Germany is the fourth largest economy in the world. It has made research, development and education its priority.

Country Overview

Located in the center of Europe, Germany is the European Union’s most populous country and the biggest marketplace. It borders nine other countries: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Poland. Germany has coastlines on both the North and Baltic Seas. Germany is a federal parliamentary democracy made up of 16 states (Länder). Each state has its own constitution, parliament, and government. National executive power rests with the federal government based in the capital, Berlin. Through the Bundesrat the states are represented at the federal level where they participate in federal legislation. The parliament, called the Bundestag, is comprised of 598 elected members, representing 299 constituencies. These members of parliament in turn elect a Chancellor, similar to a Prime Minister in other parliamentary democracies. There is also a president of the Bundestag who oversees daily sessions and a national President who acts as a head of state with largely representative duties.

Centrally located in the heart of the European Union, Germany is a driving force in European integration. Germany is also a prominent representative in major international organizations, such as the United Nations (UN), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Germany is the largest economy in the European Union and the fourth largest in the world. The world’s 500 largest firms have operations in Germany. These total around 45,000 foreign companies. Alongside the global players, many small- and medium-sized enterprises also contribute to the German economy. The companies all benefit from the positive economic condition and the excellent qualifications of the workforce.

Germany is a social market economy, which means that the state guarantees the social well-being of its citizens and promotes the free play of entrepreneurial forces at the same time. The economic order is thus anchored in the welfare state.


The climate in Germany is relatively mild, with rare appearances of extreme temperatures or weather events. The climate in the north, north-west and the western “Rhineland,” is largely oceanic and rain can fall all year round—affected by proximity to the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. In the east, however, the climate is continental with cold winters, warmer summers, and long dry periods. Central and southern Germany are transition regions and they vary from fairly oceanic to continental. The warmest regions are in the south-west.


In 2014, Germany’s gross domestic product was 3.859 billion Euros (4.405 billion USD). Germany’s GDP value represents 8 percent of the world economy.


With a population of 82 million Germany is the largest and most important market in the European Union. With a population of 3.5 million people, Berlin is Germany’s largest city.

Overview of Higher Education

Germany has made research, development and education its priority. The Federal government has increased its spending on research and development since the financial and economic crisis and has kicked off several national innovation strategies and funding measures to boost its innovative strength and economic success. In addition to the activities carried out by the Federal Government, the Länder also support initiatives in the areas of research, technology and innovation. Here, they make use of the specific assets of the individual regions.

As recent data show, this increased investment is already paying off: Germany is among the countries with a high rate of research and development and is spending about 2.9% of its GDP on research and development.

With regard to the development of new patents that are relevant for the world market, figures show that Germany’s performance is well above average among the European countries. The export of technology products arising from these patents contributes significantly to Germany’s economic performance.

Highly-skilled, specialized employees are the core of the German labor market and will remain so in the future. According to the figures provided by the Ministry of Research and Education, more than half a million people work in R&D companies, universities and research institutions.

Germany is highly competitive in research. There are more than 800 publicly funded research institutions in Germany, plus R&D facilities run by companies. In many regions these industrial and academic institutions have increased their collaboration efforts and are pooling their R&D activities in networks and clusters thus increasing the level of knowledge as well as opportunities for researchers.

German universities and public research institutes are critical contributors to – and beneficiaries of – the German federal government’s climate of innovation. One major program that supports this climate is the “Excellence Initiative” of the German federal and state governments, which provides significant funding aimed at propelling research groups, graduate schools, and entire universities to elite, world-class status. Until 2017 2.7 billion Euros will be allocated into funding. This initiative has triggered lasting changes of the German university system and has strengthened its international position with cutting-edge topics and innovative models on how to organize and coordinate research. Numerous new jobs and positions have been created.

Non-university research institutes are also benefitting from the increase in R&D spending; in return, they contribute to the competitiveness of the German research system.

Germany is the third most popular host country for international students, who make up over 8.7 percent of the student population. For example, student mobility from the USA to Germany takes place in three different ways: First, temporary study-related visits not including enrolment at a German higher education institution, second, temporary study-related mobility including enrolment at a German higher education institution, and third, longer-term study visits to a German higher education institution aimed at taking a degree in Germany.

Number of Colleges, Universities, Technical Institutes

There are three main types of higher education institutions in Germany: universities (Universitäten), universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen) and colleges of art and music (Kunsthochschulen and Musikhochschulen).

There are more 427 higher education institutions (including more than 220 universities of applied sciences)

Number of Higher Education Students

2.7 million students in total, 235,858 international students (8.7%)

605,000 staff in total, 361,000 academic staff in research and development

Contact Information

German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)
North America Regional Office
DAAD New York
871 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017
Phone: +1 212 758 3223
Email: daadny@daad.org

DAAD Information Centre Toronto
c/o Munk School of Global Affairs
North Side, Room 207
University of Toronto
1 Devonshire Place
Toronto, ON M5S 3K7
Phone: +1 416 946 8116
Email: daadca@daad.org

DAAD Information Center San Francisco
c/o Goethe Institut
530 Bush Street, 2nd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94108
Phone: +1 415 986 2021
Email: daadsf@daad.org

For more information about the German research landscape, career and funding opportunities, please visit Research in Germany.

For more information on study opportunities in Germany, please visit Study in Germany.

For a directory of German research institutions, please visit the Research Explorer
Visit the German Houses of Science and Innovation for an overview of these platforms at selected locations.