10-15% tip is acceptable if the services are great (otherwise less) and you will be greeted with a hearty Danke, more than this is usually seen as show-off by your peers - don't worry nobody will complain and you will still get your Danke. Respect local culture, please don't always keep talking about how awesome/different your native country is. I'm sure, yours is - though after a while it becomes mildly annoying, better use this opportunity to expand your horizon. Don't be a flamboyant, loud-mouthed prick, your language, manners, and way of speaking do matter, respect social-laws and do study well.

Few other expenditures you should be aware of:

  • TV/Radio license fee: 20€ per month (You will moan about it, everyone does!)
  • Health insurance: 85€ per month (if the registered number of semesters <= 12, otherwise 180€ per month)
  • Mobile: 10€ per month (250 MB data plan)
  • IsarCard: 193€ per semester (allows 24 hours access to Munich subway)
  • Morning Coffee: 1€ per cup (only in student cafes, otherwise 2.5€)
  • Restaurants: around 20€ (per meal)
  • University Cafe: around 4€ (per meal)
  • Drink in a beer-garden / nightclub: around 5-7€ (per drink)

Good luck!

[1]  Referendum to abolish tuition in German Public Universities.
[2]. The Economic and Social Conditions of Student Life in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Note: All the cost incurrences were collected in October 2017.