1. University of Munich (Ludwig-Maximilian University)
The main building of the University of Munich. Photo: Diego Delso / Wikimedia Commons
This university in the Bavarian capital, which dates back to 1472, offers both German- and some English-language degree programmes. Its international student population is about 5,000 out of its total student body of more than 36,000.
LMU also has a number of notable former professors and alumni, including Werner Heisenberg, playwright Bertolt Brecht and Pope Benedict XVI.
US News ranked it number 57 globally, and number 11 in Europe. LMU Munich placed within the top 50 institutions worldwide for arts and humanities, biology, immunology, physics, neuroscience, plant and animal science, psychiatry/psychology and space science.
2. Heidelberg University
The auditorium in the old university buildings. Photo: Universität Heidelberg
Founded in 1386, Heidelberg University is the oldest of Germany’s academic institutions, and also one of the oldest surviving universities in the world. It has a sizable international student body, making up about 17 percent of its more than 29,000 pupils.
Five German chancellors have attended Heidelberg – including Helmut Kohl, who oversaw German reunification – as well as influential thinkers like Hannah Arendt.
The Baden-Württemberg institute ranked 68th worldwide and was number 16 in Europe. Its top subjects according to US News are medicine, neuroscience, biology, physics, pharmacology and space science.
3. Technical University of Munich
Two giant “parabola slides” in the Mathematics and Computer Science Building. Photo: TobiasK / Wikimedia Commons
Also known as TUM, this university offers both English and bilingual programmes and thus has a large international body of about 8,000 students, meaning about one in five of its 37,000 students come from outside Germany.
It placed 86th worldwide and 24th in Europe, notable for its agricultural sciences and computer science programmes, which placed within the top 40 worldwide.
4. Humboldt University of Berlin
The main square in front of the Humboldt, just off Unter den Linden in central Berlin. Photo: A. Savin / Wikimedia Commons
The university of influential thinkers like Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels placed just 93rd worldwide. It was also number 30 in Europe, which perhaps doesn’t quite reflect the influence it has had on the European university model. The Times Higher Education world rankings report this year called Humboldt “one of the most prestigious universities not only in Germany, but in Europe.”
“It has a world class reputation in arts and humanities fields. Its subjects of neuroscience and immunology fell into the top 50 worldwide,” The Times Higher Education (THE) report wrote.
US News placed only its subjects of neuroscience and immunology into the top 50 worldwide. And while US News rated its arts and humanities programme at number 68, THE placed the subject at number 19 worldwide.
5. University of Bonn
The prince-elector’s residence of Bonn, main building of the University, viewed from the Hofgarten at night. Photo: I. Curnen / Wikimedia Commons
This Rhineland uni in the former West German capital and birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven ranked 110th globally and 39th in Europe. Philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche both took courses there.
US News noted the institute’s English and bilingual programmes, as well as its offering of everyday German classes for international students.
Bonn University’s top subjects globally were mathematics, immunology and neuroscience.
6. Free University of Berlin (Freie Universität)
Philological Library of Freie Universität Berlin, designed by Lord Norman Foster, and opened in 2005. Photo: Freie Universität Berlin
The youngest university among Germany’s top ten, Freie Universität (FU) was established in 1948 at the beginning of the Cold War in West Berlin, due to the fact that Humboldt was located over in the Soviet-occupied East Berlin.
FU’s four Nobel Prize-winning former professors came from diverse fields: literature, chemistry, economics and physics.
US News placed it 113th globally and 41st in Europe.
7. University of Hamburg
The Main Building opposite the Moorweide Park in Hamburg. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The University of Hamburg in the northern harbour city-state is less than 100 years old, but has managed to include five Nobel Prize winners among its affiliated scholars. It’s also the largest research and educational institute in the north of Germany. Its most recent alumnus to win a Nobel Prize in 2008 was Harald zur Hausen, who discovered that HPV can cause cervical cancer.
The university ranked 121st worldwide and its neuroscience and immunology departments both placed in the top 50.
8. University of Freiburg
The new library of Freiburg University. Photo: Jörgens.mi / Wikimedia Commons
Dating back to 1457, the University of Freiburg was founded by the Austrian Habsburg dynasty, and thus has a long tradition of academia.
Its star-studded list of former faculty and students include sociologist Max Weber, filmmaker Wim Wenders and Germany’s first post-war Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer. Freiburg was rated 144th worldwide.
9. University of Göttingen
The central library at Göttingen University. Photo: Ronald Schmidt / SUB Göttingen
This research university in Lower Saxony was actually founded in 1734 by British King George II, elector of Hanover, and is also informally called Georgia Augusta.
More than 40 Nobel Prize winners have studied, taught or conducted research at the university, and its prestige has helped to give the town the moniker of “city of science”. The university maintains close ties to both the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science and the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Scientific Community. It also has one of the largest libraries in Germany.
Göttingen was rated 155th worldwide.
10. Eberhard Karls University (University of Tübingen)
The Neue Aula (New Auditorium) of the University of Tübingen. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Located in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg in one of Germany’s most iconic “university towns”, Eberhard Karls University is particularly known for its disciplines of theology and religion.
But one its most notable alumni is astronomer Johannes Kepler. Neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer – for whom the chronic neurodegenerative disease is named – also studied there, as did philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.
It was rated 158th worldwide.