No German? No Problem!

By: Megan Brenn-White

There is no doubt that getting a handle on German – a language spoken with over 90 million native speakers around the world – is a major advantage to coming to Hessen to study, but fluency in German is no longer a prerequisite for many degree programs. This change has opened the doors for international students to gain access to Hessen universities before they’ve gained mastery in the language.

Enthusiastic language learners may be occasionally frustrated by the desire of many Hessens to hone their already excellent English skills – but knowing some German will open doors and is always met with appreciation.  Plus, employers in Germany and abroad are actively looking for employees who are able to demonstrate an even basic understanding of the German language and culture, in addition to expertise in their own field..

International students have flocked to Hessen for centuries and over 13% of the current student population is from abroad. Before beginning the three-year bachelor’s degree, students needing additional qualifications can take part in a one to one-and-a-half year Studienkolleg to gain necessary language and subject-related skills.  A small but growing number of bachelor’s degree programs are also offered in English.

Master’s Programs in Hessen
The real growth in English-language programs is in the master’s degree, many of which incorporate work experience or study abroad in their two-year programs. There are over 40 master’s programs in Hessen taught entirely in English in subjects such as:

•    Agrobiotechnology
•    Comparative Child Law
•    Global Business Management
•    Information and Communication Engineering
•    Money and Finance
•    Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency for the Middle East

Most of these programs offer intensive German language lessons before and during the program so that students will be able to take the most advantage of life outside the classroom.  The majority of Master’s degree programs charge no tuition for German or international students.

Earning a PhD in Hessen
The path to a doctorate in Hessen and Germany also allows for many doctoral candidates to complete their research and present their results in English, particularly in the natural sciences and engineering. 97% of doctoral candidates follow the “traditional” method of contacting a supervisor (Doktorvater or Doktormutter, depending on the gender) directly and proposing an individual topic or being integrated into a research group.  The professor and the university office dealing with the admission of doctoral candidates will be able to advise prospective students on admissions requirements, including language ability.

There are new “structured” doctoral programs that provide centralized support, including, usually additional coursework in soft skills such as grant writing, presenting, etc.; these are also often open to students whose primary language is English, but some coursework may be in German.  It should be noted that a master’s degree is a prerequisite to entry into almost all doctoral programs in Germany. Doctoral candidates can work with supervisors at universities, non-university research institutes (e.g.,.: Max Planck, Helmholz, Leibniz, and Fraunhofer), or even in industry.  The doctorate generally takes three years.

Cost and Scholarships
There is no tuition for domestic or international students in Hessen for the vast majority of programs and scholarships are available from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), among other organizations, for highly-qualified candidates. PhD candidates are funded through a combination of scholarships and part-time research or teaching positions.

To see a complete list of English-language programs in Hessen or find out more, please visit: